Thoughts on Business and Technology

Commentary on the raise of civilizations

In the book “The Third Chimpanzee,” author Jarard Diamond provides an insightful explanation of the rise of Anglo-European  civilization and its later dominance of the rest of the world, especially its conquest of the New World. He counters the conventional theories provided by academics and politicians which support the notion of superior intellect and physical capabilities by virtue of race.

Jarard argues that much of the advancements in the European civilizations can be attributed to the geography and biodiversity of the region. For example, Although there were many horse and deer species in different parts of the world ten thousand years ago, which humans tried to tame, the horses found in Eurasia ( central Europe and parts of west Asia ) were most suitable for domestication. These horses proved to be a great advantage as vehicles of aggression. In fact, horses were the tanks and jeeps of many armies till the early 1900’s when gasoline powered vehicles replaced them.

Similarly, central Europe and Asia were blessed with wild species of grass that were the early ancestors of wheat, barley, rice and other grains of today. These grains were part of the human diet much before they turned into farmers. This was in sharp contrast to the lack of plants that could be domesticated in the American continent. In fact, corn was the only plant domesticated by the Mayans in Mexico thousands of years later.

The abundance of food and availability of  a powerful war machine (i.e. horse ) gave the inhabitants of central Europe opportunity to expand and transform themselves to agrarian civilizations. The expansion of agriculture came with a few benefits, of which the availability of leisure and advent of “division of labor” were the most prominent.

Division of labor led to specialization which resulted in organized military and other functions in the society and were the building blocks of the pillars of western civilization as described by Jarard in his book “The Third Chimpanzee”.

  1. Strong military ,
  2. Political structure
  3. Developments of tools and weapons

When Europeans first landed in North America, the local population, lacking these advantages, succumbed to the military might and germs carried by the settlers.

     The author succinctly summarizes this phenomenon as “where we live significantly determines who we are”.

This perspective on the rise of western civilization and its expansion across the world has significant impact beyond history and archeology. We can understand various aspects of our life and economy better if we can grasp the fundamental factors behind the successes and failures of our civilizations.

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