17. 11. 2020

Guns, germs, and steel

The Fates of Human Societies

by Jared M. Diamond


Goodreads review:

I agree with the opinion in the book and I like the whole idea but the arguments could have been much shorter and denser. It was bit boring.


emergence of writing around 3,000 B.C. also receives brief treatment, although it constitutes 99.9% of the five-million-year history of the human species. (Friday, July 17, 2015, 05:25 PM, page 133-35)

Today, most live-born Western infants survive fatal infections as well and reproduce themselves, regardless of their intelligence and the genes they bear. (Friday, July 17, 2015, 06:20 PM, page 308-9)

For example, people with blood group B or O have a greater resistance to smallpox than do people with blood group A. (Friday, July 17, 2015, 06:21 PM, page 314)

In the average American household, the TV set is on for seven hours per day. (Friday, July 17, 2015, 06:23 PM, page 318)

Of the modern world’s 6,000 languages. 1,000 are confined to New Guinea. (Friday, July 17, 2015, 07:28 PM, page 429)

the earliest unquestioned evidence for humans in Europe stems from around half a million years ago, but there are claims of an earlier presence. (Saturday, July 18, 2015, 10:34 AM, page 545-46)

Neanderthals had brains slightly larger than our own. (Saturday, July 18, 2015, 03:58 PM, page 568-69)

the New World was initially colonized around or before 11,000 B.C. by way of Alaska, the Bering Strait, and Siberia. (Thursday, July 23, 2015, 05:46 PM, page 1058-59)

transformation of warfare by horses began with their domestication around 4000 B.C., in the steppes north of the Black Sea. (Thursday, July 23, 2015, 06:32 PM, page 1231-32)

Even much earlier (around 4000 B.C.), at a time when horses were still ridden bareback, they may have been the essential military ingredient behind the westward expansion of speakers of Indo-European languages from the Ukraine. Those languages eventually replaced all earlier western European languages except Basque. (Friday, July 24, 2015, 09:40 AM, page 1400-1402)

peoples of some areas ecologically suitable for food production (Monday, July 27, 2015, 09:28 AM, page 1619)

peas were domesticated by 8000 B.C., olives around 4000 B.C., strawberries not until the Middle Ages, and pecans not until 1846. (Monday, July 27, 2015, 05:46 PM, page 1810-11)

Crops starting out as weeds included rye and oats, turnips and radishes, beets and leeks, and lettuce. (Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 08:49 AM, page 1988-89)

cereals today account for over half of all calories consumed by humans and include five of the modern world’s 12 leading crops (wheat, corn, rice, barley, and sorghum). (Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 09:06 AM, page 1993-95)

ethnobiology, studies peoples’ knowledge of the wild plants and animals in their environment. (Thursday, July 30, 2015, 09:45 AM, page 2279-80)

Protein starvation is probably also the ultimate reason why cannibalism was widespread in traditional New Guinea highland societies. (Friday, July 31, 2015, 02:04 PM, page 2385-86)

Anna Karenina principle. (Wednesday, August 05, 2015, 08:35 AM, page 2855)

around 3,000 B.C. the invention of the wheel in or near Southwest Asia spread rapidly west and east across much of Eurasia within a few centuries, whereas the wheels invented independently in prehistoric Mexico never spread south to the Andes. Similarly, the principle of alphabetic writing, developed in the western part of the Fertile Crescent by 1500 B.C., spread west to Carthage and east to the Indian subcontinent within about a thousand years, but the Mesoamerican writing systems that flourished in prehistoric times for at least 2,000 years never reached the Andes. (Sunday, August 09, 2015, 03:01 PM, page 3102-6)

All of these parallels between Mesoamerican and ancient western Eurasian writing testify to the underlying universality of human creativity. (Friday, August 14, 2015, 09:27 PM, page 3581)

Inventors often have to persist at their tinkering for a long time in the absence of public demand, because early models perform too poorly to be useful. (Saturday, August 15, 2015, 01:03 AM, page 3882-84)

the earliest attested precursors of ceramics are fired clay figurines made in the area of modern Czechoslovakia 27,000 years ago, long before the oldest known fired clay vessels (from Japan 14,000 years ago). The same area of Czechoslovakia at the same time has yielded the earliest evidence for weaving, otherwise not attested until the oldest known basket appears around 13,000 years ago and the oldest known woven cloth around 9,000 years ago. (Monday, August 17, 2015, 09:53 AM, page 4193-96)

With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them. (Wednesday, August 19, 2015, 08:46 AM, page 4444-45)

institutionalized religion brings two other important benefits to centralized societies. First, shared ideology or religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals are to live together without killing each other—by providing them with a bond not based on kinship. Second, it gives people a motive, other than genetic self-interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others. (Thursday, August 20, 2015, 04:02 PM, page 4528-31)

New Guinea has by far the highest concentration of languages in the world: 1,000 out of the world’s 6,000 languages, crammed into an area only slightly larger than that of Texas, and divided into dozens of language families and isolated languages as different from each other as English is from Chinese. (Friday, August 21, 2015, 11:20 PM, page 4979-81)

even as living blankets, giving rise to the expression “five-dog night” to mean a very cold night. (Monday, August 24, 2015, 10:40 AM, page 5009)

sheepherders (Thursday, September 03, 2015, 03:59 PM, page 5779)

The mind-boggling complexities of Africa’s 1,500 languages were clarified by Stanford University’s great linguist Joseph Greenberg, who recognized that all those languages fall into just five families (Monday, September 07, 2015, 06:32 AM, page 6239-40)

Africa harbors 1,500 languages today, (Monday, September 07, 2015, 08:40 AM, page 6394)