What is Progress?

In this format, I tell a story in the most practical possible context: Sophie and her friend Philipp (nicknamed „Phil“) ask themselves specific philosophical and sometimes psychological questions in everyday life, which then have to be answered. These stories (or other things) are currently not in a specific schedule for me. So when and what happens will be decided over time when I have gained a little more experience with a blog. By the way, feedback is accordingly desirable! Have fun while reading!

Disclaimer: The characters in this story are purely fictional, and the locations and actions are not inspired by real circumstances. Similarities and overlaps of people and situations are purely coincidental.

Question 1: What actually is progress?

“So, I thought about renting a small apartment in Hamburg. That way, I’d have more time and space to myself, as well as the advantage that I don’t have to go to work that long – it would only be two streets away. I mean it doesn’t get any better, right? What do you think?“.

“I think that you are worrying too much about something that you may not need at all. Use your brain better and come into the kitchen with us – we make vegan tomato cream soup! ”, said Phil proudly, and with complete ignorance of Sophie’s thoughts and worries.

„Whether you get the job is still written in the stars …“

„My gut tells me that I’ll get the job 100 percent, and my gut has never been lying!“, she said confidently. And it was true, her decisions were largely based on her feelings, which, among other things earned her the respect of the entire Berlin neighborhood when she went to the window at 1 a.m just because of a feeling. She immediately called the police when she saw a 34 -year-old man robbing a young woman in a back alley.

„One day I will move out of this shared apartment – then you will all see what you are without me!“

„Two programmers who can cook without your help?“, asked Phil quick-wittedly, and adds:

„That would be quite a relief, you eat most of us.“

„Not true at all! Your brother always eats 48, 77%, you did the math yourself! „

„Where did that come from?“, asked Phil surprised.

„From the cheat sheet on the board at the front of the entrance“

„We have a chalkboard with cheat sheets ?!“

„What are you screaming, I’m trying to sleep!“ Suddenly came the sound from the next room, where the two programming brothers, Steve and Phil, were both sleeping and working.

„…sorry, „, muttered Phil.

„Steve showed me how to calculate percentages – pretty handy …“ , thought Sophie…

„What if“, she suddenly objected, „if we stopped thinking?“

Phil just looked at her stupidly.

„Yes,“ she continued her thoughts, „if we lived like animals, without theory, without mathematics …“

„Wait a minute,“ said Phil finally. “There is nothing that cannot live without mathematics. Even if that one being, or even several, represent a certain number of „things“ that can be counted. Then there are x beings who think without logic, but no more, and no less! „, Phil explained, punctually at 1 o’clock. It was noon now.

“Yes, but what about the people who have won the lottery without thinking too much, and so continue to live their lives, without logic, just doing what they want? Wouldn’t that be some way to be successful too?“, Sophie philosophized.

“I doubt it. Because, if that person wanted to do something that puts himself or others in danger, this person would do it – for no reason. So he or she would die sooner than others, leaving behind less stupid people. This is called natural selection. „

„Thank you Mr. Computer Scientist, but if you were to get rid of your audacity to explain natural selection to a biology student, your chances of survival would remain as high as they are now – got it?“, Sophie said with her sweet , innocent seriousness.

„Crystal clear,“ replied Phil, well aware of Sophie’s rank in Taekwando and the incident that happened last last year with a young female postman with whom he unfortunately met on a corner in the pedestrian zone, all the letters, brochures and advertisements were scattered, and his hand happened to have found its place at a very soft part of her body.


Sophie still doesn’t believe that to this day.

On the following beautiful Sunday morning, Sophie and Phil swayed leisurely and comfortably to the dining table to first of all enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee and an organic Earl Gray in the wonderful rays of the sun, which seemed slightly misted through that bizarre and natural Window pane.

The light rays fell on Sophies‘ still very tired and unkempt face. It was particularly bad for Sophies hair. Phil would rather hide behind the morning paper before he accidentally loses a sudden burst of laughter while looking at her hairstyle. He amuses himself by the thought of the many corridors and shafts that seemed to be extended in her turban, a tangle of hair. He thought that there had to be at least a hand-sized kitten or so, that has already made itself comfortable in it, and is just still asleep.

One pointed comment and Phil would wake it up. Of course he didn’t want that, so he tried to remain as silent and unnoticed as possible.

„Hey Phil …“, Sophie woke him with tired and mumbled words out of his mental fantasies.

„Do you remember what we talked about yesterday?“

„You mean about the blackboard that I didn’t know about until yesterday?“

„No, silly. I mean about natural selection. „

„Interesting, don’t you think?“ , Sophie introduced her philosophical thoughts.

„We’re all making progress somehow, aren’t we?“

„Well as far as I think, yes ..“, mumbled Phil silently, and took a sip of his organic Earl Grey.

“When we look at time … it always goes forward, with no real reason to go backwards or in any other direction. After all, progress is what we humans also compare with movement, or the development of a certain stability, or a feeling, an ability. So what would the movement of time actually be? Can you say that it progresses steadily? Always up? Always forward? “

“Strange thought. Of course it goes forward … „

“But only because we humans defined it as forward, right? It could also be a completely different direction, let’s just say backwards, then we wouldn’t be making progress at all, would we? According to our definition, progress is usually something positive, a development that matures a skill, one or more institutions, or even buildings, and should bring them to the limits of their potential spectrum of influence and change. So in purely theoretical terms it affects people in the exact same way! „


“But now there are some contradictions and even stranger thoughts: What if there could be other directions in which time could go? What would happen if all of the physical formulas known to us that had a direct relationship to time were merged and some pattern emerged between all the other symbols? „

„Interesting, really …“

“But there is still more to come! I still have to explain the contradictions: By that I mean illogical connections between improvements and deteriorations. Sure, one might think that the definitions of “good” and “bad” must first be worked out and clearly defined. To work with it, to be able to use it at all in a philosophical context. But in a book, what I am currently reading, the author defines the whole thing quickly, simply, as well as practical and goal-oriented: Something is good as long as it serves to survive. Regardless of the temporal dimension, i.e. not necessarily related to a direct cause of death. In concrete terms: A rabbit that dies is bad because when it dies it can no longer distinguish between good and bad. Then everything would be the same for him, and that can certainly not be good, because one must be able to determine and classify the environment and all other factors that affect health in order to survive. That would define good, and well, bad would be the exact opposite of that, of course. So the improvements mentioned earlier now relate to human survival. We have made incredible advances in the areas of technology, social cooperation, and consequently also in education of society, and the control of the means of defense „

„You mean brutal gun fanatics who hide behind the veil of selflessness and think they would do good by serving as bullet catchers for the military?“

“If I were you, I would think again about the meaning of an army. If there are very ambitious, and also very powerful and stupid people (whose existence nobody can deny here), one or the other will think: “My opinion is correct! Those who don’t support me are just stupid because they don’t understand me. Otherwise you would support me, right? Yeah, and then we would have the conflict, which actually never existed and could never exist if people questioned themselves more and decided with logic and rationality. No opinion should impress anybody, unless it is based on facts and thorough research from unpleasantly true, trustworthy sources. „

„Get to the point. We want to clarify what progress is. „

“Excuse me, it was only important to me to briefly mention that. I also meant you indirectly. „

„… …“

„Well, anyway … my question at the very beginning was about the book, which I already mentioned. And there was such a progress model, which says that all progress, humanity as such has created meanwhile, is based on five or four areas of professions. And these would be: research, politics, protection and culture. All are dependent on the economy (theoretically, in the model) and are directly connected to it. The economy is also the core of this model. After all, evolution has taught us that we humans will literally reap the highest chances of survival as long as we work together. By providing each other with solutions that meet all of our needs at the same time, we have ensured that the natural egoism that is innate in every animal also serves the community. The goal of every individual is to survive. So the greatest progress is to meet the needs and do so as sustainably as possible. “

„But why sustainable?“

„… wait. I’m ‘hungry … Let’s get something to eat first, then we can continue talking.“

„Come on. Right now where your gossip starts to interest me … „

This is the english version of a post I previously published in german.

I hope you like the thoughts and characters, and eventually can give feedback to what you think about progress and Sophies‘ ideas! The comment section and I would love to hear your opinion!

As always, stay curious and…

Thank You for Reading!

3 Antworten zu “What is Progress?”

  1. Interesting but it somehow seemed disjointed. Perhaps the translation to English from German?
    I get the context and intent of what you are presenting in that you are describing part of the human condition of interaction and opposing views.
    How does the disparity of thought between people relate to the question of what is progress?
    I went back through your essay and could not find mention of a book as you stated in your closing paragraphs. Am I missing something?
    I don’t intend to be overly critical. I find your essay interesting but somewhat difficult to follow your premises hence my comments and questions.
    I will say that Sophie appears as an independent thinker and holds her convictions well despite her frustrations at what I term as people often only hear what they want to hear in relation to what they want.

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    • First of all, thank you very much for your comment! \(^v^)/
      And yes, my english isn’t that quite developed, so sorry if some parts of the dialogue seemed to be a bit weird…
      To your questions:
      1. I’d say that the disparity between thinking beings are the main cause for social development, either good or bad. If every part of our society would be equally satisfied with their needs and desires, we wouldn’t have an engine for debates and changes anymore. Crucial change is caused by discontent, so by agreeing with something just for the sake of getting a discussion ended peacefully, we might have just missed an opportunity to get to a new and better idea, that then could possibly result in a better society.
      2. The book you are „missing“ is the very story you were reading, at least I thought I’d make it this way, initially. But now I’m publishing all the chapters separately on german first, and then translate them (hopefully better next time!) to english, for global readers. The chapters including the progress model aren’t even yet published in german, though. It all comes together in the end ;).
      3. Nice description of Sophie ! That is actually the kind of spirit I want other people to know about and to try out themselves, because, just like you’ve stated, a lot of people only hear their own beliefs while forgetting that they are living around wonders from which they understand nothing about (or just a part), and that most of these wonders have nothing to do with their beliefs.
      Thanks again ! It’s strangely comforting to know that someone is still thinking and asking critically during these times, so answering your questions was truly a pleasure!
      Philosophical Greetings,

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  2. From the end to the beginning.
    Thank you for not going ‚fully woke‘ on me as I detailed my confusion.
    Yes it is strangely comforting to reach out and connect to like minds.
    I have had many conversations with my 15 year old son as he struggles with the modern world and narrative that presents conflicting messages which muddies the waters of human connection. Mind you he has problems stemming from maternal and sibling abuse due to a myriad of reasons that I bankrupted myself on in protecting him. Something Sophie would appreciate in her frustration.
    You appear to write from the heart and with the passion of your beliefs.
    My current essay is going to be titled Twainsplaining as a reference to mansplaining and as such is a work in progress to expose the confusion of the modern narrative that confuses our young and directs them upon unproductive paths.
    I shall await your full essay in the fullness of time and forgive me if I am confused given the translation/language barrier.
    You seem to be a deep thinker which is somewhat rare in this modern world.
    I look forward, in the fullness of time to read your entire essay on how Sophie progresses. with good fortune she holds the courage of her convictions and does not waver from her beliefs despite the pressure to do that just to make her life easier.
    My essay ‚Everyone is an idiot‘ and ‚Come and take a shower comrade‘ allude to the perils of ignoring history and perhaps worth your time reading and commenting upon.
    Is this the six degrees of separation that unite humanity?

    How is modern Germany? One of my architects from when I had my own business in Australia made mention of the problems concerning the geopolitical problems with the EU. Without ground root perspectives all we are left with is the narrative delivered which is flawed and as such history will repeat with terrible consequences.

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