I picked up this book on recommendation by Bill Gates for it somewhere in social media. And I must say, I am not disappointed.

Some of the key ideas of the book:

  • Eurasia became the cradle of civilization (Fertile Crescent) because it has a long stretch of land lying at the same latitude level - allowing high range of crops and animals to chose from to domesticate. Americas or Africa or Australia didn't have that long stretch - which was connected ecologically and geographically. Being at same latitude implied similar climate and hence ease of distribution.

If I parallel it with startup terminology, distribution was much more important than where the invention was actually made. Because of huge scale available for any innovation in Eurasia, it soon picked up - and reached other lands.

  • Another major cause may be the wiping off of large mammals in Americas during the Pleistocene period, which led to unavailability of animals available for domestication in America, leading to slow growth in agriculture (as there was no muscle power of domesticated big mammals) and lack of germs which Native Americans were immune to it. Lack of immunity of Native Americans led to their susceptibility to Eurasian germs which were largely occupied through domesticated animals.

  • Food production and settled villages led to development of better technologies, as people can now specialize in particular activities, rather than worrying about food all day long. Thus the major growth in technologies came from better co-operation and financing, rather than individual genius.

This points very starkly the need for teams and leaders who can lead teams to produce results. Though as a society we tend to indulge in hero worship, but the main contribution of leaders/heroes may be to lead teams of great people to achieve extra-ordinary results.

So, EQ is more important than IQ, not only today - but even in historic times. Something similar was pointed out by Alan Kay in his lecture in YC startup school, that point of view contributes to 80 IQ points.

  • Human societies have been built on war and struggle. That is what leads to progress. Peace may be periods of stagnation and lack of technological development. Even in recent history, World Wars were times of great technological breakthroughs. Humans innovate best when they are under do - or - die situation. Peaceful innovation may be just a mirage.