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"The worst mistake in the history of the human race"

The worst mistake in the history of the human race pdf

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Jared Diamond's breakthrough article, “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” claims agriculture did not deliver the splendors of civilization but. Jan 22, - Jared Diamond (): [Agriculture: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race][] The coming of agriculture would seem to have only. "The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race" by Jared Diamond. PDF. Diamond argues that humanity's biggest mistake was agriculture, and it's not.


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Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how strong competition among U. Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how unequal access to care, 21st century work-life policies, and education undermines stable, broad-based economic growth.

Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how trends in economic inequality and mobility and changes in the economy have affected the concentration of wealth, income, and earnings, and how these distributional shifts have affected the promise of economic security and opportunity. Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how tax and macroeconomic policies can promote stable and broad-based economic growth.

While I find his article provocative and insightful, I also find it annoying. It seems to me that it mostly misses the most important parts of the story. For one thing, it misses the importance of the dominant Malthusian mechanisms. The invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals provide an enormous technological boost to humanity both in terms of the number of calories that can be harvested by an hour of work and in terms of the ability of a society to make durable investments of all kinds that further boost its productivity.

It is an absolute living-standard bonanza for the generations that discover it, and the generations that come after. So what goes wrong with quality of life among agriculturalists? Well, without rapid technological progress and before the demographic transition, human populations and living standards tend to settle at a point where, given nutrients, hazards of life, and societal institutions, every mother has on average one daughter who herself reproduces.

The standard of living will be whatever standard of living makes that happen. And, for agriculturalists—without the hazards to adults of travel and hunting, and without the hazards a mobile lifestyle imposes on the very young—that standard of living is a lot lower than among hunter-gatherers. Lifespan looks about the same looking across hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. Biomedical and fitness indicators are much much higher for hunter-gatherers.

This is an open question in philosophy, but Diamond appears to think that it is a closed one. And Diamond ignores the important consideration that only the density of population that comes with agriculture can generate enough human brains thinking to allow us to—quite possibly—transcend our Malthusian limits and create a truly human world in the long run. As to inequality… violence… domination… In my view it is difficult to say on net.

Certainly the agricultural epoch has many many more people reaping where they did not sow and gathering where they did not scatter. Nevertheless, taking all three together, I cannot judge whether there was either a positive or a negative change across the boundary of the Neolithic Revolution. More inequality and domination, certainly. But you also have many more interactions between humans that are not one-shot interactions: people have fixed addresses, after all.

If we know anything about humans, it is that human males have a tendency to resort to violence—perhaps not as great a tendency as chimps or gorillas, but a tendency, and we make more deadly weapons.

It is not at all clear to me that the hunter-gatherer epoch had less murder, rape, kidnapping and enslavement of women, and so forth than did the agricultural epoch. The hunter-gatherer age was not a kumbaya-singing age. Where, after all, are the Neanderthals today? With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence…. For most of our history we supported ourselves by hunting and gathering: we hunted wild animals and foraged for wild plants.

Our escape from this misery was facilitated only 10, years ago, when in different parts of the world people began to domesticate plants and animals. Planted crops yield far more tons per acre than roots and berries. Just imagine a band of savages, exhausted from searching for nuts or chasing wild animals, suddenly grazing for the first time at a fruit-laden orchard or a pasture full of sheep.

How many milliseconds do you think it would take them to appreciate the advantages of agriculture? The progressivist party line sometimes even goes so far as to credit agriculture with the remarkable flowering of art….

Agriculture gave us free time that hunter-gatherers never had. Thus it was agriculture that enabled us to build the Parthenon and compose the B-minor Mass…. While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a better balance of other nutrients….

The progressivist view is really making a claim about the distant past: that the lives of primitive people improved when they switched from gathering to farming. Archaeologists can date that switch by distinguishing remains of wild plants and animals from those of domesticated ones in prehistoric garbage dumps…. Usually the only human remains available for study are skeletons, but they permit a surprising number of deductions….

With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by B. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors…. Burial mounds in the Illinois and Ohio river valleys… a hunter-gatherer culture gave way to intensive maize farming around A.

These early farmers paid a price for their new-found livelihood. Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 per cent increase in enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis , a theefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor.

So these episodes of nutritional stress and infectious disease were seriously affecting their ability to survive. There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health… a varied diet… [vs] one or a few starchy crops.

The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition…. Because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together… led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease…. Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions.

Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing elite set itself above the disease-ridden masses.

Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. Among Chilean mummies from c. Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes, as well. Freed from the need to transport their babies during a nomadic existence, and under pressure to produce more hands to till the fields, farming women tended to have more frequent pregnancies than their hunter-gatherer counterparts — with consequent drains on their health….

Thus with the advent of agriculture and elite became better off, but most people became worse off. Instead of swallowing the progressivist party line that we chose agriculture because it was good for us, we must ask how we got trapped by it despite its pitfalls. Population densities of hunter-gatherers are rarely over on person per ten square miles, while farmers average times that. Some bands chose the former solution… outbred and then drove off or killed the bands that chose to remain hunter-gatherers, because a hundred malnourished farmers can still outfight one healthy hunter….

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a hour clock on which one hour represents , years of real past time. If the history of the human race began at midnight, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day, from midnight through dawn, noon, and sunset.

Finally, at p. As our second midnight approaches, will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? On the basis of data we have collected and analyzed, we find that the shift from a hunter—gatherer to a labor-intensive agriculture opened up inequalities that had discernible effects on human health and stature.

But we also find that political institutions intervene decisively in affecting the distribution of resources within societies. Political institutions appear to be shaped not only by economic factors but also by military technology and vulnerability to invasion, leaving important questions for additional exploration.

Explore the Equitable Growth network of experts around the country and get answers to today's most pressing questions! May 10, Brad DeLong ,. July 28, Brad DeLong ,. August 27, Brad DeLong ,. Connect with us!

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Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how strong competition among U. Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how unequal access to care, 21st century work-life policies, and education undermines stable, broad-based economic growth. Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how trends in economic inequality and mobility and changes in the economy have affected the concentration of wealth, income, and earnings, and how these distributional shifts have affected the promise of economic security and opportunity.

Equitable Growth supports research and policy analysis on how tax and macroeconomic policies can promote stable and broad-based economic growth. While I find his article provocative and insightful, I also find it annoying. It seems to me that it mostly misses the most important parts of the story.

For one thing, it misses the importance of the dominant Malthusian mechanisms. The invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals provide an enormous technological boost to humanity both in terms of the number of calories that can be harvested by an hour of work and in terms of the ability of a society to make durable investments of all kinds that further boost its productivity.

It is an absolute living-standard bonanza for the generations that discover it, and the generations that come after. So what goes wrong with quality of life among agriculturalists? Well, without rapid technological progress and before the demographic transition, human populations and living standards tend to settle at a point where, given nutrients, hazards of life, and societal institutions, every mother has on average one daughter who herself reproduces.

The standard of living will be whatever standard of living makes that happen. And, for agriculturalists—without the hazards to adults of travel and hunting, and without the hazards a mobile lifestyle imposes on the very young—that standard of living is a lot lower than among hunter-gatherers. Lifespan looks about the same looking across hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists.

Biomedical and fitness indicators are much much higher for hunter-gatherers. This is an open question in philosophy, but Diamond appears to think that it is a closed one.

And Diamond ignores the important consideration that only the density of population that comes with agriculture can generate enough human brains thinking to allow us to—quite possibly—transcend our Malthusian limits and create a truly human world in the long run.

As to inequality… violence… domination… In my view it is difficult to say on net. Certainly the agricultural epoch has many many more people reaping where they did not sow and gathering where they did not scatter. Nevertheless, taking all three together, I cannot judge whether there was either a positive or a negative change across the boundary of the Neolithic Revolution.

More inequality and domination, certainly. But you also have many more interactions between humans that are not one-shot interactions: people have fixed addresses, after all. If we know anything about humans, it is that human males have a tendency to resort to violence—perhaps not as great a tendency as chimps or gorillas, but a tendency, and we make more deadly weapons.

It is not at all clear to me that the hunter-gatherer epoch had less murder, rape, kidnapping and enslavement of women, and so forth than did the agricultural epoch.

The hunter-gatherer age was not a kumbaya-singing age. Where, after all, are the Neanderthals today? With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence…. For most of our history we supported ourselves by hunting and gathering: we hunted wild animals and foraged for wild plants.

Our escape from this misery was facilitated only 10, years ago, when in different parts of the world people began to domesticate plants and animals. Planted crops yield far more tons per acre than roots and berries. Just imagine a band of savages, exhausted from searching for nuts or chasing wild animals, suddenly grazing for the first time at a fruit-laden orchard or a pasture full of sheep.

How many milliseconds do you think it would take them to appreciate the advantages of agriculture? The progressivist party line sometimes even goes so far as to credit agriculture with the remarkable flowering of art….

Agriculture gave us free time that hunter-gatherers never had. Thus it was agriculture that enabled us to build the Parthenon and compose the B-minor Mass….

While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a better balance of other nutrients…. The progressivist view is really making a claim about the distant past: that the lives of primitive people improved when they switched from gathering to farming. Archaeologists can date that switch by distinguishing remains of wild plants and animals from those of domesticated ones in prehistoric garbage dumps….

Usually the only human remains available for study are skeletons, but they permit a surprising number of deductions…. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by B. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors….

Burial mounds in the Illinois and Ohio river valleys… a hunter-gatherer culture gave way to intensive maize farming around A. These early farmers paid a price for their new-found livelihood. Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 per cent increase in enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis , a theefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor.

So these episodes of nutritional stress and infectious disease were seriously affecting their ability to survive. There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health… a varied diet… [vs] one or a few starchy crops. The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition…. Because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed.

Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together… led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease…. Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day.

Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing elite set itself above the disease-ridden masses.

Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. Among Chilean mummies from c. Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes, as well. Freed from the need to transport their babies during a nomadic existence, and under pressure to produce more hands to till the fields, farming women tended to have more frequent pregnancies than their hunter-gatherer counterparts — with consequent drains on their health….

Thus with the advent of agriculture and elite became better off, but most people became worse off. Instead of swallowing the progressivist party line that we chose agriculture because it was good for us, we must ask how we got trapped by it despite its pitfalls. Population densities of hunter-gatherers are rarely over on person per ten square miles, while farmers average times that.

Some bands chose the former solution… outbred and then drove off or killed the bands that chose to remain hunter-gatherers, because a hundred malnourished farmers can still outfight one healthy hunter….

Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a hour clock on which one hour represents , years of real past time. If the history of the human race began at midnight, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day.

We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day, from midnight through dawn, noon, and sunset. Finally, at p. As our second midnight approaches, will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? On the basis of data we have collected and analyzed, we find that the shift from a hunter—gatherer to a labor-intensive agriculture opened up inequalities that had discernible effects on human health and stature.

But we also find that political institutions intervene decisively in affecting the distribution of resources within societies. Political institutions appear to be shaped not only by economic factors but also by military technology and vulnerability to invasion, leaving important questions for additional exploration. Explore the Equitable Growth network of experts around the country and get answers to today's most pressing questions!

May 10, Brad DeLong ,. July 28, Brad DeLong ,. August 27, Brad DeLong ,. Connect with us!

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“The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race” by Jared Diamond, Prof. UCLA School of Medicine To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our Earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race Summary Words | 5 Pages. Jared Diamond, in his article, “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human race”, explains that the worst mistake that humans made was the decision to change from a hunter gatherer society into an agriculture society. “The Worst Mistake in the History of human race” by Jared Diamond – Notes According to Jared Diamond’s text, the Agriculture Revolution is thought of being the worst mistake made in human history where as when humans hunted and gathered was the high peak. He also states that domesticating crops brought great confusing creating.