What is human progress, and if we could define it, how should we measure it? It is desirable to define human progress because it is such a nebulous concept that it could be twisted into anything whatsoever. One desirable quality would be a definition which would yield a measure of evidence-based progress. I have blogged in the past about maximizing human life force which has two key ingredients: years of human life and a measure of human-life satisfaction. Without human life there is nothing to measure and without some human-life satisfaction those lives are not worth living.
Human Years × Satisfaction = Human Life Force
Maximizing human years of life requires the humans be alive and that they live within the Earth’s ability to provide for them in a reasonable way; that is mostly dependent upon the input of energy and that comes in the very long run, say a million years, exclusively from the Sun. When we eliminate the one-time use of mineral energy, which powers modern civilizations into a huge but temporary human population explosion, and return to a Sun-powered life then we must drop back to human numbers nearer 100 million. Those people would be living much of their time more like pre-industrial farmers or even like gardeners, but they would have access to some things which are presently beyond high tech. Some forms of high tech will consume very little energy.
Humans’ satisfaction with their lives might be defined as having the opportunity to do what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it. Obviously there must be limitations upon any individual’s opportunities, because some of these must come from limiting those of other individuals. However, if the humanity-wide goal is to maximize the totality of human satisfaction, it sets fairly tight restrictions on any given individual’s quest for personal aggrandizement. A moment’s satisfaction by one individual killing another would lead to a lifetime of lost satisfaction for this second person and for all humanity. The thought process of this extreme example can be applied in principle to lesser situations and lead to a more benign relationship between people.
The measure of human years is a simple multiple of a human’s years, but the measuring of satisfaction requires some further numerical definition before a number can be created for an individual’s Human Life Force, and then these all summed together for Humanity’s Life Force to be measured in total from an infinitely distant place after all humanity is gone. These are all abstractions but they point to a definable type of behavior for humanity to quest after. A goal to be pursued.
Happiness, pleasure and contentment are personal things and hard to measure but I like the definitions on the Happiness Scale: “Happiness is a belief that a hoped-for state of affairs is coming into existence. Pleasure is limited to the positive feelings of the moment, and Contentment is the feeling that a hoped-for state actually exists.” No one can make another person happy but we can do quite a lot to set up the basic conditions where they might be happy. Basically, that is to provide a place where there are good laws fairly enforced, which produces a reliable physical and social environment where everyone can pursue their own interests without harming others.
The 15 Point Happiness Scale implies that some types of happiness are more valuable than other types when measured on this scale. There must inevitably be disagreement when measuring this quality, but I believe if you study the Happiness Scale for a while you will agree with the basic assumptions: that HAPS~1 Reveling riot behavior is less desirable than HAPS~7 Exuberant triumph, which is less desirable than HAPS~10 Contented graciousness. The order of the Happiness Scale is reasonable; perhaps the value assigned to each stage could be adjusted a little, but not more than a couple of points for multiplying it into the equation presented at the top.
Human satisfaction when compared and measured can be maximized.