Guns, Germs, and Steel

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Posted by: stak
Tags: books
Posted on: 2012-12-15 00:56:17

Another book review: Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. I found this book really interesting although the subject matter may not appeal to everybody. It basically covers the history of the human race over the last 13,000 years (since the beginning of agriculture) and explains why certain cultures and societies are the "dominant" ones in the world today. When I started reading the book I had my doubts that any one book could successfully explain this, but I came away pretty convinced. Also, it won the Pultzer Prize in 1998, if that sort of thing appeals to you.

One thing I really liked about the book is that Diamond tries really hard to be as scientific as possible in his theories and explanations by citing natural experiments as evidence. The sheer volume of field experience and historical knowledge that he brings to bear on the question is pretty impressive.

The other thing that I found cool about the book is that it reminded me of Hari Seldon and psychohistory from Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe. It seems very much like if you took the explanatory power and analysis in GGS and applied it to the state of the world today, you'd end up being able to predict the future in the same broad strokes that psychohistorians were able to do in Foundation. Of course, that's not actually true because it's a lot easier to see what factors were important in the past than it is to guess what factors will be important in the future, but it still makes me wonder.

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