The Torch of Progress

The Torch of Progress, Ep. 3 with Patrick Collison

Ashley Yates
Join us for Episode 3 of The Torch of Progress with Patrick Collison. We’ll be talking about why he cares so much about the cause of progress, progress studies vs. effective altruism, and how he would like to see “progress studies” develop.

In This Episode We Discuss:

(0:15) Intro to Progress Studies for Young Scholars (0:50) Past guest speakers – see the replay on Youtube

(1:00) Upcoming guests – Max Roser, Deridre Nansen McCloskey, Joel Mokyr

(2:00) Introductions: Jason Crawford with Roots of Progress and Patrick Collison, CEO & co-founder of Stripe

(3:00) Patrick talks about Stripe, an online payment system

(5:42) Fast Grants for Covid-19 research: What have you learned and what does the future of Fast Grants look like?

(13:00) The great corporate research labs (Bell Labs, Xerox PARC) – are they a thing of the past? If so, was that natural? Is there something new we should move to? Should we try to bring it back?

(15:55) If you were asked to write a report on the future of science and research, like the Endless Frontier Memo by Vannevar Bush in 1945, what would you say?

(18:50) – If you had to give society a progress KPI (key performance indicator), what are the key metrics?

(23:40) what are the metrics people use to argue if science is slowing down? Scott Alexander said, “Constant progress in science in response to exponential increases in inputs ought to be our null hypothesis.” What is your take on this?

(29:45) Compare/contrast effective altruism and progress studies

(33:28) If we just run full throttle ahead with progress, what about the risk that we are not careful enough and we get some global catastrophe?

(36:05) Your twitter bio describes you as a fallibilist optimist. What does this mean and why did you choose those terms?

(39:50) What advice that is commonly given to teens is actually wrong?

(43:10) Follow Patrick on twitter @patrickc and online patrickcollison.com


(43:50) What do you think about the future of the internet as the rate of adoption is slowing? Do you see it becoming increasingly zero-sum / less spending on r&d?

(46:00) Some people have suggested a Manhattan Project for Covid-19. Is that what Fast Grants is doing? If not, is something like that even feasible anymore?

(47:19) You mentioned the existential risk that comes with more progress can be mitigated. What do we need to do to mitigate it?

(48:10) You gave the advice to keep learning another 5-10 years, but that is not what you did (started a company at a young age). Why?

(50:35) Big companies need an effective organizational structure to avoid getting more inefficient and less innovative. What have you done with Stripe to keep it innovative and nimble?

(54:06) How did you found a company? How did you know where to start and what steps to take?

(55:40) What do you think about studying liberal arts if in college for technology?

About Patrick Collison:

Patrick Collison is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Stripe, a technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the internet. After experiencing firsthand how difficult it was to set up an online business, Patrick and his brother John started Stripe in 2010. Their goal was to make accepting payments on the internet simpler and more inclusive. Today, Stripe powers millions of online businesses around the world.

Prior to Stripe, Patrick co-founded Auctomatic, which was acquired by Live Current Media for $5 million in March 2008. In 2016, he was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by President Obama. Originally from Limerick, Ireland, Patrick now lives in San Francisco, where Stripe is headquartered.

Patrick is the co-author, along with Tyler Cowen, of an article published in The Atlantic, titled We Need a New Science of Progress, where they coined the term “progress studies” and dig into what Progress Studies entails and why it is important.

Previously on The Torch of Progress:


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