Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and Latin script?

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In summary, the conversation discusses the impact of book printing technology on society, specifically how it led to a dramatic decrease in the cost of printing for texts using Latin script. This technology played a significant role in the spread of ideas and the development of literacy, but also had consequences such as the forced displacement of the Cherokee Indians who adopted a phonetic script for their language. The conversation also touches on the unique challenges of printing in non-Latin scripts, such as Arabic and Chinese. Overall, the conversation highlights the powerful influence of paper and printing technology on history and society.
  • #1
TL;DR Summary
Movable type, alphabets, the dark ages, technological progress in Europe, the Middle East, and China.
Since book printing is technology, I'm guessing that this discussion belongs here.

Last week's episode of NOVA contained a section that reminded me of Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel. (Even though it doesn't exactly fit in that title. - Type pieces were made of lead, tin, and antimony, not steel.) It seems an accident of history that movable type dramatically reduced the cost of printing - but only for texts using latin script. The technology did not work well for arabic or chinese lettering. As a result, printing in Europe went from extremely expensive to cheaper than anywhere else. (Chinese paper technology was important too, but only when combined with movable type did you get lots of affordable books for everyone.)

The NOVA episode seems to present the lack of papyrus in Rome as the start of the dark ages. Then the new ability to share and evaluate ideas brought on the enlightenment. Obviously that's a bit simple, but how much of history can we place in the hands of paper and printing technology, and the accident of Latin script?
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I wouldn’t say the accident of Latin script rather the notion of basing your script on phonetics initially.

The Cherokee Indians wondered why the white man was so successful and decided it was due his use of writing and newspapers so they set out to create a phonetic script for Cherokee and within a decade became highly literate as their newspaper covered larger issues than word of mouth.

Unfortunately it made them a target of the US govt who forced them from their lands as they became more politically aware fearful that the newspaper could incite riots and more.
  • #3
Arabic text isn't phonetic? The problem NOVA describes is that the characters don't align in straight lines, but are meant to intertwine in organic shapes and clusters, with variable direction. English is perhaps psudo-phonetic. What really matters is that there are only a few dozen characters and they always look the same.

That thing about the Cherokee is a real kick in the teeth. Man.
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Related to Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and Latin script?

1. How does geography play a role in the development of guns, germs, and steel?

Geography plays a significant role in the development of guns, germs, and steel. Certain geographic factors, such as the availability of domesticable plants and animals, favorable climate, and natural barriers, can greatly affect a society's ability to develop and spread these technologies.

2. How did the spread of Latin script impact the development of societies?

The spread of Latin script, which was facilitated by the expansion of European empires, had a profound impact on the development of societies. It allowed for the spread of knowledge, communication, and trade, leading to cultural exchange and the development of new technologies.

3. What role did societal organization and political systems play in the development of guns, germs, and steel?

Societal organization and political systems played a crucial role in the development of guns, germs, and steel. Societies with more centralized and complex political systems were able to mobilize resources and coordinate the production and distribution of these technologies, giving them an advantage over less organized societies.

4. How did the domestication of plants and animals contribute to the development of guns, germs, and steel?

The domestication of plants and animals was a key factor in the development of guns, germs, and steel. It allowed for the growth of sedentary societies, which in turn led to the development of specialized labor and the accumulation of surplus resources. This surplus, in turn, could be used to support the development of tools and weapons.

5. What are some criticisms of the book "Guns, Germs, and Steel"?

Some criticisms of the book include its Eurocentric perspective and oversimplification of complex historical processes. Additionally, some argue that Diamond's emphasis on geographic determinism ignores the role of human agency and cultural influences in shaping the course of history.

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