According to Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel, how does geography effect the ability to adapt and refine inventions for use?

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In keeping with his overall thesis, Diamond of course makes it clear that no inherent superiority, either intellectual, cultural, or otherwise, in Eurasian peoples accounts for their ability to implement technologies and develop new ones. Furthermore, he suggests that most important inventions and significant technological breakthroughs are become important as a result of a society's ability to exploit them, or receptiveness to using them. Diamond argues that one of the crucial factors influencing a society's receptiveness to new technologies and inventions is geographical. Technologies are seldom invented out of nothing, they are essentially adaptive, and result from contact between societies that have these technologies and those that do not. So the wheel, to cite one example by Diamond, because of its usefulness, "diffuse[d] rapidly east and west over the Old World from its sole site of invention." It follows, obviously, that

The societies most accessible to receiving inventions by diffusion were those imbedded in the major continents. In these societies technology developed most rapidly, because they accumulated not only their own inventions but those of other societies.

In a geographically isolated area like Tasmania, for example, societies do not come into contact with other technologies with as much frequency, and so the only technologies they develop are the ones they come up with themselves. "Because technology begets more technology," Diamond observes, this places geographically isolated peoples at a disadvantage when it comes to developing new technologies. Those societies that developed on large land masses (Eurasia, in particular) had a major advantage when it came to developing and adapting technologies.

Source: Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997),239-264.

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Guns, Germs, and Steel

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