Progress is Dead, Long Live Progress

We are living in an age of paradox. Never before have our societies been so prosperous, peaceful and connected. Yet never have they faced such deep cultural insecurity, existential anxiety and pessimism. Even putting cynicism aside, a core belief in progress itself has been put into question.

Progress is torn today between two contradictory currents. There are the supporters who see innovation as an essential condition for humanity moving towards a better world. And there are the critics who blame progress for piling on technological, environmental, and political risks. These two visions create radically different perspectives: Is progress dead or does it have a brighter future?

From the global ecological crisis to the resurgence of authoritarianism, from the return of certain diseases that were thought to be vanquished to the concerns raised by the impact of technology, from increased inequalities to the dangers of renewed fundamentalism, progress as we’ve come to imagine it is no longer self-evident. Where is all this leading us?

Still, a bonafide impasse is by no means inevitable. People everywhere are waking up to ecological dangers. More and more entrepreneurs are putting social and environmental responsibilities first. People are focusing on promoting alternative models of growth, or even “de-growth” — not to be perceived as a regression. Progressives of all creeds are joining forces to offer an all-encompassing vision of spirituality. In the education sector, people keep inventing new and better tools for the transmission of knowledge.

It’s a tricky balancing act …

Progress is a responsibility. To define it is a commitment. Our prospects for progress are as much hope as fears, goals and doubts. Progress is not a truth, it is a common horizon, imperfect and fallible. The risks of being wrong are many, the consequences serious and unpredictable.

Commitment, fear, truth. These themes already addressed at previous editions of Les Napoleons will serve to question our notion of progress and what we expect from it. Without being dogmatic, making sure to question the word’s different meanings and to put them into perspective; with an open mind, taking the time to analyse and challenge existing ideas; and always without defeatism, because we are innovative and resolutely optimistic.

Let’s meet in Val d’Isère from January 9 to 12, 2019 to think about all of this and to decide together the progress we want for the future.

It’s up to us to make “progress” a brand new idea — again!


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