What factors influence the diffusion and adoption of new inventions in different societies, according to Guns, Germs, and Steel?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Diamond discusses this in Chapter 13 of Guns, Germs, and Steel. He lists four broad factors. The main factor influencing the spread of new technologies is whether societies can find uses for them. Diamond observes that in Mexico, wheels with axles were used on toys, but not on carts or other vehicles. This is because there were no animals in Mexico that could pull large loads on wheeled carts. Another factor is the prestige that can be attached to new inventions, or in not using new inventions. A third factor is how compatible an invention is with vested interests. Here Diamond cites the resistance of people to keyboards that are more efficient than the QWERTY keyboard. Finally, there is the ease with which people can see the advantages of adopting a certain technology. Native Americans, for instance, very quickly saw the advantages of firearms and began to use them with no hesitation at all.

Source: Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 247-249.


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