“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond

Why are wealth and power unevenly distributed among the nations?

Jared Diamond asks the intriguing question in the Prologue, and then proceeds to review the geographical, ecological and agricultural environment of the ancient societies and argue that geographical and ecological factors affect food production, the diffusion of crops, ideas and technologies, and ultimately the distribution of wealth and power.

Summary

Domestication of wild animals and plants are necessary for food production. For domestication of wild plants, variety and density are important. Of wild animals, social and hierarchical herds are required. The excess of food and dense population allow for the development of technology and large, complex societies.

Without idea diffusion, dense population and food production, fewer technologies are acquired, and more existing technologies are lost. For example, diffusion happens more easily along the latitude than the longitude, among regions with similar ecological and geographical characteristics, and isolated continents such as Australia lag in food production and technology.

The domestication of animals causes the spreading of diseases/viruses from animals to humans, but it also helps humans to develop immunity from those viruses and diseases, which would decimate other societies that are not immune to them. In other words, the disease effectively becomes a weapon of war.

Quotes:

“Domesticable animals are all alike, every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way.”

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