This chapter opens up with the mysterious Phaistos disk that was found by archaeologists on the island of Crete in 1908 and its interesting technological aspects. Many inventions were made not for need but for mere curiosity and hobby. Diamond makes two main conclusions about technology is that it develops cumulatively and that most technology seems to have been invented for curiosity, therefore its uses are developed after it is made. To determine if an invention will be accepted there are four influential factors.
The first is to ask whether it is economically advantageous over other inventions. The second is whether it has social significance or esteem. The third is whether it is compatible with the interests of the people. Jared Diamond highlights the value of having a society that is sedentary, as members then have the ability to accumulate goods. Nomadic societies would be limited to easily portable technologies. Contact with other societies is also beneficial in that technology can diffuse from one society to another.
Technology was (and still is) frequently inspired by other societies and then tweaked to meet a certain need, causing an evolution of the technology. Technology was mainly built under conditions which suits people and also affects people. In early civilizations, trial and error was the first teacher. This information would be passed on as skills and crafts were taught and improved upon by successive generations. The needs of the societies became more complex due to a number of factors. They developed what was needed to survive.
For example, if water was necessary for crop irrigation, ways were developed to meet that need. Factors influencing the changing needs would include climate with changing and sometimes drastic weather, other neighboring societies and their relationships, food availability, growing populations, belief systems, to name a few. The world grew smaller when our ancestors ventured out to explore what was beyond. Civilizations discovered other civilizations. Information was exchanged and shared as we continued to develop.
Often what one lacked in materials and expertise, the other had in abundance. Ideas were shared. We shared, for example, more efficient ways of killing with gun powder. We shared diseases common for one group into a group where no antibodies had built up through successive generations of exposure. We shared building materials and sky scraper rose up. This shows that all these things link back to Necessity of people. I. The institutions of society change as food production occurs. Food production allows for bigger and denser populations.
These denser, larger populations require more formalized types of government. So the basic idea is food production leads to change in institutions — change that leads to more centralized and formal government. These changes allow governments to exist that can efficiently take wealth from people (by taxing). The governments can use this money to make the guns and steel. The increase in population also allows for the germs to come into existence through the close contact between people and farm animals. Government and Religion are linked together throughout history.
The government plans the conquest and religion justifies the conquest. Therefore, those who developed these two were able to dominate others. This completes the pattern of history, the other three being germs, writing, and technology. Bands are the smallest societies lack many types of institutions that other societies have. They are so small because the region they live in lacks the resources for larger societies. Next is the tribe, being a little larger. Tribes are large enough where they can have separate clans, but also lack many institutions.
Next is Chiefdoms which contain different lineages and have many jobs that were often filled by captured slaves. Chiefdoms had a redistributive economy in which the chief received all the goods and then spread it back out among all the people. Kleptocracy is when the leader keeps much more tribute than he gives. He justifies this with religion. Cities have more people besides the food producers, taxes, and etc. States have many more slaves and are supported by a political and territorial basis, not one of kinship and heredity. So how did states originate?
The first theory is that it is the natural condition of human society. The second is that people decided it would help their self-interests. The third is that people needed a state to create and maintain larger irrigation systems. Food production contributes to complex societies by involving “seasonally pulsed inputs of labor”, creates food surplus which in turn enables specialization and stratification, and it permits people to live a sedentary lifestyle thus enabling them to make and acquire more goods. There are four reasons why large societies must have complex centralized government.
Firstly, is the conflict that arises with unrelated strangers. Secondly is the “growing possibility of communal decision making with increasing population size. ” Thirdly involves economic reasons of differentiating talents and transfer of goods. The final consideration is that larger societies have denser populations. These changes in society affects all three agents of conquest because people (especially indigenous people) become more adapted to what is going to come in the future, because they already experienced them in the past.
J. What Diamond is saying is that he thinks that people really should not think that history is so much different from the sciences. He is saying that the study of history can be pretty “scientific” if it is done correctly (and that some sciences are not as precise as things like chemistry). Diamond is trying to argue that historians should use what he calls “natural experiments. ” He thinks that there are many “experiments” where there are two or more places that are pretty similar in many ways but which then turned out differently.
He argues that historians can use these — they can look at what was different and what was similar and how the differences led to the differences in the outcomes. He also states that it is much more difficult to understand human history than to understand problems in fields of science where history is unimportant and where fewer individual variables operate. He also says that historical studies of human societies can be pursued as scientifically as studies of dinosaurs – and with profit to our society today, by teaching us what shaped the modern world, and what might shape our future.