Weekly Book Club 037 (Exclusive) - Guns, Germs, and Steel

One book per week:)

(The English version follows)

人类社会发展得如此不平衡,到底是什么原因?是因为人种的问题?还是因为其他?Jared M. Diamond 在 Guns, Germs, and Steel 这本书中给出了自己的答案:

  1. 技术发展的差异主要由三个因素决定:食物的生产效率,传播的的效率,以及人口规模;
  2. 食物的生产效率又取决于气候,可驯化的粮食作物和可驯化的哺乳动物;
  3. 技术传播的效率主要取决于地理因素;
  4. 人口规模其实和粮食作物和可驯化的哺乳动物又密切相关;
  5. 社会的发展差异和人种没有什么关系,更多的是由地理因素和生物因素所导致的。

如果你觉得今天分享有帮助,不妨把它分享给你的朋友

需要更棒的简历,不妨试试我们的 CV Consultation


What is the reason why human society has developed so unevenly? Is it because of ethnicity? In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared M. Diamond gives his answer:

  1. differences in technological development are determined by three main factors: the efficiency of food production, the efficiency of diffusion, and the size of the population.
  2. the efficiency of food production depends on climate, domesticated food crops, and domesticated mammals.
  3. the efficiency of technology diffusion depends largely on geographic factors.
  4. the size of the population is in fact closely related to food crops and domesticable mammals again.
  5. the differences in the development of societies have little to do with human race and are more due to geographical and biological factors.

Please share this with your friends if you find it helpful:)

Need a superb CV, please try our CV Consultation

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Top Quotes

Thus, questions about inequality in the modern world can be reformulated as follows. Why did wealth and power become distributed as they now are, rather than in some other way?
The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics, and genocide.
Sound evidence for the existence of human differences in intelligence that parallel human differences in technology is lacking.
History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.
In contrast, most big mammals of Africa and Eurasia survived into modern times, because they had coevolved with protohumans for hundreds of thousands or millions of years. They thereby enjoyed ample time to evolve a fear of humans, as our ancestors’ initially poor hunting skills slowly improved.
In general, the larger the size and the higher the density, the more complex and specialized were the technology and organization.
We easily forget that horses and rifles were originally unknown to Native Americans. They were brought by Europeans and proceeded to transform the societies of Indian tribes that acquired them.
In the Spanish conquest of the Incas, guns played only a minor role. The guns of those times (so-called harquebuses) were difficult to load and fire, and Pizarro had only a dozen of them. They did produce a big psychological effect on those occasions when they managed to fire.
Horses permitted people possessing them to cover far greater distances than was possible on foot, to attack by surprise, and to flee before a superior defending force could be gathered.
Hence geographic variation in whether, or when, the peoples of different continents became farmers and herders explains to a large extent their subsequent contrasting fates.
The first connection is the most direct one: availability of more consumable calories means more people.
In contrast, once food can be stockpiled, a political elite can gain control of food produced by others, assert the right of taxation, escape the need to feed itself, and engage full-time in political activities. Hence moderate-sized agricultural societies are often organized in chiefdoms, and kingdoms are confined to large agricultural societies.
IN SHORT, ONLY a few areas of the world developed food production independently, and they did so at widely differing times. From those nuclear areas, hunter-gatherers of some neighboring areas learned food production, and peoples of other neighboring areas were replaced by invading food producers from the nuclear areas—again at widely differing times. Finally, peoples of some areas ecologically suitable for food production neither evolved nor acquired agriculture in prehistoric times at all; they persisted as hunter-gatherers until the modern world finally swept upon them.
Instead, we must consider food production and hunting-gathering as alternative strategies competing with each other.
Many wild seeds evolved to be bitter, bad-tasting, or actually poisonous, in order to deter animals from eating them.
Plants whose fruits are tasty get their seeds dispersed by animals, but the seed itself within the fruit has to be bad-tasting. Otherwise, the animal would also chew up the seed, and it couldn’t sprout.
As a result, cereals today account for over half of all calories consumed by humans and include five of the modern world’s 12 leading crops (wheat, corn, rice, barley, and sorghum).
Similarly, the four earliest domesticated fruits of the Fertile Crescent all had wild ranges stretching far beyond the eastern Mediterranean, where they appear to have been first domesticated: the olive, grape, and fig occurred west to Italy and Spain and Northwest Africa, while the date palm extended to all of North Africa and Arabia.
Agriculture was launched in the Fertile Crescent by the early domestication of eight crops, termed “founder crops” (because they founded agriculture in the region and possibly in the world). Those eight founders were the cereals emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, and barley; the pulses lentil, pea, chickpea, and bitter vetch; and the fiber crop flax.
Protein starvation is probably also the ultimate reason why cannibalism was widespread in traditional New Guinea highland societies.
Of those Ancient Fourteen, 9 (the “Minor Nine” of Table 9.1) became important livestock for people in only limited areas of the globe: the Arabian camel, Bactrian camel, llama / alpaca (distinct breeds of the same ancestral species), donkey, reindeer, water buffalo, yak, banteng, and gaur.
One reason is simple. Eurasia has the largest number of big terrestrial wild mammal species, whether or not ancestral to a domesticated species.
Every time that an animal eats a plant or another animal, the conversion of food biomass into the consumer’s biomass involves an efficiency of much less than 100 percent: typically around 10 percent.
Zebras have the unpleasant habit of biting a person and not letting go. They thereby injure even more American zookeepers each year than do tigers!
Zebras are also virtually impossible to lasso with a rope—even for cowboys who win rodeo championships by lassoing horses—because of their unfailing ability to watch the rope noose fly toward them and then to duck their head out of the way.
Almost all species of domesticated large mammals prove to be ones whose wild ancestors share three social characteristics: they live in herds; they maintain a well-developed dominance hierarchy among herd members; and the herds occupy overlapping home ranges rather than mutually exclusive territories.
Until World War II, more victims of war died of war-borne microbes than of battle wounds.
Evolution selects for those individuals most effective at producing babies and at helping them spread to suitable places to live.
Thus, from our point of view, genital sores, diarrhea, and coughing are “symptoms of disease.” From a germ’s point of view, they’re clever evolutionary strategies to broadcast the germ
A few microbes are more sensitive to heat than our own bodies are. By raising our body temperature, we in effect try to bake the germs to death before we get baked ourselves.
That’s the principle of vaccination: to stimulate our antibody production without our having to go through the actual experience of the disease, by inoculating us with a dead or weakened strain of microbe.
Only in larger populations can the disease shift from one local area to another, thereby persisting until enough babies have been born in the originally infected area that measles can return there.
Among animals, too, epidemic diseases require large, dense populations and don’t afflict just any animal: they’re confined mainly to social animals providing the necessary large populations.
However, the epidemic dies out for any of several reasons, such as being cured by modern medicine, or being stopped when everybody around has already been infected and either becomes immune or dies.
Technology, in the form of weapons and transport, provides the direct means by which certain peoples have expanded their realms and conquered other peoples. That makes it the leading cause of history’s broadest pattern.
All recognized famous inventors had capable predecessors and successors and made their improvements at a time when society was capable of using their product.
My two main conclusions are that technology develops cumulatively, rather than in isolated heroic acts, and that it finds most of its uses after it has been invented, rather than being invented to meet a foreseen need.
Let us now summarize how variations in these three factors—time of onset of food production, barriers to diffusion, and human population size—led straightforwardly to the observed intercontinental differences in the development of technology.
In the latter case it is often government that organizes the conquest, and religion that justifies it.
State bureaucrats are not selected mainly on the basis of kinship, as in chiefdoms, but are professionals selected at least partly on the basis of training and ability.
Genetic studies suggest that Aboriginal Australians and New Guinea highlanders are somewhat more similar to modern Asians than to peoples of other continents, but the relationship is not a close one.
The basic reason is Australia’s suitability (in some areas) for European food production and settlement, combined with the role of European guns, germs, and steel in clearing Aborigines out of the way.
At the least, we can say that China was one of the world’s first centers of plant and animal domestication.
Today, China appears politically, culturally, and linguistically monolithic, at least to laypeople.
In contrast, the Americas had only one species of big domestic mammal, the llama / alpaca, confined to a small area of the Andes and the adjacent Peruvian coast. While it was used for meat, wool, hides, and goods transport, it never yielded milk for human consumption, never bore a rider, never pulled a cart or a plow, and never served as a power source or vehicle of warfare.
The most glaring difference between American and Eurasian food production involved big domestic mammal species.
Writing empowered European societies by facilitating political administration and economic exchanges, motivating and guiding exploration and conquest, and making available a range of information and human experience extending into remote places and times.
Thus, we have identified three sets of ultimate factors that tipped the advantage to European invaders of the Americas: Eurasia’s long head start on human settlement; its more effective food production, resulting from greater availability of domesticable wild plants and especially of animals; and its less formidable geographic and ecological barriers to intracontinental diffusion.
A fourth, more speculative ultimate factor is suggested by some puzzling non-inventions in the Americas: the non-inventions of writing and wheels in complex Andean societies, despite a time depth of those societies approximately equal to that of complex Mesoamerican societies that did make those inventions; and wheels’ confinement to toys and their eventual disappearance in Mesoamerica, where they could presumably have been useful in human-powered wheelbarrows, as in China.
Africa is the only continent to extend from the northern to the southern temperate zone, while also encompassing some of the world’s driest deserts, largest tropical rain forests, and highest equatorial mountains.
The remaining surprise is that all of Africa’s indigenous crops—those of the Sahel, Ethiopia, and West Africa—originated north of the equator. Not a single African crop originated south of it.
In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species.

Archive

Weekly Book Club 036 - Digital Minimalism
Weekly Book Club 035 - Deep Work
Weekly Book Club 034 - The Power of Habit
Weekly Book Club 033 - Start Small, Stay Small
Weekly Book Club 032 - The Millionaire Fastlane
Weekly Book Club 031 - How I Built This
Weekly Book Club 030 - The Tipping Point
Weekly Book Club 029 - The Psychology of Money
Weekly Book Club 028 - The Checklist Manifest
Weekly Book Club 027 - WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us
Weekly Book Club 026 - How to Avoid A Climate Disaster
Weekly Book Club 025 - Daring Greatly
Weekly Book Club 024 - Rework
Weekly Book Club 023 - Atomic Habits
Weekly Book Club 022 - Good Strategy Bad Strategy
Weekly Book Club 021 - Nudge
Weekly Book Club 020 - Make Time
Weekly Book Club 019 - Keep Sharp
Weekly Book Club 018 - Why We Sleep
Weekly Book Club 017 - Your Brain at Work
Weekly Book Club 016 - How to Decide
Weekly Book Club 015 - The Almanack of Naval Ravikant
Weekly Book Club 014 - Finite and Infinite Games
Weekly Book Club 013 - Born a Crime
Weekly Book Club 012 - Measure What Matters
Weekly Book Club 011 - How Will Your Measure Your Life
Weekly Book Club 010 - Range
Weekly Book Club 009 - The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Weekly Book Club 008 - Talking to Crazy
Weekly Book Club 007 - Indistractable
Weekly Book Club 006 - Thinking in System
Weekly Book Club 005 - The Lean Startup
Weekly Book Club 004 - Let My People Go Surfing
Weekly Book Club 003 - It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work
Weekly Book Club 002 - Writing My Wrongs
Weekly Book Club 001 - Poor Economics
Weekly Book Club 001 - Good Economics for Hard Times
Weekly Book Club 000 - The Motivation Myth

Subscribe to Sustainable Productivity

Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
Jamie Larson
Subscribe