Reading: Why the West Rules---For Now

Posted on May 26, 2018 by Tommy M. McGuire
Labels: books, quote

From Why the West Rules—For Now: The patterns of history, and what they reveal about the future, by Ian Morris:

Sociology tells us simultaneously what causes social change and what social change causes. It is one thing for clever chimps to sit around tinkering, but it is another altogether for their ideas to catch on and change society. That, it seems, requires some sort of catalyst. The great science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein once suggested that “Progress is made by lazy men looking for an easier way to do things.” We will see later in this book that this Heinlein Theorem is only partly true, because lazy women are just as important as lazy men, sloth is not the only mother of invention, and “progress” is often a rather upbeat word for what happens. But if we flesh it out a little, I think Heinlein’s insight becomes about as good a one-sentence summary of the causes of social change as we are likely to find. In fact, as the book goes on, I will start passing off a less pithy version of it as my own Morris Theorem:

Change is caused by lazy, greedy, frightened people looking for easier, more profitable, and safer ways to do things. And they rarely know what they’re doing.

History teaches us that when the pressure is on, change takes off.

Yep, it looks like an interesting book. It seems to be an interesting successor to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Here is his lecture on it at The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago. (Their channel is very good, by the way.)

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