ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Is there a logic to history? 

Many scholars balk at the idea of searching for such logic, insisting that each culture may only be understood on its own terms. In Why the West Rules - For Now, Ian Morris counters that if we look beyond the facade of culture to how human biology, sociology, and geography interact, it is possible to discover a fundamental pattern in history to help us answer the biggest historical questions, from why the West rules for now, to what will happen next.

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English
United States

TRANSCRIPT

00:00:13welcome to context this is Brad Harris today we're taking a step back to discuss one of the fundamental history books of Our Generation it's big just shy of a thousand pages and it's bold offering a grand interpretation of the struggles of civilization when it was published back in 2011 it won numerous literary awards and it continues to inspire debate among Scholars today the author Ian Morris is both an archaeologist and a historian currently working in the classics department at Stanford University and if we ever hope to find some kind of theory of History one of the best places we could look would be in this book why the West rules for now the patterns of history and what they reveal about the future
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00:03:15is there a logic to history are there fundamental forces that shaped the human story forces whose patterns we can learn as surely as a scientist studying the forces of matter or is history chaos merely an account mostly false of events mostly unimportant which are brought about by rulers mostly Natives and soldiers mostly fools as Ambrose Bierce cleverly to find it for centuries Keen Minds have combed through the record of the past in search of the Holy Grail a lot of history as it were that gives meaning to our ancestors meanderings last time on context we confronted the horrors that accompanied the collapse of the Roman Empire as we learned some historians simply prefer to deny those Horrors happened seeking sense in the past by expunging the
00:04:15estimate but those Horrors were real why did they happen why did Rome collapse what enabled that societies unprecedented prosperity in the first place what is the destiny of our own Society these are among the biggest historical questions and few have come close to discovering a long were some Universal logic that informs their answers modern Scholars have become much more likely to bulk even at the idea of searching for such logic indignantly maintaining that each and every culture may only be understood on its own special terms but the implication of that logic it would seem is that there is more that divides us than unites us that the differences between peoples overwhelm their common Humanity that we are doomed to remain balkanized for all time
00:05:14Ian Morris regex that premise maintaining instead that if we only look beyond the facade of cultural difference and study how human biology sociology and geography interact it is possible to discover a fundamental pattern in history and to trace its shape to help us answer the biggest historical questions questions for example like why the West rules for now this question has been particularly pressing for a couple of centuries due to the sudden and overwhelming Global dominance of Europe and America in a world where China had long looked like the Juggernaut why it wasn't Chinese ships that blasted their way into Britain rather than Western ships forcing trade with China and Japan by the barrel of heavy Cannon is a historical deviation that demands explanation at the question we've already considered on this show
00:06:14our Review of Books like Jared Diamond Guns Germs and Steel David landy's the wealth and poverty of Nations and Margaret Jacobs scientific culture and the making of the industrial West Ian Morris's unique analysis makes the question worth considering again much like Jared diamond in his book Guns Germs and Steel Ian Morris is not attempting to explain how the West subdued non-western Societies in recent centuries the answer to that question is well-worn and relatively obvious as Morris rights quote nearly everyone agrees that the West rules because the Industrial Revolution happened there in the 18th century British entrepreneurs unleashed the energies of steam and coal factories railroads and gunboats gave 19th century Europeans and Americans the ability to project power globally airplanes computers in nuclear weapons allowed their 20th century successor
00:07:14does cement this dominance and quote know Maurice is seeking to explain why the Industrial Revolution originated in Britain at all which is only part of his larger quest to discover the logic of history and to use that wisdom to anticipate our future quote one of the reasons people care about why the West rules is that they want to know whether how long and in what ways this will continue that is what will happen next and quote much turns on his titular question anyone who can compellingly explain why the West rules for now goes a long way toward explaining why the world is the way it is traditionally the bulk of historians has been divided on the question Suddenlink principally into two schools of thought on one hand according to Morris is the so-called long-term lock-in Theory long
00:08:14turn lock in theory asserts that some set of critical differences between eastern and western civilization determined their unequal Destiny's right from the start for example many in the long-term walk-in school of thought believe that Superior environmental conditions stretching back to the last ice age virtually guarantee the West dominance Jared Diamond would be a notable example here while other long-term Murs argue that Western rule was locked in with the establishment of reason and Democratic institutions by the ancient Greeks either way Morris points out that quote the one thing long-term Murs can agree on is that the britons who shot their way into Shanghai in the 1840s and the Americans who forced Japan sarber open a decade later we're merely the unconscious agents of a chain of events that have been set in motion Millenia earlier and quote
00:09:12on the other hand there is the so-called short-term accident school of thought scholars in this cab deny Western exceptionalism the contrast China's medieval Maritime and technological sophistication with Europe's medieval religious barbarism burning witches was anything but reasonable they say divine right of kings anything--but Democratic they point to Japan's 20th century military and technological conquests or China's 21st century economic Resurgence and imminent Global lead and their view of history there are countless contradictions to long-term lock-in theory that leave modern Western rule looking like a short-term fluke for the vast majority of recorded history the short-term irsay China was at least as powerful as any Western Empire and the recent anomaly of Western rule is merely due to a lucky combination of
00:10:12Bayern mental and demographic accidents that compelled westerners to industrialize just to keep up the battle line between the long-term Murs and the short-term Murs can be quite acrimonious with long-term Murs accusing short-term theorists of quot pedaling Shawty politically correct pseudo scholarship and some short-term is responding that long-term Murs are racist and quote D and Morris such diametrically opposed views of how the world Works signal that something is broken in historians traditional assessments to offer a better answer he argues requires a more comprehensive analytical approach quote combining their historians focus on context the archaeologists awareness of the deep past and the social scientists comparative methods and quote
00:11:07to begin with Maurice redefines what did even means to ask why the West rules and this is one of the most instructive features of his book terms matter Scholars can spend career squabbling over their meeting and in today's politically paranoid climate increasing numbers of academics are afraid to even go near terms like Civilization the West rule or any other potentially mudslinging. Arends so when someone like Ian Morris explicitly defines what we should mean when we talk about why the West rules it is tremendously helpful in defusing the pettiness of scoffers so the rest of us can just get on with the work quote asking why the West rules is really a question about what I will call Social Development by this I basically means societies abilities to get things done to shape their physical economic social and intellectual in
00:12:07modern men's to their own ends and in this way asking why the West rules really means asking two questions we need to know both why the West is more developed that is more able to get things done than any other region of the world and why Western development Rose so high in the last 200 years that for the first time in history a few countries could dominate the entire planet the only way to answer these questions I believe is by measuring Social Development to produce a graph that literally shows the shape of History once we do that we'll see that neither long-term lock-in nor short-term accident theories explain the shape of History very well at all but there is one point I need to make in the strongest possible terms measuring and comparing Social Development is not a method for passing moral judgment on different communities measuring is one thing praising or blaming is another Alt
00:13:07gather and quote indeed we don't Ponder why the West rules to indulge racist delusions rather we Ponder the question In The Same Spirit we Ponder nature we seek to understand what shapes are in existence in hopes of gaining some control over our fate and quantifying history is Morris's method of choice but of course the critical question then becomes how to quantify history to show its shape whelmed sensibly enough Morris takes his cue from the United Nations human development index which was devised to track how well each country around the world and Abel's its citizens to reach their full potential the index is simple to be as universal as possible with each country score derived from only three coremetrics life expectancy literacy and income based on each country's weighted averages across these three
00:14:07traits they receive the score between zero indicating no human development at all Universal death in other words and 1 indicating optimal human flourishing Heaven on Earth in 2009 Morris notes that Norway came in first with a score of Point 971 & Sierra Leone was last with a score of Point 340 now for the purposes of measuring historical Social Development Morris borrow is the basic un framework but expands upon its core metrics instead of life expectancy literacy and income his scale measures societies levels of energy capture urbanization information processing and Military capacity these are the factors he determines our most important in societies abilities to get things done and quote sticking to the simple as possible program I set 1000 points as the
00:15:07maximum Social Development score at a Noble in the year 2002 by bees points equally among my four traits and quote so 1000 points is roughly equivalent to the Social Development score of the United States in the year 2000 made list to say just determining ancient Society scores on these metrics would represent a huge challenge for any scholar and Morris admits his index offers only a general impression of the shape of History more akin to chainsaw art than a fine marble statue even so three key insights do clearly emerge from his painstaking quantification first the scores for Eastern civilization centered in China and Western Civilization centered first around the Mediterranean and later in Europe were strikingly similar over nearly the entire span of the last
00:16:07fifteen thousand years never Rising much above the mid-forties on Morris's index arrange corresponding to conditions at the height of ancient Rome 2000 years ago were under the song dynasty in China a thousand years ago second the West Social Development score was almost always slightly higher than China's except for a period of about 1200 years between the mid 500 Zen mid 1700 JD when China score nudged through the mid-forties but the West's dipped into the high 30s in the wake of Rome's collapse the third key Insight is that only during the last two hundred years or so did the West score break out of these ancient parameters to rock it be on the mid-forties tour 2009 tell far back Maurice takes his analysis of Social Development 15,000 years so far back in time
00:17:07shoots right into the closing Millennia of the last ice age historians DeLand documents the written record of the past but this only takes them back about six thousand years I spent too short in Morris's opinion for really understanding why the West rules today he takes his cue from an amateur historian Winston Churchill who understood that quote the farther back you can look the farther forward you are likely to see and quote to justify the accuracy of an index of Social Development dating back 15 thousand years Morris spends hundreds of pages presenting a plethora of data on Western and Eastern civilizations levels of energy capture urbanization information processing and Military capacity as a result of his rigor the book is quite long but it would be hard to find a serious scholar who refuted the general shape of history and outlying
00:18:07again Morris hasn't changed the record of the past he's just Quantified it in a uniquely powerful way but the real magic comes when he analyzes how the historical interactions between human biology sociology and geography account for the shape of history that has graph reveals quote biology tells us what humans truly are clever chimps humans like other animals are obviously not all the same some extract more energy from the environment than others so I'm reproduce more than others somewhere more Curious creative clever or practical than others but the consequence of our animalness is that large groups of humans as opposed to individual humans are all much the same if you pluck to random people from a crowd they may be as different as Can Be Imagined but if you round up to complete crowds they will tend to mirror each other rather
00:19:07closely and if you compare groups million strong as I do in this book they are likely to have very similar proportions of energetic fertile curious creative clever talkative and practical people and quote This Crowd Dynamic is why sociology become so important to Morris's analysis marking a major Advance over how historians used to interpret history via great man or woman narratives modern Scholars like Morris can use computers to Crunch far greater amounts of historical data and Trace sociological trends that overwhelm the influence of any individual and the predominant sociological Dynamic that Maurice identifies is that historical changes in Social Development have mostly been caused by the aggregated efforts of quote lazy greedy frightened people looking for easier more profitable and safer ways
00:20:07do things this is why history teaches us that when the pressure is on change takes off and quote it's not a flattering view of humanity but statistically at least it's probably as accurate as it can be there are heroes Among Us sometimes we can be heroes to those we love and two strangers in need sometimes but heroic Sorry by definition the exception not the rule the routine movements of men and women day after day Millennium after Millennium probably do reduce the historical fact of our combined efforts to the meaning of Morris's description and by interpreting how these basic tenants of human biology and sociology work together to determine the shape of History Morris make sense of the fact that Social Development consistently Rose and in very similar ways across most human societies over the
00:21:07best 15,000 years here he really is analyzing laws biological and sociological laws that describe human behavior as a whole large group of lazy greedy frightened individuals looking for easier more profitable and safer ways to get things done amid the constraints of planet Earth tend to push Social Development up in the same way this would explain for example the otherwise shockingly unlikely fact that out of over 100,000 years of hunter-gatherer prehistory they're really emerged at least seven independent sites of plant and animal domestication around the world between 13000 and 7000 years ago from the mountains of Peru in South America and the Eastern Sahara in Africa to the yellow Yangtze valleys of China and the highlands of New Guinea still if the universal laws of human biology and Sosa
00:22:07ecology explain why Morris's graph shows very similar historical Social Development between East and West want then explains why the West showed slightly higher Social Development for 14 of the past fifteen thousand years what explains why China eclipse the West between the five hundreds in the 1700 JD and what explains why the West managed to suddenly explode beyond the mid-40s threshold on Morris's index after 1800 a d as Maurice concludes quote between them biology and sociology explain most of the shape of History they by definition tell us about Humanity as a whole but they don't explain why people in one place have fared so differently from those in another to explain that I will argue throughout this book we need a third tool geography biology and sociology explain the global similar
00:23:07Freddy's World Geography explains the regional differences and in that sense it is geography that explains why the West rules and quote too impatient readers Morris's turn toward geography here may appear to drift too far into the Wake carved by Jared diamond in his excellent book Guns Germs and Steel but Maurice is an argument about the role of geography has several additional layers that make it less vulnerable to charges of environmental determinism that plagued Dimond whereas Dimond fixated on how environmental resources determined to the fates of human societies Morris illuminates a more Dynamic historical relationship between societies and their environments quote geography did not lock in history because geographical advantages were always ultimately self-defeating they drive up Social Development but in
00:24:07process Social Development changes what geography means 5000 years ago for instance the fact that Portugal Spain France and Britain stuck out from Europe into the Atlantic was a huge geographical disadvantage meaning that these regions were a very long way from the real action in Mesopotamia and Egypt but five hundred years ago however Social Development had risen so much that geography changed its meanings there were new kinds of ships that could cross what it always been impassable oceans which abruptly made sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean Edge Plus and quote
00:24:46Maurice agrees with Dymond that at the end of the last ice age the Eastern Mediterranean featured environmental resources exceptionally favorable to the development of Agriculture and that this geographical advantage explains why the world's first settled societies emerged there by 10000 BC the world's second independent core of settled Society didn't emerge until around 8000 BC in the yellow Yangtze Valley of China the West 2000 deer head start on civilization therefore was certainly excited by pasts colors to support claims for westerners inherent superiority but in reality given the scale of prehistory is 2000 year difference is a blank and it's more accurate to say that agricultural civilization Blossom to practically simultaneously among human societies all around the world this is itself remarkable
00:25:47why did it happen as Morris documents climatic shifts toward the end of the last ice age around 15,000 years ago seemed to have initially enabled huge spikes in human populations but that population boom only ended up overwhelming the traditional environmental resources on which hunter-gatherers relied they hunted many large mammals practically to Extinction for example now people everywhere apparently felt this unprecedented demographic pressure and is Morris reminds us history shows that when the pressure is on change takes off all around the world lazy greedy and frightened hunter-gatherers looking for easier and more profitable and safer ways to feed themselves try domesticating some of their food sources and as it turned out the easiest place on Earth to do that as both Dimond and Morris documents Sowell was around the Eastern Mediterranean none the less
00:26:47Chinese tribes quickly figured it out to as did Central and South American tribes East African Indus River Valley in New Guinea and Highland tribes Morris's contribution helps us understand these remarkable similarities and Social Development among what may otherwise appear to be starkly different cultures as a function of how basic human biology and sociology interacted with geography comparing the world's two largest centers of Social Development around the Mediterranean in the west and around the yellow Yangtze Valley of China in the East quote both regions saw the domestication of dogs the cultivation of plants the domestication of large animals both saw the gradual development of high-yield labor intensive farming the rise of big Villages send after another two or three thousand years towns in both regions people constructed an elaborate buildings and fortifications experimented with
00:27:47hiding painted beautiful designs on pots use lavish tombs were fascinated with ancestors and sacrificed humans and not only did similar things happen in both east and west but they also happened in more or less the same order this strongly suggest that developments in east and west shared a cultural Logic the same, at the same consequences at both ends of Eurasia the only real difference is that the process started two thousand years earlier in the west end quote in light of these incredible similarities and Social Development the shared cultural logic of history as Morris puts it becomes far less reasonable to maintain that there was anything special about Western Civilization that destined to rule and yet the fact that the West held on to its head start in Social Development for most of the 15,000 years since then renders short-term accent
00:28:47Siri just a dubious to evolve from planting the first crops to building cities that could support a million people more shows how both eastern and western civilization needed to increase their energy capture urbanization information processing and Military capacity scores from below 10 on his index of Social Development to above 40 why they did this is more complicated but environmental disruption seems to have once again been the trigger through the 6th millennium BC when small farming Villages were springing up throughout Mesopotamia in the West End the yellow Yangtze Valley in the East Not only was the Ice Age long gone the Earth was in a phase of its orbit this is stained exceptionally warm wet conditions across much of Eurasia by 3800 BC however the climate appears to have cooled significantly
00:29:47you once again miss put yet another round of intense pressure on both societies for example Morris rights that quote cooler Summers meant that the rain bearing monsoons blowing off the Indian Ocean got weaker rain fell less often and less predictably and Mesopotamia started looking more and more like the parts place we see on CNN problems compounded one on another declining spring rains meant shorter growing Seasons which method crops ripened before the Euphrates and Tigris flooded each summer the systems Mesopotamian Farmers had painstakingly built up across two thousand years no longer worked and quote in response Social Development took and ironic turn Mesopotamians found that the easiest most profitable and safest way to survive climate induced food shortages was to congregate into even
00:30:47larger more concentrated communities in order to cooperate on building even larger more concentrated and therefore more efficient irrigation and farming systems many small villages became few big cities and to manage their growth effectively history's first urbanites had no choice but to invent novel forms of social organization and Central Administration quote by 3300 BC people were scratching on two little clay tablets such sophisticated records of their activities that most archaeologists call the symbols writing Mesopotamians were inventing management meetings and memoranda the curses of life for so many of us today and hardly the stuff of soaring narratives of human achievement yet these were often the most important Motors of Social Development and quote
00:31:44to endure climate change ancient societies were forced to consolidate social organization and political power in order to intensify agricultural production this intern Morris argues entailed additional Social Development to facilitate everything from Urban management and bronze Metallurgy to build and defend these larger communities to religious temples that could spiritually unite otherwise is strange 2 populations there's nothing triumphant in what Morris describes hear his portrayal of the birth of civilization looks more like a trap lazy greedy frightened people looking for easier more profitable and safer ways to get things done in the face of huge environmental disruptions brought on by climate change and demographic shifts simply got caught up and a self-reinforcing psychosocial development
00:32:44for as the cities and states and eventually Empires they spawned in response to these pressures grew that growth itself produced entirely new environmental and social stresses whose consequences could only be averted by further Social Development quote for nearly everyone the rise of the statement surrendering freedoms but that was the price of success in hard times communities that paid the price could muster more people wealth and power than pre-state societies Rising Social Development intertwined the cores economies societies and cultures with those of neighboring regions enlarging The Corrs increasing their Mastery of their environments and driving up Social developments further still but growing complexity mint growing fragility the higher Social Development Rises the more threats to itself it creates this was Andrew
00:33:44Maine's a central Paradox of Social Development it creates the very forces that undermine aunt and quote here we begin to see why the shape of History tended to set Empires up only to collapse why ancient Rome for example flourished only to fall as Social Development continue to rise the meaning of geography continue to change between 3000 and 4000 BC for example the disproportionate rise in power that cities like Oreck in modern-day Iraq and Memphis in Egypt derived from intensive irrigation farming made great western Rivers such as the Euphrates and the Nile the West's most valuable Geographic assets what is the value of a long-distance trade exploded proximity to the commercial Highway of the Mediterranean became
00:34:44much more important 3500 years ago Bronze Age commerce was turning formerly Frontier coastal cities in modern-day turkey Cyprus Greece Sicily and Sardinia into some of the richest and most Cosmopolitan places in the world resources from 3 continents poured into their harbors and the bronze industry bellowback an epic array of military engineering and artistic artifacts that help the West pull even further ahead of the East so valuable was bronze to the growth of the world's first Empires that when some of it was eventually born on the backs of camels and horses across Eurasia to shinjang around 3,000 years ago China experienced a significant up taking its own Social Development score they help to close the gap with that of the West's yet the West huge rise and Social Development on the basis of bronze
00:35:44Western Civilization increasingly vulnerable to that Industries success and when Imports of 10 from modern-day Afghanistan and Britain faltered around 1200 BC on which bronze Metallurgy relied the West experienced its first full-blown Dark Age the Paradox of Social Development hit westerners head on while west to east diffusion probably explains some of China's catch up three thousand years ago the most important factor by far was not Eastern copying but the Western collapse Eastern Social Development was still a thousand years behind the Westin 1200 BC but the Western Kors implosion effectively wiped out nearly all the games by 1000 BC the East Social Development score was only a few hundred years behind the West the great western collapse of 1200 to 1000 BC begin the first
00:36:44turning point in our story The Paradox of Social Development played out so brutally show that nothing lasts forever no symbol long-term locking Theory can tell us why the West rules and quote what happened over the next several centuries in the west is shrouded in the Smoke of its ruin butt in China it's clear that agriculture continue to intensify around the Yangtze and yellow Rivers as rulers Consolidated power into more effective Central Administration particularly to direct improvements in flood control China's population Sword and the data show that it's levels of energy capture urbanization information processing and Military capacity did to between 1000 BC and 100 BC it Social Development score nearly doubled from under 22 over 30 points on Morris's index in a nutshell
00:37:44more surmises that China quote avoided collapse in the first millennium BC by restructuring inventing new institutions that kept them one step ahead of the disruptions that they're continuing expansion itself generated and quote the West had failed to do this in large part because it's Social Development was almost wholly dependent upon the wide-reaching trade networks of bronze the collapse of that trade was nearly as devastating to westerners 3,000 years ago as it would be for us today if all of the world's oil wells suddenly ran dry the crisis Morris concludes left lazy greedy frightened westerners desperately falling back on local Resources with hard to work iron becoming the only practical substitute for their beloved bronze quote the drawing up of the 10 Supply made it iron or nothing and by 1000 BC
00:38:44the new cheap metal was a news from Greece to what is now Israel when trade routes revived no one went back to bronze for weapons or tools and quote the Iron Age that arrived in the west enabling it to get back on course but to really really ignited its growth and Social Development the West had to follow the East example and double down dramatically on political consolidation despite its troubles five Millennia worth of Western Social Development had caused kingdoms to increasingly clang against each other as their appetites for resources grew and just as Mesopotamian said long ago learned concentrating more power and people into fewer centers of administration was the only practicable way to sustain Social Development influence drained swiftly away from Regional kingdoms to pool in Rome
00:39:44quote rather than any single genius changing history this looks like desperate men trying out every idea that came along with the best Solutions winning it was centralized or perish rulers who failed to get local Chiefs under control were crushed by those who succeeded by 200 BC the East and West had more in common than at any time since the Ice Age each was dominated by a single great Empire with tens of millions of subjects each had a literate sophisticated Elite living in great cities fed by highly productive farmers and Supply by it elaborate trade networks and in each core Social Development was 50% higher than it had been in 1000 BC Western Social Development past 35 points it was higher when Julius Caesar cross the Rubicon then it would be one Columbus crossed the Atlantic and quote
00:40:40over the next two centuries growth and Social Development under the Han Dynasty in the East and under the Roman emperors in the west was so great that each Society had to fundamentally transform one of its metrics energy capture for eternity before this muscle along with biomass fuel such as wood and manure were the only sources of energy Humanity had ever used but two thousand years ago Chinese and Roman armies and Artisans were demanding more energy than he's primeval providers could offer forests retreated as wood was devoured and slavery spread has demand for labor surged lazy greedy frightened individuals on both sides of Eurasia Tankard and toiled for generations to find easier more profitable and safer sources of energy until some Avenged
00:41:40play as Maurice put said quote tapped into for potentially revolutionary sources coal natural gas water and wind the first two remained very marginal but not the third and fourth in the first century BC Romans and Chinese both came up with water wheels using them to power meals to grind grain and Bellows to heat up furnace is the most impressive example known built in France soon after 100 AD linked 16 wheels to generate 30 kilowatts of power roughly the same as a hundred oxen and quote revolutionising energy capture allowed East and West to revolutionize Commerce almost two thousand years before James Watt patented his steam engine Chinese and Roman Engineers were designing massive water and windmills to send the wheels of production into high gear however
00:42:40quote no one would bother producing thousands of tons of wheat millions of gallons of wine and billions of iron Nails unless they could move them from far more Foundry to potential buyers bigger better and cheaper ships harbors and canals mattered as much as plowz and waterwheels trade and industry grew together and quote
00:43:05by now we should not be surprised that the Paradox of Social Development was poised to strike again as the West score on Morris's index spiked above 40 under the Caesars on the East State closes on its heels under the Han their Empires engulfed whole swathes of Eurasia causing the fringes of their trade networks to become entangled for the first time as East touched West vulnerabilities compounded and with another change in the weather along with a heavy dose of contagion The Towering Heights of ancient achievement Came Crashing back to Earth as we discussed in an earlier episode on this show during our review of William McNeil's book plagues and peoples it appears that outbreaks of measles are smallpox erupted everywhere beginning around 165 ad and went on to kill upwards of 1/3 of your rages in
00:44:05higher population over the next few centuries as Morris rights quote the Old World Exchange had devastating consequences City shrank trade declined tax revenues fell and Fields were abandoned and as if all this were not enough every source of evidence peat bogs Lake sediments ice cores tree rings strontium to calcium ratio is in coral reefs even the chemistry of algae suggest that the weather to turned against humanity average temperatures fell about 2 degrees Fahrenheit between 200 and 500 AD reducing evaporation from the oceans and weakening monsoon winds so that rainfall declined as well under other circumstances the flourishing eastern and western Kors might have responded to climate change effectively but this time disease and climate change to Horsemen of the Apocalypse we're riding together and
00:45:05we need not dwell much longer on the nightmares that followed suffice it to say that subsequent generations of Chinese and Romans grew so impoverished by comparison that quote poets wondered whether the great Stone ruins decaying all around them could have been built by Mortals at all and quote it's easy to get lost in the historical details that follow Morris's exposition of how the spread of Buddhism in the East and Christianity and Islam in the west Salvage people Spirits Andre consolidate political Authority offers a rich summary of each civilizations long recovery all the while the fundamental pattern history he sent out to discover waxes brighter and brighter quote if I had been writing this book around the year 500 AD I might well have been a long-term lock-in theorist
00:46:05every Millennium or so I would have observed Social Development undermined itself and for every two or three steps forward there would have been one step back disruptions were getting bigger now affecting the east as well as the west but the pattern was clear during steps forward the West pulled away from the East during steps back the Gap narrowed and on it would go in a series of waves each cresting higher than the last with the West's lead varying but locked in end quote
00:46:37this time was different though the West film many steps back descending through a dark age that proved to be the blackest yet until the shape of History itself inverted so that before the year 600 AD quote the East Social Development score overtook the West ending a 14000 year old pattern and disproving it a stroke and he's simple long-term lock-in theory of why the West Rules by 782 East score was 1/3 higher than the west and my 1100 the Gap nearly 40% was bigger than it had been for two and a half thousand years and quote how the East succeeded in reversing its own decline was largely a matter of brutal reunification while the West shattered into a million pieces China fractured into only to print
00:47:37Apple regions within administrative Lee strong but economically depleted North and an anarchic but Rich South indeed The South was China's new economic Frontier Morris argues and under new leadership by the sway Dynasty Northern bureaucrats managed to muscle their way in by spending the bulk of their remaining treasury on a Massey 1500 mile long 130 ft wide Grand Canal that physically linked to the urbanized North with a fertile Farms of the South's Yangtze Valley the sway Emperor had quote wanted a superhighway for moving armies around within a generation though the Grand Canal had become China's economic artery carrying rice from the south to see the Northern Cities end quote the Grand Canal was any conomic moon but it proved to be a limited one given the manner in which Chinese rulers leveraged at the canal
00:48:37labeled them to project their political power out of the North End into China's most productive territory below the Yangtze this was beneficial and staunching the east's disintegration but once Northern bureaucrats got their hands around the South their obstructive political machinations choked Innovation there quote excessive Administration put a brake on development by shackling Southern Farmers and Merchants regulating every detail of Commerce officials fixed prices told people when to buy and sell and even ruled on how Merchants could live they could not for instance ride horses that was too dignified for me or hucksters and quote bloated bureaucracy it seems has been a curse to blessing in China for a very long time
00:49:26ironically it was the West's extreme fragmentation that eventually provided a route to its Redemption through the Civic wreckage of the Dark Ages religion became the political life raft to which most people clung and their fervor to protect these new shelters of meaning westerners slaughtered each other by the million over disagreements in their holy texts and Duggan with spiritual allies behind a dozen new lines on the map for a long time anyone who grew strong enough to consolidate the wealth and power of these territories only invited further violence from Covetous barbarians beyond the man crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800 for example may have succeeded in uniting Europe's Christian kingdoms but Charlemagne's Valiant efforts none-the-less only raised the West Social Development score high enough to quote lure Raiders in
00:50:26who is Empire from even Wilder Lands Beyond the Christian periphery by the time he died in 814 Viking longboats from Scandinavia were nosing up Rivers into the Empire's heart magyars on tough little step Ponies were plundering Germany and saracen pirates from North Africa were about to sack Rome itself once again end quote European communities remained relatively tiny large towns it best for most of them in the year 1000 when the real Western Coeur was centered in the city of Baghdad in the Muslim World barely twenty thousand people lived in Paris still less in London these were the New Frontier communities on the west economic Fringe and yet as such they were industrious little enclaves piously close-minded Devore and ideas but wide open to foreign Innovation out of necessity they may have feared Muslim Doctrine but they in
00:51:26erased Muslim Ingenuity importing all kinds of Technologies from Arabic numerals to paper power technology was a particular favorite quote water Mills common in the Muslim core now spread across the Christian Fringe the number of meals and Frances real bacavalley for instance quintuples between the 10th Century in the 13th and a sense is compiled and 1086 says that England had a remarkable 5624 Mills Farmers also learned the virtues of horses which eat more than oxygen but can pull plows faster and work longer the balance slowly Tipton horses favored after the year 1000 when Europeans adopted from Muslims middle horseshoes which reduces friction and replaced their clumsy choking throat and girth harnesses with collar harnesses that quadrupled horses pulling power in 1086 just one draft
00:52:26animal in 20 on English Barons land was a horse by 1301 and 5 was and quote
00:52:35in many respects medieval European Society was much like South China's had been prior to the sway Dynasty is domination a chaotic Frontier to be sure but one brimming with economic potential the difference was that no one ever succeeded in dominating Europe's tangle of polities for a long time this was a western weakness despite its bureaucratic bloat China had at least some system in place for stewarding energy capture urbanization information processing in military capacity and by the 11's quote Eastern Social Development had risen as high as the Pikachu evolved in ancient Rome Millennium earlier the West split between a Muslim core and a Christian periphery now lags far behind and would not match this level of Social Development until the 18th century on the eve of Britain's industrial revolution end
00:53:35ultimately China Social Development flatlined topping out in the mid-forties on Morris's scale just as ancient Rome's had before tumbling through the 30s once again the weight of its bureaucracy play depart but China slide through the 1200s and 1300s was triggered by other factors especially the devastating Mongolian invasions led by Genghis Khan and his successors Morris spends dozens of pages documenting how China even seem to be on the verge of its own Industrial Revolution just before its cities were sacked it had transitioned its primary fuel source from wood to call after all which was using the power huge iron foundries to key developments proceeding Britain's industrial revolution half a millennium later but had gangis Khan never lived and had the Mongolian Cavalry never flooded south over China's Great Wall
00:54:35it's still doubtful that China would embrace the power of steam in the 1300s as assiduously as the British would go on to do at the end of the 1700 it's still doubtful that China would have pulled off an industrial revolution that could have empowered the East to rule the modern world the historical context of China in the 1300s was very different from that of Britain in the 17 and 18 hundreds first of all China's population had exploded leading up to the Mongolian invasions surpassing a hundred million people through the 1100 this is what drove China to clear cut most of its native forest for fuel and construction and with too many people and too little wood China Resort get to burning coal out of desperation Britain to with turn to Cole for lack of trees but the transition was much more gradual as was its population growth in the year 11
00:55:35Britain's population was only around 3 million and even as late as 1800 it hadn't risen much past seven and a half million people for comparison Britain's current population is close to 60 million there just weren't that many bodies in Britain a few centuries ago labor was chronically scarce on the island so Engineers had every incentive to devise Machinery to supplement muscle by contrast the overflowing multitude of Chinese kept labor extremely cheap there so there was very little incentive to mechanize mine operations what's more China's coal mines were less vulnerable to flooding with water than those in Britain the express purpose of the world's first steam engines invented in Britain what's the pump water out of deep mine shafts so the two most important motivations to invent steam engines in Britain centuries later expensive manual labor
00:56:35and chronically flooded Minds we're both absent in China it's also important to note that China lacked free market incentives for steam engine entrepreneurship with so many bodies at bureaucrats command and without an economy designed to reward private Innovation it was simply more rational for China to stick with forced labor as its prime mover of development in the final analysis then a fourteenth-century Chinese Industrial Revolution looks extremely unlikely even if the Mongolian Invasion hadn't wrecked everything and reduced China to a shell of its former self Mass migration State collapse famine disease all swept across the East with the Mongolian horde in the west mean while the Mongolian surge devastated centers of Social Development in the Muslim core and on the Eastern edge of Europe but it left the rest of the continent on top
00:57:35as a consequence of Western Europe experienced none of the hardships of Mongolian Invasion even as it reached all of the benefits of Mongolian trade Eastern technology and Commercial Goods flooded across the Mongolian commercial Network to land in European markets from gunpowder compasses and paper to Silks medicine and Porcelain so although the East managed to hang onto its lead and Social Development simply by standing still that lead began to narrow quickly as the West development surged again after 1300
00:58:13under the Ming Dynasty between the mid 1300s in mid 16 hundreds China Social Development bobbled around 40 points on Morris's index which supported a standard of living nearly as high as the ancient peak of Imperial Rome given the preceding era of violent Invasion and plague it's understandable that Chinese rulers value to this new age of calm and stability embracing a more conservative approach to Social Development this was a time after all when nothing outside of China seem to measure up to its own Grandeur those who have studied this apparently static phase of Chinese history and wondered why the Ming Dynasty did sees its moment to conquer the world ignore the fact that China lacked the incentives that would soon motivate Europeans to venture abroad one thing in particular that captures the imagination
00:59:1310 of alternative history theorists is the Chinese treasure Fleet of the early 1400s many have been tantalized by Tales of China's 7 Infamous Oceanic voyages that took its Sailors across the old world between 1405 and 1433 tantalized by the mystery of why this Fleet populated by the grandest ships in history disappeared as suddenly as it emerged why didn't China sandwich towering Armada East to colonize the new world these people wonder why didn't China use its 15th century Naval Supremacy to build a global Empire on which the Sun never set again Morris argues the incentives just weren't there yes the Chinese did build an auto inspiring Fleet of massive ships they took them as far as the east coast of Africa but when the greatest treasures.
01:00:13Earth proved to be back home what was the point of spending a fortune on additional exploration abroad lazy greedy frightened subjects of Ming China were being totally sensible in determining that there wasn't anything conceivably easier more profitable or safer awaiting them over the horizon China was the center of the action China was the market and everyone else in the world wanted to access In the Fourteen hundreds when the Chinese Admiral Chung hers treasure Fleet dropped anchor in African Arabian and Indian Harbors Laden with the best gifts that China had to offer he never received Goods in exchange that came anywhere close to justifying the expense of his trips the Ming Dynasty's decision to shut down his treasure Fleet and scrap it ships and harbors after two decades of money draining Maritime extravagance was a rational economic calculation reminiscent of America
01:01:13decision to stop sending billion-dollar Rockets to a lifeless lunar desert in the 1970s likewise Chinese Mariners were understandably reluctant to venture East into the Pacific Ocean it was way too big to yield profitable discoveries only European Navigators were Silly or desperate enough to sail into the unknowns of the Open Sea indeed the only reason why European Sailors happened to be the ones to stumble upon the Americas nearly a century after China scrap its fleet was because Europeans were convinced that ceiling West would offer an easier more profitable and safer way to get to China than trudging East Overland across the super continent of Eurasia as Morris asserts quote geography just made it easier for westerners to wash up in the Americas then for easterners Europeans most obvious geographical advantage was physical the prevailing winds the place
01:02:13vineland's and the sheer size of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans made things easier for them given time East Asian explorers would surely have crossed the Pacific eventually but other things being equal it was always going to be easier for Viking or Portuguese Sailors to reach the new world that for Chinese or Japanese and quote all of this is to say that China's apparent inward turn through the very centuries when they East looked capable of ruling the world represents a rational response to the Ming Dynasty's historical context westerners Meanwhile we're absolutely motivated to search abroad four ways to escape their Backwater impoverishment the Mongolian invasions had devastated the medieval Muslim core and in the wake of the black death in the mid thirteen hundreds virtually no major Western Center of Social Development was left standing there were many many
01:03:13Dentures we might say Rich Little city-states throughout Italy for example and burgeoning Market hubs popping up around Antwerpen Amsterdam but Europe remains highly fragmented and no Western power could monopolize Western wealth seizing wealth from Neighbors in fact became the perennial project of late medieval and early modern European States this was Machiavelli's world and with what little money they could muster European sovereigns found that the easiest most profitable and safest way to best their neighbors what's to bring a whole new kind of weapon to the ancient knife fights of humanity guns
01:03:56primitive Firearms first made their appearance on European battlefields in the mid 1300s but over the course of the Fourteen hundreds the use of artillery triggered a full-scale military revolution in the west from the Sands of Arabia to the shores of the Atlantic Canon completely obliterated the old Marshall Paradigm of armored Knights and high city walls Constantinople the capital of the Byzantine Empire that had withstood assault for 1,500 years was taken in less than two months in the spring of 1453 by ottoman Turks who simply dragged artillery up to its Stone defenses and smashed them to Smithereens Christians of course could not abide Muslims monopolizing the latest super weapons and Morris documents that quote as the Turks Advanced European Kings fought more fiercely against one another as
01:04:56laws against the Infidel and a genuine arms race took off France and burgundy led the way in the 1470s their Gunners casting cannons with sticker barrels forming gunpowder into corns that ignited faster and using iron rather than Stone cannonballs the new guns were light enough to be loaded onto expensive new warships driven by sales not Wars with gun ports cut Solo in the hall that iron cannonballs could punch holes in enemy ships right at the waterline and quote the arms race in the west change the meaning of geography again suddenly the Open Sea became a critical Arena of ballistic Warfare in which kingdoms could junkie for power presenting what had long been the backward Atlantic Fringe of Europe with one of history's most promising new prospects for growth not only this but the arms race inexorably forced fragmented Europe to finally
01:05:56consolidate into it's more familiar looking modern Nations for as Morris goes on to argue quote it was hard for anyone but King to afford this kind of military technology and slowly but surely Western European monarchs bought enough of the new weapons to intimidate the Lord's independent cities and Bishops who is Messi overlapping jurisdictions had made earlier European States so weak along the Atlantic Kings created bigger stronger States France Spain and England and once they had muscle their lord decide these Kings could build up bureaucracies tax the people directly and buy more guns which of course Force neighbor and Kings to buy more guns 2 and pushed everyone to raise still more money the struggle steadily pulled the West center of gravity tour the Atlantic by 1500 the Western Coeur was being reordered
01:06:56call me it's Atlantic Fringe and War was leading the way and quote So within the very same span of a few hundred years between the mid thirteen hundreds and the mid 16 hundreds we have a single all-powerful ruler in the East rationally turning inward to stabilize its influence and we have an array of wannabe powerful rulers in the west rationally turning outward to fight for theirs while locked in an arms race as the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes would reflect in 1651 this was indeed a time when life in Europe was poor nasty brutish and short dominated by fear and danger of violent death in many European mine China was the only place in the world where enough wealth existed to haul them out of their sorry state in particular quote rulers along the Atlantic Fringe were ready to talk to anyone who could
01:07:56for them new Revenue sources even the Shady greedy characters who hung around Harbors the Atlantic kingdoms lay as far as it was possible to get from the Red Sea and Silk Road routes but captains of all kinds confident in their marvelous new ships offered in return for gifts loans and trade monopolies to turn what had previously been geographical isolation into an advantage they would find in Atlantic route to China if there's any place for bungling idiots in a story it surely belongs to Columbus who opened the road to the Americas by massively under estimating the distance around the globe and refusing to believe that we had the numbers wrong conversely if there is a place for Great Men it must go to the Ming Emperor tough-minded advisors who after calculating costs and benefits shutdown China Zone quixotic Maritime tours in the 1430s and quote
01:08:56of course despite Columbus's ignorance of half the world once Europeans got to the Americas they faced virtually no competition from a hundred million or so inhabitants pickling and their own foreign infectious diseases Europeans accidentally exterminated the vast majority of natives with their germs and whatever refugees were left over were easily managed with European guns horses and steel to whole continents worth of practically pristine natural resources remain and by the end of the Ming Dynasty's rain Europeans had already established mind-numbingly profitable transatlantic trade and tobacco for Timber salted cod sugar coffee silver and gold so much wealth begin flowing back into Europe from the Atlantic economy that the entire motivation to sale
01:09:56in the first place accessing China was cast aside quote up to a point settlers on New Frontiers had always done something like this ancient Greeks and weed home from the Western Mediterranean Johnny settlers in the Yangtze Valley ship tricep the Grand Canal and colonists along the edge of the Eurasian steppe were now dispatching timber for and minerals to Moscow and Beijing but the sheer variety of ecological niches around the Atlantic and the oceans size big but still manageable given the sophistication of modern shipping allowed Western Europeans to create something new and interdependent InterContinental economy and quote in their frenetic quest to catch up with the East many westerners had begun to forget all about it
01:10:49by the 17 hundreds both eastern and western centers of Social Development were bumping up against the same mid-40s threshold on Morris's index that ancient Romans and Han Chinese had over fifteen hundred years earlier than yet instead of collapsing under the stress of their own growth as earlier peaks of civilization had always done East and West both succeeded and surpassing the Ancients by tapping into vast new stretches of Natural Resources in the East China Del a similar fate two-step natives as Europeans were dealing to American natives essentially eliminating them or pushing them aside to open up your rages wild Heartland to Modern development quote closing the step Highway did not just averred collapse it also began a step Bonanza cracking the hard ceiling that had four millennia
01:11:49limited Social Development to the low 40s on the index but while the Chinese were closing the old step Highway western Europeans were opening a new oceanic Highway that would change history even more dramatically and quote for their part 18th century Europeans grew keenly aware that they were bucking historical Trends debating with one another in coffee houses and universities just how far beyond the Ancients they might Advance the spirit of the Renaissance faded as enlightenment philosophers looked less and less to the Past for inspiration about the future and more and more on their own scientific and political revolutions instead along the way China's stability started to look more like stagnation by the mid 1700 Voltaire was among a minority of Western writers who stubbornly maintained that true was
01:12:49dumb ways to be found in the East but is Morris argues quote he was holding China up as a model at the very moment it was ceasing to provide one at exactly the moment in fact some of his rivals in Europe salons started drawing the opposite conclusions about China although they had no index to tell them that Western Social Development had whittled away the East lead these men decided the China was not the ideal enlightened Empire after all rather it was the antithesis of everything European where has Europeans had learned dynamism reason and creativity from ancient Greece and we're now surpassing their teacher China was the landward time Stood Still thus was the long-term lock-in theory of Western superiority born end quote
01:13:42the history of the question that drives Morris's book why the West rules began over caffeine fueled lectures and debates in European coffee houses 250 years ago Europeans and increasingly their North American offshoot in Boston New York and Philadelphia observed the explosion of innovation and wealth creation all around them and soon began to assume it was normal the unsurprising destiny of Western Civilization trying to account for the growing discrepancy between what looked like Eastern stagnation and Western industriousness many Enlightenment era thinkers guest that environment might have something to do with it perhaps Western Europe's harsh climates made its people more vigorous than used other more explicitly racist suspicion surfaced of course the problem was that modernizing westerners were simply ignorant to me
01:14:42world history ignorant even of their own quite recent ancestors squalid hunger for China's Superior Goods instead they looked only to the exceptional acceleration of their own presents Social Development to deduce their Destiny they looked at the rapidly-growing mechanization of both their Industries and their scientific understanding of the world as self-evident justification for why the West should rule but as Morris argues the West nascent obsession with mechanization and with the mechanical clock in particular as the new metaphor for nature merely reflected new generations of lazy greedy frightened people searching for easier more profitable and safer ways of getting things done within their particular historical context quote Western Europeans with their new frontier across the oceans needed precise measurements of standardized space
01:15:42money and time and by the point that two handed clocks had become the norm Europeans would have to have been positively obtuse not to wonder whether nature itself was a mechanism the East also had its own New Frontier on the steps but this was a more traditional kind of Frontier than the Atlantic and the need for new thought was correspondingly less pressing Chinese philosophers did ask some of the same questions as Western Europeans but the need to recast not in terms of mechanical models of the universe remain less obvious the well paid scholars in China's scientific institutes for example felt no need to invent calculus for themselves or figure out that the Earth went around the Sun there seem to be much more profit in turning mathematics like medicine into a branch of classical studies and to Chinese rulers the dangers of indulging radical thought massively
01:16:42outweigh any possible advantages and quote certain problems in other words lead to certain Solutions according to Morris and toward the end of the 17 hundreds despite whatever delusions of locked-in superiority westerners made begun to indulge in east and west were both once again confronting the problem of their own success although the East conquest of Eurasia step Heartland in the west conquest of the oceans permitted each to push past Morris's so-called hard ceiling of Social Development in the mid-forties that it crushed the Romans and the Song Dynasty each core was none the less straining against the traditional limits to growth once again Indy in most of the world's largest cities for which we have good records it's clear that the late 1700s was rough there were pockets of conspicuous success
01:17:42blue mythology of pioneering prosperity to be sure but for the majority of average people wages fell famine grew and spreading political unrest even out right bloody Revolution made life turbulent to say the least Maurice tracks broad Trends in how people in the east and west responded in general Eastern rulers double down on isolation while Western rulers doubled down on war essentially everyone believed the pie was fixed the East shut out the world to hoard its portion of Earth's resources while the West indulged in mercantilist justifications to take others portions by force quote beginning in the 1770s a new breed of Western Scholars calling themselves political Economist brought all the tools of science and Enlightenment to bear on the problem they claimed there were iron laws
01:18:42governing Humanity first although Empire and Conquest might raise productivity in income people would always convert extra wealth into more babies the babies empty bellies would then consumed all the extra wealth and we're still when the baby is grew up and needed jobs at their own their competition would drive wages back down to the edge of starvation there appeared to be no way out of this cruel cycle had the political Economist known about the index of Social Development they would probably a pointed out that although the hard ceiling had been pushed up a little bit remained as hard as ever they might have been fascinated to learn that the West score had caught up with the East but would surely have said it really did not matter because the iron laws for bait either score from rising much further political economy had proved scientifically that nothing could ever really change and quote
01:19:37but then just as Easton West approached the precipice of social developments Paradox side-by-side British entrepreneurs completely change the rules of the game
01:19:51James Watt and Matthew Boulton Pioneer the business of converting hundreds of millions of years worth of solar energy into mechanical energy that could be deployed anywhere anytime this on early blew away traditional constraints on energy capture and in so doing revolutionized Britain's potential for urbanization information processing and Military capacity by the time James Watt and Matthew Boulton began licensing there steam engines to mine and Factory owners in the 1780s edit taking Social Development 15,000 years to creep up from single digits to 45 points on Morris's index with cyclical crashes in miserating society both East and West all along the way within less than a century of the Industrial Revolution they spawned however the West Social Development was rocketing into
01:20:51hundreds as quote Britain steam engines generated 4 million horsepower equivalent to the work of 40 million men who if industry had still dependent on muscles would have eaten more than three times Britain's entire wheat output fossil fuel made the impossible possible end quote Maurice contends that the opening of the Atlantic economy leading up to this momentous shift had been rewarding radically new kinds of thinking in the West for centuries a kind of thinking that rewarded scientific tinkering in particular which was so effective in solving the radically new kinds of problems that the discovery of new worlds created Minds capable of scientific tinkering were undoubtedly more common in China given its larger population but all of the incentives there flowed in a different direction China hadn't encountered new worlds
01:21:51little bit more into the old one and as Morris reiterates quote with labor so cheap in China and southern Europe for that matter the incentives for the local equivalents of Matthew Boulton to invest in Machinery were weak as late as 1880 The Upfront cost to open a mine with 600 Chinese labourers or estimated as $4,272 roughly the price of a single steam pump even when they had the option Savvy Chinese investors often preferred cheap muscles to expensive steam with so little to gain from tinkering neither Eastern entrepreneurs North scholars in the Imperial academies showed much interest in boilers are condensers to have its own Industrial Revolution the East would have needed to create some equivalent to the Atlantic economy they could generate higher wages and new challenges stimulating the whole package of scientific thought mechanical tinkering
01:22:51and cheap power end quote the most significant secondary effect of the West's liberation of energy capture was the explosion of its military capacity Britain and soon France Germany and the United States Channel Dion's worth of solar energy into the construction of new Munitions factories steamships railroads and Telecommunications networks that enabled he's relatively tiny societies to project massive Global power between 1800 and 1900 Western Energy capture increased nearly three-fold but its military capacity expanded tenfold quote the Industrial Revolution turned the West's lead and Social Development into Western rule most westerners however concluded that things were just as they should be and long-term blocking theories of Western rule hardened the East seemed
01:23:51ways to have been destined for subjugation to the dynamic West the world appeared to be reaching its final predestined form end quote of course modern Scholars don't see it this way besides China's impressive Resurgence in global power today research like Morris's helps us understand why the East ruled for much of the past Morris synthesizes much of this inside through the fundamental patterns that shape the history he presents which demonstrate above all that history is less an account of one random thing after another then a predictable cycle of quote adaptations to the world that always generate new problems that call for further adaptations and quote since Humanity shares the same basic biological and sociological traits Morris explains the differences in different societies adaptations to the problems they encounter
01:24:51as a function of the differences in their geographical conditions the Trap of environmental determinism a loom over this narrative meaning the critics May accuse Scholars like Jared Diamond Dandy and Morris of denying people any agency or Freewill by asserting the Primacy of the environment in determining history but Morris at least largely answer is that criticism by showing how people Social Development intern changes what geography means here he cites Karl Marx who wrote that quote men make their own history but they do not make it just as they please and quote surmising the sentiment himself Morris rights quote there are strong pressures on all of us to make choices that conform to reality as for culture culture is less a voice in our heads telling us what to do then a town hall where we argue about our options
01:25:51end quote
01:25:54what all of this adds up to is Morris's conclusion that Western rule today was neither locked-in nor accidental but more of a probability given the geographical assets of the West and how Social Development changed its meaning over time and as he traces the historical trajectory of that probability into the future what he sees is the age of Western rule coming to an end what happens next is not necessarily another age of Eastern rule however but an age when Social Development changes so much more dramatically than we've ever seen that the very categories we've used to understand its history on early breakdown
01:26:41if we simply extend the line on Morris's graph of Social Development into the future it does look like the East will overtake the West at some point toward the end of the twenty-first century but in the process Social Development would rise so high that the distinction between East and West would become Irrelevant in Morris's view it took thirteen thousand years for lazy greedy frightens humans to Tinker their way to levels of energy capture urbanization information processing and Military capacity that pushed overall Social Development just above 40 points on his scale that was like the Society of ancient Romans and Han Chinese it took another two thousand years and a series of scientific industrial and political revolutions for us to reach 1,000 points that was like the United States around the year to
01:27:41thousand within a single Century from now Morris contends that accelerating advancements in energy capture urbanization information processing and Military capacity could cause Social Development to search past ten thousand points what would that be like some imagine a technological singularity where the pace of progress especially in artificial intelligence and nanoengineering accelerates Beyond Comprehension others imagine a new age of transhumanism where humans and machines merge into virtually Immortal and omniscient creatures were conscious networks who subsequent history we may as well consider Divine either way Morris rights quote answering the books first question why the West rules to a great extent also answers the second one
01:28:41will happen next but answering the second Rob's the first of much of its significance seeing what is coming next reveals what should perhaps have been obvious all along that the history that really matters is not about the East the west or any other subsection of Humanity East and West will be revealed as merely a face we went through the important history is global and evolutionary telling the story of how we got from single-celled organisms to the singularity and quote
01:29:20what is the singularity never happen so what is the future turns out to be more like the past after and Social Development crashes yet again plunging us into another Dark Age what about climate change and nuclear proliferation and Global pandemics as we pure ahead into a future of unimaginable Prosperity Are We Now discovering just another new hard ceiling and Social Development Morris wonders
01:29:59quote every year we avoid Armageddon the threats from the Horsemen of the Apocalypse keep building pressure on resources will Mount new diseases will evolve weapons will proliferate and most Insidious of all climate change will shift the calculus in unpredictable ways it seems crazily optimistic to think we can juggle all of these dangers indefinitely and quote and yet it is precisely the global nature of all of these problems that undermine traditional Notions of east and west to the borders between nations and the distinctions between cultures should certainly continue to be respected but to break through the new ceiling of Social Development that is now pressing down hard Upon Us cooperation among all our differences ciety s is more important than ever
01:30:59whether or not Morris has discovered the logic of History he has shown that history can be interpreted logically and perhaps that incite will be enough to help us finally escape the ancient cycle of civilizations rise and fall
01:31:21I'm Brad Harris
01:31:25so long

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