: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years
Guns, Germs, and Steel is the widely read and well received book by Jared Diamond. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction In 1988. In summary, it sets out an explanation for why Eurasian civilizations have survived and conquered others, while critically, arguing against the idea that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral, or inherent genetic superiority.
In supporting his thesis, Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate primarily in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. When cultural or genetic differences have favored Eurasians — e.g., written language or the development among Eurasians of resistance to endemic diseases — these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures; not because of genomes.
Sapiens, the 2014 book by Yuval Noah Harari, is written in a very readable way. It provides a very well thought out survey of the history of humankind from the evolution of our species of human in the Stone Age up to the 21st c. This is how the book begins:
About 13.5 billion years ago, matter, energy, time and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang. — The story of these fundamental features of our universe is called physics.
About 300,000 years after their appearance, matter and energy started to coalesce into complex structures, called atoms, which then combined into molecules. — The story of atoms, molecules and their interactions is called chemistry.
About 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms. — The story of organisms is called biology.
About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. — The subsequent development of these human cultures is called history.
Esoteric red herrings… now I’m in the fucking know.
— Anna Bidoonism
I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.
— J. K. Rowling
Did you know — I didn’t until I read it tonight — that reading for pleasure in one’s youth is a key factor in determining one’s future “social mobility” (success in later life). OECD Research shows the extent to which one reads for pleasure is the most important indicator of the future success of that individual [read on…]. I ask you, dear reader (Oh! James: Where art thou?), did you hear about/read:
Ignorance is bliss
If one is unaware of an unpleasant fact or situation one cannot be troubled by it. — “I don’t want to hear about Trump’s latest tweets, ignorance, in this instance my dear friend, is bliss.”
A clue or piece of information which is or is intended to be misleading or distracting. — “The writing of the Secret Sharer is convoluted and full of red herrings.” (Also: ‘a dried smoked herring fish that turns red due to the smoke in the drying process.’)
Relating to the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi; to deliberately obscure something; to be or act ambiguously.
Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialised knowledge or interest. — “She grew increasingly frustrated with the esoteric philosophical debates organised by Dr. Humaid.”
Rare, exotic, or obscure. — “Some of the idioms he insisted on using were to recherché for most of the students in the Elizabethan era literature class.”