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Guns, Germs, and Steel

by Jared Diamond

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In Chapter 13 of Guns, Germs, and Steel, which aspects of Diamond's argument do you agree or disagree with?

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I personally agree with all of what Diamond is saying in Chapter 13 of Guns, Germs, and Steel.  However, the question is about what you think, not what I think.  Therefore, it would be best for you to look at all of the main points of this chapter and decide which ones you do or don’t agree with.  I will provide a brief summary, and you could also follow the link below for a good summary of the chapter.

In this chapter, Diamond is trying to explain why some societies invented a lot of things and others did not.  He says that some people believe it is because the inventors (Europeans) are innately superior to other kinds of people.  Others say that some cultures are more receptive to innovation than others.  Diamond does not believe either of these things.  This is one thing you could agree or disagree with.

Diamond goes on to argue that necessity is not the mother of invention.  In other words, people do not typically see a need and then invent something to fill that need.  Instead, he says that people generally invent something and then find a use for it.  This is why this chapter’s title turns the proverb around and says that invention is the mother of necessity.  Here is another thing you can agree with or not – why do people invent things?

Diamond then says that historians have suggested 14 possible reasons why some cultures are more receptive to innovation than others.  I cannot outline all 14 in this space, but you can find them starting on p. 249 of the book.  Diamond disagrees with all 14, saying he does not believe that some societies are more receptive to innovation.  Do you agree?

Diamond then goes on to argue that most cultures get technology through diffusion.  That is, technology is invented in one place and then it moves around and is adopted by different societies that find out about it.   In addition, technology gives rise to more technology.  If a society gets some technology, it is more likely to innovate and create more technology to use with the technology it already has.  Do you agree with these points?

Finally, Diamond says that this means that societies on large landmasses that have lots of civilizations are the most likely to get technology.  Since there are many civilizations, there are many places that can innovate.  When they do, their technology can spread to the other civilizations, where it can be borrowed and can lead to further innovation.  This creates a virtuous cycle where the various societies essentially help one another to innovate and to get more technology.  This means that societies that get a lot of technology are those that, by geographic luck, are on large landmasses with many civilizations.  The landmasses with many civilizations are the ones that had good geographic luck because they had many plants and animals that could be domesticated.  That caused them to have farming and civilization.  So, do you agree that it was just geographic luck that led some societies to have a lot of technology and others to have only a little?

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