As a person living in the modern age, we look back at preceding societies and judge them or have expectations of them according to what we understand of the world today, forgetting that people of 10 000 or even 5 000 years ago saw and experienced the world very differently. In the same way we measure their progress and development by our current understanding of world resources. With such a shallow understanding of what it took to reach the point technological, medical or cultural evolution at which we are at right now, we may fault people for not “advancing” themselves the way other societies have. Jared Diamond’s curiosity about this has gifted the world with an extraordinary account of human history, looking through the microscope of cultural and societal evolution and what it took for man to become what we call “civilized” or “advanced” today.
A mere 20 pages into this book I was completely captivated! Diamond finds myriad explanations for specific trends in our prehistorical development, but doesn’t stop there. He imparts not a knowledge of developments, but an understanding of growth and transformation.
I’m amazed at what it took for food production and agriculture to take hold and how big of a snowball effect that creates in terms of technology, society and later, political organization! Similarly, animal domestication had a major impact on disease and our adapting immune systems. And that’s in societies that had access to domesticable, agriculturally viable plant & animal species.
From these building blocks Diamond continues to paint the picture of all the things we hold dear or take for granted in our own societies and shows how silly it is to seperate peoples based on our preconceived notions of “us vs them”.
This is an incredible book, absolutely worth it’s Pulitzer prize and other awards.
A good book to read in conjunction with Guns, Germs and Steel is Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael.