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  • Keith W
  • Chicago, IL
  • United States

TEDCRED 10+

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If the Industrial Revolution did not begin in Western Europe, could it have or would it have began somewhere else?

I read "Guns Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond and it really made me think. He said once "If another continent was blessed with environment and resources like Europeans, than they would have built skyscrapers and Helicopters" or something to that effect. I dont want this to turn into a racial/cultural debate by any means. I am merely asking if Technology was inevitable? I believe Diamond was correct in much of his assumptions he made in his book, but i do believe he was being overly deterministic? Anyway, is modern society just a fluke? What would have happened if the Industrial Revolution did not begin when it did?

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  • May 1 2013: it's a very interesting question and i've wondered myself. i don't have enough information to come to a definite conclusion, though my experiences lead me to believe that the answer is no. more than things, what seems to be necessary is a culture that strives for improvement - the revolution and all advancements that preceded it needed both inventors and the possibility for those inventions to become widespread, allowing the next advancement.

    here in japan, that sort of society really doesn't exist. though everyone thinks of japan as being very hi-tech, the reality is that actually they're just very studious; they learn what someone else figured out and do it very well. the most convincing reason i've heard for why this is so is rice. a rice paddy can't be planted by a single person, so what they ended up with was communal planting of whole villages, basically one day everyone planted one guy's field then the next day everyone planted the next guy's. this depended on everyone working in the same way, so if someone came up with a bright idea (a better way of doing something is necessarily a different way of doing it) it'd be a real spanner in the works because it'd conflict with the way everyone else was trying to work. they even have a proverb "the nail that sticks up must be hammered down" which exemplifies this ideal. conversely in europe people were responsible for their own farms alone, so if they were free to try things, and if something turned out to make life easier people would want to learn so they could do it too, and progress is built.

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