Guns, Germs, and Steel

Guns, Germs, and Steel Irony

Better than the others

In his preface, Diamond argues that the rapid development of certain societies as compared to others usually has nothing to do with differences in intelligence and resources. To prove his point, Diamond mentions that Chinese society was for the longest time one of the most advanced societies, surpassing other Asian nations and European ones. At one point in history however, China's progress stopped suddenly and other nations progressed at a much more rapid pace than they had before. Eventually, other nations gained an upper hand. This trajectory is presented in an ironic way; if a formerly great nation could fall like this, then Diamond lends credence to his main point that no nation is not innately more advanced or superior when compared with others.

Not the strongest

Evidence suggests that Africa was the place where the largest number of humans capable of intelligent thought originated from. They had the largest diversity of people, and if things were to go the way they should have, historians would expect Africa to be the place from where all the technological advancements and inventions originated. In reality, however, this is not what happened; Eurasia gained the upper hand. This is ironic when considering the continent's early advantages.

Not here

Diamond mentions a few highly productive areas where farming could have originated but did not. Lands with favorable weather and rich soils were not the ones where agriculture originated, but rather places where people had no other choice but to farm to survive. Ironically, however, the places that were most suitable for agriculture learned about it from other places and adapted it to their own situation.

Death and disease

Humanity had to develop agriculture in order to survive. When the large animals they used to hunt disappeared and when just gathering food could not provide them with enough nutrients to survive, it became necessary to develop agriculture and selective farming. Ironically however, these advancements that saved humanity also made it possible for disease to spread more quickly and for it to become harder to control. Thus, while farming ensured that everyone had enough food, it made it easier for people to die because of illnesses and disease that did not exist until then.

Not what was meant to be

Diamond talks about technological advancements and the reasons that they appear. Often, Diamond notes that while the person who invented something had a certain use for it in mind, that didn’t mean that the invention had to be used as the inventor envisioned it. Instead, it was adapted to suit a group’s needs. Ironically, a new invention often came to serve an unexpected purpose, based not on the inventor's intentions but on his society's needs.