Written by Frank Li
Some people make history; some people record history; some people read history; while still others ignore history and remain completely ignorant about it. Why are we so different? Are we unequal at birth?
Anyone can become a historian by studying the past. But few have become good enough to accurately predict the future. Despite the low odds, I will attempt to predict the future, 25 years ahead. It is based on a framework called “WMDs, germs, and economies” that is built on top of Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel.
First of all, let’s study Jared Diamond and his book …
1. Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond is a very accomplished man!
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937) is an American scientist and author best known for his popular science books The Third Chimpanzee (1991), Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Prize), Collapse (2005) and The World Until Yesterday (2012). Originally trained in physiology, Diamond’s work is known for drawing from a variety of fields, including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology. As of 2013, he is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been described as “America’s best-known geographer“.
2. Guns, Germs, and Steel
Guns, Germs, and Steel is a great book. It is also available in film, which is the best documentary film on human history I have seen. It’s a must-see for every person truly concerned with humanity.
Here is an excerpt from a Wikipedia review of the book:
The prologue opens with an account of Diamond’s conversation with Yali, a New Guinean politician. The conversation turned to the obvious differences in power and technology between Yali’s people and the Europeans who dominated the land for 200 years, differences that neither of them considered due to any genetic superiority of Europeans. Yali asked, using the local term “cargo” for inventions and manufactured goods, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” (p. 14).
The book/film contains mountains of knowledge, covering 13,000 years of human history at a highly elevated level, with enough details here and there. Diamond concludes that human inequality, in racial terms especially, is primarily the result of geography.
I agree with his conclusion! However, to predict the future, 25 years ahead, I must significantly enhance Diamond’s work …
3. On top of Guns, Germs, and Steel
The image below highlights my enhancements to Diamond’s work: adding two additional layers on top of Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel.
The middle layer started about 5,000 years ago (i.e. 3000 BC), when human civilizations started to form, with different countries, languages, and cultures. I singled out the economy as the ultimate measurement of a country/culture’s success.
The top layer started around 1970, when WMDs (e.g. nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles) became available to several big countries (e.g. the U.S., Russia, and China). As a result, one can destroy another any time, within minutes. Because of that, global competition between these big countries was fundamentally changed: there has not been a single direct military conflict between them since then! Instead, it’s the economy, stupid! More on this later …
Diamond’s work is weak in the middle layer. For example, Diamond omitted China. There are three possible and totally understandable reasons:
China was included in Diamond’s notion of the Eurasia continent, which is almost identical in size to two Americas (but directionally different: west-east vs. north-south).
Although China led the world in economy throughout much of the first 18 centuries, China did not set out to conquer the world like the Europeans did, especially after Columbus‘ discovery of Americas. On top of that, China was a loser throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. History is written by, and about, the victors.
Diamond’s work is from a highly elevated level, geography-centric, and Europe-centric. Therefore, although many now believe the 21st century will belong to either the U.S. or China, the 21st century was perhaps not within Diamond’s scope. Besides, the book (Guns, Germs, and Steel) was finished in the 1990s, when China was irrelevant.
Diamond missed the top layer, completely. Why? One possible explanation is that the two decades from 1970 to 1990 were not significant enough to his work, which covers 13,000 years of human history.
Bottom line: it was not important for Diamond to include these two layers in his work, which was primarily about the past. But for me, they are important, because I want to predict the future, 25 years ahead.
In summary, I will replace Diamond’s guns and steel with WMDs and economies, respectively. But the middle part, germs, will remain unchanged. Why? Between human and nature, nature nearly always prevails! So it’s not a good idea to bet against nature – I will not!
4. WMDs, Germs, and Economies
Nobody can possibly predict the future without a deep awareness and understanding of the past. So let me further explain the top layer.
Since WMDs became available to several big countries around 1970, the world has actually become, generally speaking, much more peaceful, without a world war for more than four decades, for example. Why is that? WMDs assured mutual destruction! Specifically, no nuclear-armed country has been stupid enough to use WMDs, or even the threat of using them is prohibitive! As a result, the only major source of competition left among the big countries has been the respective economies. In other words, it is money, not weapons (e.g. guns or even WMDs), that has been the center of competition. For example, the Cold War was won by the West, not with guns or even WMDs, but with its strong economies! In short, capitalism, despite the handicap by democracy, proved to be far better than communism!
The nuclear-armed big countries will continue to compete economically in the coming decades, an easy prediction. What’s hard to predict is the role of WMDs.
Every American should be very worried about our country, with three big questions:
What will America do, when China surpasses us as the largest economy in the world? It will happen around 2020 (image below – Forecasts of China and U.S. GDP). Note that we have not had to play second fiddle since our economy became the largest around 1890, replacing China!
How will we react when China’s RMB becomes a formidable alternative to the U.S. Dollar as the major reserve currency of the world? It will happen by 2030. This will be the end of an important American way of life, as we know it over the past four decades, at least: printing money to cover the trade deficits! To truly understand America’s reality, read: Civil Rights Act: 50 Years Later.
The rest of the world, especially China, should be very concerned about the U.S. for one simple reason: the U.S. is the most dangerous country in the world today! Two aspects:
The U.S. has been the biggest source of instability all over the world after WWII, with more war involvement than any other country! This became much worse after 1991, when the Cold War ended and the U.S. became the only super-power! Any doubt? Look at the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan!
As U.S. economic leadership continues to fade, how will America handle it? #2 in economy but a massive #1 in military, accompanied by A Culture of War?
Worst of all, the U.S. does not seem to realize that its astronomical military spending, since 1970, has actually been hugely counter-productive! Two reasons:
It did not really matter to either Russia or China, its two biggest competitors! Nothing is more illustrative than this blunt statement by Russian President Putin recently: Don’t mess with nuclear Russia!
It has been bankrupting America not only economically, but also morally! This should be increasingly clear as the U.S. involves itself in more and more wars around the world, all with the little guys only (e.g. Iraq, Iran, and ISIS), namely, those who are not nuclear-armed with intercontinental missiles! More wars, more debts! In contrast, the BRICS, especially China, have been diligently working on their economies. For more, read: Three New Kingdoms.
So the U.S. is deeply in trouble, both economically and politically, without most Americans even realizing it! What to do?
I believe I have the most accurate diagnosis for America (Diagnosis for America: Cancer!), as well as the best solution (Solution for America: Term Limits and More!). However, it is unlikely America will listen to me, thanks to democracy which has proven to be totally inept at adaptation. Therefore, I predict that China will continue to rise, while the U.S. will continue to decline, to the point of a catastrophic collapse of its economy …
I am determined to save America with my pen. I am even more determined to avoid a military conflict between the U.S., my adopted country, and China, my native country!
After my first two books, I have published three major articles on history:
There will be additional major articles on history as the solid foundation before I predict the future, 25 years ahead!
Guns, Germs, and Steel is a great book of historical significance!
My humble writings attempt to compliment Jared Diamond‘s work in history, but go much further, as I dare to predict the future, 25 years ahead. My work will be done under the title of “WMDs, Germs, and Economies”. Stay tuned for more publications from me …