Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Guns, Germs and Steel review

After a very exciting beginning, the middle of it goes into the important but somewhat tedious comparison of all the different regions, and to keep it to a reasonable length, paints with a broad brush. There are a few major parts that are vital to read. The prologue talks about Yali's quesiton why do westerners have so much cargo? Which started this whole investigation. Chapter 3 which describes the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish.
But then you get to the afterward of the 2003 edition and I was blown away. Apparently many business leaders read GGS and noticed similarities with the business world. So people looked into it and reports published and so on. And it boils down to just a few things:
The more food you can produce and store the more people you can have innovating.
The more freedom people have to adopt innovation the more productive they can be.
The more controlled the people are the less innovative they are and the worse the productivity.

China pretty much started a the same time as the Fertile Crescent yet due to government interference threw it away.
Boston used to be the major technology hub of the world but it turned controlling and secretive and now Silicon Valley reigns supreme, but that is decaying due to out-of-control state government spending which increased taxes and the entrepreneurs are leaving for cheaper climes. Paul Graham talks about how to buy your own Silicon Valley I think many communities can do it too, SV was founded by a quirk of fate and so it can be created many other places too if you are willing to give up control.

This also makes me worry about what is happening in our country. There has been a breathtaking seizure of control at the federal level, whatever else it may mean to people there is one thing it means for sure, a general loss of freedom and subsequently innovation. Unless things change we will be a poorer country then we should be. I am reminded of East Germany. We would visit family there as often as we could and it was like they were stuck in time. Flying into Frankfort there were always big changes and lots of construction. but once across the border it was as if time stood still, and considering how some of the buildings still had battle damage from WWII that was saying something.

Well this is my lame attempt to help stave that off or at least allow for a reboot.

I would call this a classic book, well worth reading at least twice. This is an introductory world history book, it covers from the end of the last Ice Age to mainly the 15th Century, not to say there isn't more modern material but most of the action for him occurred before then, the rest is just consequences of geography, botany, animal husbandry and politics that happened thousands of years ago.

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