Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Chapter 13

Remember, this is the second "proximate" factor that we are considering.  Remember to consider carefully how 1) the agricultural revolutions (the power of farming, surpluses, and population increase) fit into this story about technology and 2) how the axes relate.

1)  What is the "heroic theory" of technological innovation?

 

2) Diamond spends some time deconstructing the myth that necessity is the mother of invention.  What does he replace it with?

 

3)  So what are the two main conclusions about technology mentioned on pg. 245.

 

4) Diamond notes that not only does new technology need to prove its usefulness, but it also needs to be accepted by society.  Explain why the QWERTY typewriter was not replaced with a more useful technology.

 

5) Diamond moves on and briefly discusses 14 factors that govern a society's receptivity to new technology.  Briefly summarize one from each category:  economic, ideological, other.

 

6) What does Diamond mean when he says that most technology is "borrowed"?  Can you figure out what connection he is about to make (think in terms of axes)?

 

7) What are the two reasons why a society may or may not adopt a "borrowed" technology?

 

8)  How does geographic isolation fit into the discussion of a society's receptivity to technology?

 

9) Define technology as an autocatalytic process.  Give an example from our times.

 

10)  Technological sophistication is much greater in Eurasia than it was in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.  Explain why, in Diamond's terms.