Yali’s question is the basis for this entire book. As Diamond reports it in the prologue, Yali’s question is:
Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?
What Yali means by “cargo” is wealth and material goods. What Yali is asking, in essence, is why people of European descent came to be so much richer and more powerful than people like Yali’s own people in New Guinea.
Yali was a New Guinean that Diamond got to know. He was very curious about why his people were so far behind the white people in terms of material wealth and power. This led him to pose his question to Diamond. Since then, (this was in 1972) Diamond had wondered about why the various societies in the world were so unequal. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, he sets out to answer this question. He presents a geographical argument in which he claims that white people came to be so dominant because of geographical luck. Yali’s question was the impetus for him to think about the issues that he raises in this book.