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What was the most important invention of all time?

According to cartoonists, it was the wheel. Economic historian David Landes argued for medieval Europe’s invention of the clock.

My opinion is that the master invention of all inventions is the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the middle of the 15th century. Previously, in the age of hand copied manuscripts, it had been easy for knowledge to be lost to fire, floods, rats, pillagers, etc. But after Gutenberg, knowledge tended to stay known.

Today, the number of different works of surviving different editions of incunabula (books printed by 1500) stands at 28,000 from 282 European towns. In other words, the printing press was, despite its expensiveness, a smash hit in Europe.

Why didn’t it spread to the Muslim world?

The vast Ottoman Empire, with its capital in the huge city of Constantinople, was somewhat literate. By one account, Ottoman Constantinople had 60 bookshops dealing in hand-written manuscripts.

And it was not particularly technologically backward, judging by its success in warfare.

Nor was it as as sealed off from the West as was, say, Maoist China in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, in 1502 Leonardo da Vinci met some Ottoman merchants in Venice and learned that the Sultan wanted an engineer to build a bridge across Constantinople’s Golden Horn estuary. Leonardo sent him a plan for a lovely bridge and even boasted he could next build a suspension bridge across the mile-wide Bosporus to connect Europe and Asia.

The first bridge across the Bosporus was finished in 1973.

A one-third scale version of Leonardo’s proposed bridge was built in Norway in this century.

But the Ottoman bureaucrats filed the letter under the name “Ricardo of Genoa” and never seem to have replied.

A few later, the Ottoman state evidently invited Michelangelo to build the bridge over the Golden Horn, even sending him letters of credit to pay him. But Michelangelo eventually got over his spat with Pope Julius II and didn’t go. The Golden Horn bridge didn’t get built until the 19th Century.

In contrast, the Ottomans didn’t seem to want the movable type printing press much at all. Jews and Christians would occasionally print books in the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s. The Pope had the Medici Press in Italy print up thousands of Arabic script books to sell in the Ottoman Empire in the 1580s, but they never got there. Finally, in 1729 a Hungarian Unitarian convert to Islam started a state-sanctioned printing press in Constantinople, which published 17 non-religious books over 13 years before being suppressed.

Printing in the Ottoman Empire in Arabic script didn’t get going again until the 19th Century. By that point, the lands of the Ottoman Empire had fallen far behind the West, where they, especially the more Arabic parts, remain today.

Historian of invention Anton Howes tries to sort through the various suggested reasons for this aversion to printing in a couple of posts to his “Age of Invention” newsletter.

Did the Ottomans Ban Print?

Why Didn’t the Ottomans Print More?

The history remains hazy, in part because, you know, the Ottomans didn’t print much. So much of the knowledge of their motivations has disappeared to the ravages of time.

My vague impression is that Muslims really liked their handwritten Korans.

Here’s two pages from the Birmingham Koran manuscript found in the collection of the Cadbury chocolate guy.

It was radiocarbon dated to the first half of the 600s, although some scholars have their doubts.

Anyway, it is elegant-looking.

Arabic is optimized for hand-writing. Howes writes:

The Arabic alphabet may have a similar number of letters to the various alphabets that were used in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But Arabic is a cursive script, with its letters connected into words using ligatures, and with very different characters for letters at the beginning, in the middle, and at the ends of words, as well as for letters that stand alone. This meant having to design, cast, and re-cast many more types. … The typical case of type used in Europe was only about 3 feet wide, with about 150 or so compartments. A typesetter could pick out the letters while more or less standing in place. One of the earliest Arabic-script printing presses in the Ottoman Empire, however, reportedly had a case of 18 feet, with some 900 compartments — six times larger, and probably even more cumbersome, requiring the poor typesetters to walk up and down, rummaging around for the types they needed for each page.

Eventually, in 1929 the extremely ambitious Mustafa Kemal Ataturk imposed a Romanized alphabet on Turkey.

Howes concludes:

There was not, then, necessarily any particular obstacle to the introduction of Arabic-character printing presses to the Ottoman Empire. It’s just that, given the much higher costs involved in both establishing and running them, it really needed an active interest from the Sultan. He was the one person able to afford the up-front costs and commercial risks, which in western Europe could otherwise be borne by a much broader group of elites, among whom would-be printers could expect to find at least a handful of interested people to become patrons. The reason for the non-adoption of the printing press in the empire may thus have been as simple as apathy, which was only overcome in the 1720s when Müteferrika forcefully made the case for printing’s benefits. There may, of course, have also been many reasons for earlier sultans to not want to encourage printing either, and the tales of European travellers are replete with supposed justifications for its absence in the empire. But I suspect that the sultan’s mere apathy was probably enough.

In Europe, everybody saw their neighbors (and rivals) getting a printing press, so they had to get one too. The Ottoman Sultan didn’t have much in the way of rivals, so if he didn’t see what was so great about it, nobody else did either.

Perhaps, although it might be worth considering non-Ottoman Islamic countries.

For example, the first printing press in Morocco was introduced in 1864. No printing presses were known in Central Asia khanates until the Czarist conquests of the 1860s-1870s. Akbar, the greatest of the Mughal Emperors of India, was shown the printing press around 1580 by Jesuit missionaries, but didn’t develop an interest.

So, maybe it’s an Islamic thing after all.

 
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  1. jon says:

    Somewhat on topic: Koreans actually came up with their own version of movable type before Gutenberg, but it was reserved to government and the upper class so it didn’t have the same cultural impact.

  2. Anonymous[606] • Disclaimer says:

    The Chinese had movable type printing around the 10th century (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_printing_in_East_Asia#Ceramic_movable_type_in_China), but as is the case up to the modern day, ideogrammatic writing is less suitable to mechanisation than grapheme-based writing.

  3. ChrisZ says:

    The Gutenberg press is a good answer to the opening question, but it relies on the prior invention of the alphabet, which must be reckoned the most consequential invention in human history.

    • Replies: @bomag
    , @JosephB
    , @VivaLaMigra
  4. Twinkie says:

    My opinion is that the master invention of all inventions is the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the middle of the 15th century. Previously, in the age of hand copied manuscripts, it had been easy for knowledge to be lost to fire, floods, rats, pillagers, etc. But after Gutenberg, knowledge tended to stay known.

    Movable type printing was invented long before Gutenberg in East Asia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movable_type

    The world’s first movable type printing technology for paper books was made of porcelain materials and was invented around AD 1040 in China during the Northern Song Dynasty by the inventor Bi Sheng (990–1051).[1] The earliest printed paper money with movable metal type to print the identifying code of the money was made in 1161 during the Song Dynasty.[2] In 1193, a book in the Song dynasty documented how to use the copper movable type.[3] The oldest extant book printed with movable metal type, Jikji, was printed in Korea in 1377 during the Goryeo dynasty.

    The diffusion of both movable-type systems was, to some degree, limited to primarily East Asia. The development of the printing press in Europe may have been influenced by various sporadic reports of movable type technology brought back to Europe by returning business people and missionaries to China.[4][5][6] Some of these medieval European accounts are still preserved in the library archives of the Vatican and Oxford University among many others.[7]

    Yet, despite this early advantage, East Asia did not undergo the knowledge revolution that Western Europe did.

    I think there are clearly numerous other factors at work and that this “invention” by Gutenberg was an outcome of those factors rather than a causal factor.

  5. Toby Huff’s fascinating Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective focuses on the reception of the telescope in the four major Eurasian civilizations, but also has interesting coverage of other topic such as the reception of printing.

    The summary of the telescope story is that the Ottomans, Mughals, and Chinese just did not care that much (some Chinese did, but it did not take off with Chinese society as a whole).

    I’d say there are three main messages from Huff’s work:

    A) Europeans had a very peculiar mixture of a competitive spirit and a cooperative spirit — lots of guys really wanted to beat their rivals, but the way to beat them was to present some marvelous discovery to the society as a whole (a “peacock’s tail effect” perhaps?).

    B) Europeans had a tradition of thinking about the material world, and a willingness to (literally) get their hands dirty, going back to Aristotle, that the other civilizations just did not have.

    C) Political centralization is not conducive to scientific progress.

    Huff has no qualms about facing up to the reality that something truly amazing happened in Europe between 1500 and 1700 that has never happened anywhere else.

    One point he does not address is that a significant number of brilliant European males were what we would now call “Aspergery.” A guy has to be slightly nuts to be obsessed with a swinging church chandelier or with timing balls rolling down inclined planes, as Galileo was. And then there was Newton… not exactly a regular guy.

    I do wonder if the success of the West is due simply to a higher frequency of genes for Asperger’s.

  6. Arabic script is inherently cursive. Unlike Roman, Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic scripts, which are all in their atavistic forms non-cursive.

    I was an Arabic linguist in the military, and I’ve never seen non-cursive written Arabic. I’m not sure it exists or is even in an elegant manner possible, because each Arabic letter takes different form depending where it is situated in a word – initially, medially or terminally. You’d have simplify the letters’ morphology, reducing each to one or maybe two forms to make it work.

    If there’s one thing that characterizes Arabs is that they like linguistic flourish, opacity and elegance over directness and simplicity. Elegant repetitive abstract patterns are what the Arabs love, both poetically and visually.. Repetition and verbosity fans the warmth of their desiccated desert hearts and souls.

    I think these facts have something to do with the lag that languages written in Arabic script had in taking up the printing press, and one of the major reasons I’m sure Ataturk decided to adopt the Roman alphabet in his reform of Turkish.

  7. theMann says:

    1. Alphabet- the languages descended from Latin and Greek readily lent themselves to movable type. Other languages, not so much. Arabic is difficult, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and many others, a nightmare. Typewriters for those countries are something to behold. And I am pretty sure Ataturk isn’t the only leader to adopt a Latin alphabet for the local language.

    2. Seeing as how the Printing Press led to the Thirty Years War, other civilizations, much less stable than European Christendom, may have had a point in rejecting the Press.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    , @Buffalo Joe
    , @AndrewR
  8. Mike Tre says:

    “My opinion is that the master invention of all inventions is the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the middle of the 15th century. ”

    You’re gonna send all the Chinaphiliacs into a fit with that one.

    • Agree: 3g4me
    • LOL: RichardTaylor
    • Replies: @Herp McDerp
  9. Didn’t Buckminster Fuller say that hay was the most important invention? That enabled people to keep larger numbers of livestock around. This increased food and transport supplies, thus enabling Civilization to get going.

  10. J.Ross says:

    The special ligatures can be omitted completely (as they are in modern printed Arabic), not every Arabic letter has all three variants (about half do not connect to the following letter, most don’t really change their shape, and ‘Alif stands for ‘Alif), but really the issue here is not that it would take more type (cough, cough, printing press, certain country in the far East with many more blocks than either Latin or Arabic) but the embrace by a culture of tedium. The engine of Europe’s explosion into new global prominence is the union of recognizing precision and embracing the tedious, eg, without those two you don’t have real scientific experimentation, those two things also let the craftsman get far ahead of where his nearer ancestors got, etc. What was increasingly the Ottoman attitude toward precision and tedium toward the latter half of their reign?

    • Agree: PhysicistDave
    • Replies: @3g4me
  11. J.Ross says:
    @theMann

    Not all Latin but your point would be equally supported by those Central Asian countries which adopted Cyrillic since for these purposes it is as print-ready.

  12. I find that European conformism is more overwhelming than elsewhere in the world. It doesn’t make do with only regulating your social persona, but it also seeks, when unchecked, to make you actually believe that 2 + 2 = 5.

    Thankfully there is antithesis, and the power of European non-conformism, which is equally and oppositely as strong. Alternate sources of power used to have the energy to make space for themselves and disseminate genuine change and progress.

    We seem to be in a moment of false synthesis, where conformism pretends to be non-conformism, thereby crowding out the natural alternatives to its predominance.

  13. Cido says:

    I think that Ottomans, like East Asians are extremely despotic. This in part can explain why there weren’t many technological developments in non-Western countries. This have been occurring since the Ancient Greeks with their hundred of city states. Even the Roman emperor needed to share his power with the Senate. During the Middle Ages the power was decentralized, and continued until now with many different countries.

  14. @PhysicistDave

    I do wonder if the success of the West is due simply to a higher frequency of genes for Asperger’s.

    1) Don’t know about the genetic part of your question.
    2) But I see the cultural aspect here. It is no easy task to integrate individuals into a culture that have a tendency to be rather disruptive (not least spergy people).
    3) I do think, that the European monasteries and universities from medieval times on were the places specializing in the effort described in No. 2). Not leats by institutionalizing contradictive discourses (cf. scholasticism – the battle over universals)

    For details – have a look at Arno Borst’s writings on medieval history and the sciences, not least his incredibly rich threefold tome Der Turmbau zu Babel (The Tower of Babel) and – especially his rather short but very insightful book “The Ordering of Time – From the Ancient Computus to the Modern Computer” about the medieval roots of mathematics/astronomy.

    And – for the centuries 14 ff. in the West: Hans Magnus Enzensberger Mausoleum – 37 Ballads From the History of Progress.

    • Agree: Pheasant
    • Replies: @Pheasant
  15. Aside from difficulties of Arabic script, I think the central thing is: Islamic theocratic culture does not like wider literacy & is suspicious of any democratization, since it could- at least in theory- lead to questioning of the established order.

    In short, Islam fears any path potentially leading to criticism.

    • Replies: @Old Prude
  16. Maybe the printing press would be more widespread in the Arabic world if Arabic were written not cursively but in the squared-off Kufic script seen in the repeated slogan “Allahu akbar” on the Iranian flag. This Kufic script resembles a 35-by-35 QR code:

    • Replies: @fitzhamilton
  17. Wielgus says:

    I don’t know about now, but I read that in the 1970s the text of newspapers in Urdu (using a version of the Arabic script) would be written out by a calligrapher and the calligraphy would then be duplicated.

    • Replies: @3g4me
  18. Anon[553] • Disclaimer says:

    I think I remember reading in a Niall Ferguson book that the Ottomans had banned the printing press by about 1515 and that this was the beginning of the end for the Ottomans and the start of the intellectual retardation across the entire Islamic world that still exists today.

    • Agree: Mark G.
    • Replies: @anonymous
  19. We’re always hearing that the Chinese did something first but for Various Accidental Reasons it pretty much went nowhere. It’s odd that all this happened long before there were any really good records.

    I’m sure they must have invented a few things. But there’s been this desire to put White Westerners in their place for centuries by citing the greater wisdom of the East.

  20. @Redneck farmer

    Supposedly hay wasn’t understood in Roman times, although I find that improbable sounding.

    • Replies: @David
    , @J.Ross
    , @TWS
  21. @RichardTaylor

    They’re not Promethean, like whites.

    • Replies: @Grahamsno(G64)
  22. angmoh says:

    Interesting information given the strong anti-intellectual traditions that exist today in many Islamic movements.

    An amusing example is the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram – the name translates to ‘Western education/knowledge is forbidden’ – and from Wikipedia on the founder of BK:

    Its founder, Muhammad Yusuf, embraced several pre-modern beliefs. He was reportedly inspired by one Mohammed Marwa, aka Maitatsine (see below) who condemned the reading of any books other than the Quran. Yusuf, himself, in one 2009 interview, expressed his opposition not only to Western education, but to the theory of evolution, a spherical (not flat) Earth, and to the idea that rain comes from “evaporation caused by the sun” rather than being created and sent down directly by God.

    Islam of course means ‘submission’ (to God’s will) – not much point striving to understand the world if you take that sentiment to its logical conclusion.

  23. Voltarde says:

    What was the most important invention of all time?

    I’d still say cooking.

    1) Increases volume and portability of food supply. Vote with my feet and avoid deadly tribal conflicts. Out of vibrant Africa!

    2) Reduces food spoilage and enteric infectious diseases. Survive cold northern winters!

    3) Leads to mastery of fire. Evolutionarily unique to humans. Cauterize wounds after battle. Chicken soup … tasty, uses up leftovers!

    4) Increases genetic variation through increased ingestion of carcinogens. Smoked and slightly burnt food kind of yummy, cancer takes time, war and infectious disease is likely gonna kill me before I’m 40 anyway (until about 100 years ago). Ingestion of burnt food higher in northern vs. southern regions, hint hint.

  24. @Redneck farmer

    It is wrong to call a wheel “an invention”. Invention is something done in a historical time and that could be ascribed to some people or groups of people.

  25. The most important invention of all time:
    The filing cabinet.

    • LOL: Old Prude
    • Replies: @Old Prude
  26. Why Didn’t Muslims Print Books?

    Setting the dots was a PITA.

    • Replies: @nokangaroos
  27. @RichardTaylor

    ” But there’s been this desire to put White Westerners in their place for centuries by citing the greater wisdom of the East.”

    Muslims have it too. I’m pretty sure every historical account by a Chinese or muslim author I’ve ever read has made a point of sneering at how dirty Europe was compared to China or Iraq/Iran. I suspect, as some comments have already noted, that this willingness to get dirty rather than gracefully sitting under a tree doing calligraphy and reciting poetry has a great deal to do with it. Gutenberg presses are noisy and dirty and they spread knowledge to people who aren’t fit for it. Of course, Europe had its share of aristocrats with the same attitudes but they were all at loggerheads with each other, so canny inventors could play them off against each other.

    I think the culture is more important than the technical difficulties. If the Arabs had decided printing was important they would have adapted their script to be suitable for movable type. The ancient Egyptians had come up with the idea of 2 scripts, one for beauty and one for everyday writing, thousands of years before.

    • Agree: RichardTaylor
    • Replies: @Ali Choudhury
  28. conatus says:

    Stanley Jaki in his book, Road of Science and Ways to God, maintained that Islam gave too much power to Allah. Allah could make 2+2=5 and so why try to uncover the hidden laws of science if, merely by whimsy, Allah can change them?According to Jaki that was not true in Christianity and hence Christians could do science, secure in the knowledge that the laws of the physical world would not change.
    Printing presses spread God’s word around to everyone in the Chrsitian world.

    “Clearly, in Jaki’s analysis, some aspect of Allah, as described in the Koran, makes the ability properly to see science impossible, whereas there is something in the Christian understanding of God the Creator that fosters this relationship.”

    from here:https://voegelinview.com/on-politics-and-physics-stanley-jaki-on-science-in-islam/

    • Agree: Pheasant
  29. Svevlad says:

    They already mentally stagnated by then and became extremely inflexible and resistant to anything new.

    Even then, in Europe everything was also written in cursive. The simple letters we have weren’t really so popular until printing popularized disconnected letters.

    So likely, had they accepted the printing press, the script itself would have become a little more simplified probably.

    • Agree: Pheasant
  30. @Twinkie

    I’m starting to think that “Haha, round-eyes, superior Chinese civilisation invented it first!” is similar to George Washington Carver’s claim to have invented the peanut, i.e., cope and lies

    • Agree: 3g4me
  31. bomag says:
    @ChrisZ

    Tend to agree.

    But numerical manipulation had more profound consequences.

    But it had to be linked with material science and other technology.

  32. Ottoman bureaucrats filed the letter under the name “Ricardo of Genoa” and never seem to have replied.

    I wonder if – with this and the printing press both – Ottoman bureaucrats were just making sure they didn’t get boxed out by foreigners.

  33. Koolbash says:

    Islam in the broad sense definitely delayed Ottoman Muslims’ adoption of the printing press. Armenians and Greeks were operating printing presses in Istanbul/Constaninople/Konstantiniyye well before any Muslims did. Syriac Christains might also have been. As Howes notes, the Arabic script is superbly suited to handwriting. One can write very quickly in Arabic since the shape of the letters changse according to whether they are at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. Furthermore, Arab’s possession of clear patterns for word formation makes it possible to leave out vowels while writing, since the reader will instinctively know what the proper vowels are. Written Arabic is thus very streamlined. Much of that elegance gets lost when printing. In addition, there is the problem that Arabic is the language of God. The Quran, God’s direct verbatim message to mankind, was revealed in Arabic. Given the tight relationship between Arabic writing and the language/Quran, there was probably some theologically informed hesitation about the propriety of using machines to reproduce the script. But we should know whether or not there were debates about this. Unfortunately, too many historians of Islam and the Middle East these days hesitate to suggest anything that might be interpreted as implying that Arabo-Islamic civilization fell “behind” the West.

    On the other hand, although the Arabic script is very well suited to Arabic, it is not so well suited to Turkish and a host of other languages. Turkic languages have more and different vowels, and writing Turkic and other languages in Arabic creates all sorts of ambiguities. That is one of the main reasons why Mustafa Kemal adopted the Latin alphabet — you can use it to represent all the Turkish vowels. The idea of switching alphabets was not an original one, but some of the opposition to it was based in religion. Some Turks thought it was better to write in the Arabic script because it helped tie them to the revelation of God (even though that revelation was in a completely different language). So there were incentives for the Turks to have adopted a different alphabet well before 1928, but too many hesitated because of the seemingly sacred nature of the Arabic script.

  34. bomag says:
    @Twinkie

    I think there are clearly numerous other factors at work and that this “invention” by Gutenberg was an outcome of those factors rather than a causal factor.

    Yeah, context matters.

    I’m lobbying for mathematical advances to be the most important inventions, if such can be deemed inventions. But some mathematically literate civilizations in the ancient world didn’t do too well.

    I recently read an article suggesting religious bickering (Luther’s reformation) fueled interest in the printing press.

  35. In Europe, everybody saw their neighbors (and rivals) getting a printing press, so they had to get one too. The Ottoman Sultan didn’t have much in the way of rivals, so if he didn’t see what was so great about it, nobody else did either.

    Many such cases!

    Priesthood of all believers thing.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  36. Chinese and Koreans invented movable typing centuries before Europeans, but didn’t use it as much. Sure, it’s more difficult with characters, but still a lot easier than writing.
    The printing press was introduced to India in the 16th century by missionaries, but no natives were very interested.

    Maybe interest in mass printing is just a white thing.

  37. bomag says:
    @PhysicistDave

    …a significant number of brilliant European males were what we would now call “Aspergery.”

    And the society as a whole had such tendencies: one form of public entertainment was dueling mathematicians factoring polynomial equations.

    Important advances in analysis came from Johann Bernoulli and Leibniz sitting around and wondering about the logarithms of negative numbers. I’ve figured that as one of the more spergy things in history.

    • Agree: PhysicistDave
    • Replies: @kaganovitch
    , @Wielgus
  38. @Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

    The script on the Iranian flag is still cursive in the sense that the letters flow into one another in the customary way.

    الله أكبر – preceding right to left you have an initial alif (ا) which is basically an “a” sound, followed by two medial lams (ل) which are”l” sounds, followed by a terminal ta, the squirrelly tah marbouta – a ta is normally pronounced as a “t” sound, but here, terminally, as the tah marbouta it is pronounced as an “a” sound. A L L ah, الله , Allah. Now, أكبر – you get another initial alif, an initial form of Kaf (ك) a “k” sound (letters following an alif always take initial form themselves) a medial ba (ب) or “b” and a terminal ra (ر) which is an “r” sound. Alif, kaf, ba, ra. أكبر – Akbar.

    The vowel sounds between the consonants are not represented normally, and only usually only represented in very formal texts like the Quran where accuracy is considered highly important, by use of diacritical marks.

    If you look at the calligraphy on the Iranian flag you’ll see that as in all stylized Arabic calligraphy the classic cursive rules are still applied. “Allah” – الله – is written normally. The alif in akhbar – أكبر – is the vertical lines creating the top and the ra or “r” is the bottom line. The kaf “k” and ba “b” are conflated and flow together horizontally between the lines of the alif and ra.. Whenever you see a dot underneath a line in Arabic calligraphy, it’s a ba or “b.” A dot above a line is a nun or “n” sound.

    This type of high stylization, minimization and abstraction is typical of Arabic calligraphy, and can make it very difficult to read sometimes, until you understand the customary tropes.

    In any case, the calligraphy on the Iranian flag is in fact cursive, as is normal and typical.

    • Replies: @photondancer
  39. @Anonymous

    The Chinese had invented printing presses 5000 years ago. The West is so backwards that they don’t, to this day, even recognize them as such, much less understand how they worked. They ran off of water wheels and what appears to be a primitive form of nuclear power–we don’t know for sure as we in the West still don’t understand the technology involved. So then, just as today, the Chinese led the way for all mankind to evolve from primitive ape-like creatures to the great, heroic exemplars that the Chinese are today. Give up, Westerners, you’ll never catch up.

    • Replies: @Art Deco
  40. Jack D says:

    Arabs remain uninterested in reading:

    There are five times as many books translated into Greek in recent years compared to books translated into Arabic, although there are 300 million native Arabic speakers compared to 11 million Greeks.

    The population of the 22 Arab countries makes up about 4.5% of the world population, but all countries combined publish only 0.8% of all books worldwide.

    Although South Korea only has a population of 49 million versus 79 million in Egypt, it publishes more than 30,000 books per year compared to 2,215 in Egypt.

    Most bestsellers published in Arabic sell between five and twenty thousand copies, while for languages like German, Japanese, Italian, Dutch and Danish it’s usually between 100,000 and several million.

    https://www.islamicity.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=17841&title=small-number-of-books-published-in-arabic

    Arabs are sort of like Mexicans – they are just not interested in intellectual type stuff. They find school to be boring.

    • Thanks: Jonathan Mason
  41. Anonymous[419] • Disclaimer says:

    It’s probably got something to do with the grip the Christian church had over medieval Europe – remember the word ‘clerical’ is related to clerk and clergy – in that it was the church which kept the flame of letters and literature burning, the priests and monks usually being the only ones who could read. Also remember that ‘universities’ originated as religious institutions for the express training of clergy.

    By inculcating a literate class devoted to learning, in contrast to actually physically working, the church cultivated a class of men who enjoyed reading for its own sake, as well as the function of disseminating ancient knowledge, hence there was a ready market for literature just waiting for printing to capture, a case of an idea whose time has come.

    Apart from the Bible, the second work of ancient literature ever printed was generally Aesop’s Fables, that delightful collection of moral lessons which still are very relevent today, hence it is understandable why all the literate wanted their own personal copy.

    • Replies: @Pheasant
  42. donut says:
    @PhysicistDave

    “Aspergery” The prize goes to Henry Cavendish .

  43. If you ask the biden administration, of course the printing press is the most important. You did mean the one that prints money, right? I will put the compass, chronograph (time piece) and sexton up there. The ability to travel great distances across vast seas and return is historically significant. And don’t discount the importance of small things that made a big difference, like gears, the match and the pencil.

    • LOL: Grahamsno(G64)
  44. @theMann

    the Mann, alphabet! Good choice, refrigerator quality work.

  45. theMann says:

    Metal working is the most important invention – you can imagine anything, but you can only build what you have tools for. Wooden or bone gears and bearings? Coinage of Ivory? No effective screws or nails?

    David H Keller’s novella The Metal Doom” explores this in detail. Back in print, btw. Back in print!!

    • Thanks: Grahamsno(G64)
    • Replies: @photondancer
  46. Anonymous[326] • Disclaimer says:
    @jon

    It was also a primitive piece of shit and vast Asian pictographic languages can never be efficient for printing (hence why they had to invent simplified versions in the modern era) as compared with European low-letter alphabets.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  47. David says:
    @Steve Sailer

    In Honduras no one brings in hay although there is a three month dry season that peaks around Easter, when leaves fall from the trees and there’s no grass. It’s called winter though it’s the hottest time of year. It’s especially a problem in the south.

    Cows are taken if possible to wetter pasture, sometimes plots of beans have been planted. Fields of fodder are closed off and left to dry standing. When everything else is eaten up, those pastures are opened to provide very low quality feed.

    It’s agonizing to watch a horse stand still for weeks, head hanging low, in an entirely lifeless field of red dirt, becoming more emaciated that you would think survivable. Pigs, goats, cows, everything loses a lot of weight.

  48. The vast Ottoman Empire, with its capital in the huge city of Constantinople, was somewhat literate. By one account, Ottoman Constantinople had 60 bookshops dealing in hand-written manuscripts.

    The Ottomans only acquired (i.e. conquered) Constantinople in 1453, and it did not immediately become the capital of empire, nor were the city’s inhabitants immediately Muslim. For most of (Sunni) Islamic history, the seat of the Caliph was at Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo or Medina, or other smaller towns near those. Interestingly, none of those capitals prior to Constantinople/Istanbul are or were seaports. I don’t know if that is relevant to the absence of printing presses. But it does suggest that the top level of Islamic administration was less outward-looking than the elites of the many Western seaports.

    That goes hand-in-hand with the fact that Islam and the other large civilizations of the Orient have always had a more centralizing tendency than the decentralized Occident. Why this is I don’t know, but it has been pretty consistent for thousands of years.

    And [the Ottoman Empire] was not particularly technologically backward, judging by its success in warfare.

    Arguably, technology wasn’t all that important in winning wars until relatively recently. The paleolithic Comanche held off industrial era settlers until the late 19th century, despite the huge material, logistical and demographic advantages of the latter. Even in the 20th century, Mussolini had a surprisingly hard go of conquering Libyan tribesman and Abyssinian highlanders. Perhaps it is only with aircraft and automatic firearms that the combat advantage of technology has become apparently insuperable. And then there is Afghanistan.

    We Westerners tend to assign our past successes to “technological superiority”, but we see past events through the lens of our present preferences, and so “technology” may be more of a symptom than a cause. Coincidentally, at the point of achieving jet aircraft, hypersonic missiles, smart bombs, lasers, etc., we seem to have lost the will to use it for anything of much consequence.

    What does this have to do with the absence of printed books in Islam? Only that the military advantage of mass literacy wasn’t obvious until recently, and that advantage is rapidly being eclipsed by the concomitant erosion of willpower. You can always buy or steal technology. You can’t buy or steal willpower. C.f. 21st century Muslims simply walking into the Christian lands they couldn’t fight their way into during the previous ten centuries.

    The way things are going, it is getting harder to say that the Muslim approach was the wrong one.

    • Replies: @theo the kraut
  49. Mr. Grey says:

    It is an Islamic thing- how the religous authorities held a grip on society, not wanting it to become westernized. The same thing happened with the military. In the 19th century Britain and France were worried Russia would recapture Constantinople for the Christian world and have a naval base in the Meditterranean and then become so powerful no state in Europe could stop them. They did their best trying to upgrade the Ottoman military to stand up to the Russians, and it failed time and time again.

    • Replies: @John Up North
  50. They used cuneiform writing to imprint records onto clay tablets for thousands of years in the middle East.

    Both Islam and Christianity have been used historically to preserve the power of the ruling regime.

    For example slave owners in the US did not want slaves to be able to learn to read and write, but they wanted them to be good Christians, and Islamic imams still depend on keeping people ignorant so as to sustain their own power and influence.

    Building a whole education system around memorizing the Quran is a powerful way of brainwashing people and preventing them from thinking for themselves, in the unlikely event that such a desire should arise.

    The breakaway of Protestantism in Christianity was probably a major factor that led to the rapid expansion of printing and thinking outside the box in the western world.

    Once people were allowed to read the Bible and interpret it for themselves, all hell was let loose when it was discovered that the Bible contained obvious contradictions and ambiguities.

    Even within the last 100 years or so religious fanatics in the United States have staged ceremonial burnings of books as an attempt to stem the tide of printed matter polluting the minds of the faithful.

    Within American Evangelical protestantism of today, it is noticeable that the TV preachers try to steer their congregations away from interpreting the Bible for themselves.

    It is no coincidence that members of a congregation are often referred to as a flock and their minister as a pastor. Pastor is a Latin word for Shepherd, and sheep are notorious for conforming to the norm, being easily led, and being generally brainless. George Orwell also used this quality of sheep in Animal Farm as an analogy to the vast majority of human beings.

    In the same way there are vast herds of human sheep in the Islamic world, and they really don’t need to read books to know the most important facts, like “Islam good, infidel bad.”

    • Replies: @Ralph L
  51. @Jack D

    They find school to be boring.

    Well, traditional Islamic school was pretty boring: learning the the Koran by heart, corporal punishment, and … that’s about it really.

    • Replies: @Ian M.
  52. Anonymous[141] • Disclaimer says:

    Think there were some cultural components also. Growth of towns and middle class and separate polities and (especially) Protestantism in Europe, from the High Middle Ages through the heresy of Luther.

    There’s also a pretty notable Muslim touchiness about the Koran text. That Birmingham document is probably from later. Radiocarbon dating is known for inaccuracies. And the script/language indicates a later period. Also, if you learn about the early development of Islam, there was a sort of top down installation of the finalized Koran. (Not saying early Christians or Jews better.)

  53. BB753 says:

    Another reason is that Muslims learn the Koran by heart.

    “Finally, in 1729 a Hungarian Unitarian convert to Islam started a state-sanctioned printing press in Constantinople”
    Damn Unitarians! They’re never up to no good. After all, it’s a small step from non-Trinitarian to Muslim.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  54. KarlS says:

    Gutenberg didn’t just invent movable type, he developed an entire system of printing using movable type. It took several decades to do this. His system was successfully used for several centuries. That’s the difference between what he did and the Chinese.

  55. Matttt says:
    @RichardTaylor

    An interesting field of study would be the History of the History of China. When did Western and Chinese scholars start one-upping Western achievements by claiming (with dubious evidence) that the Chinese did it first? My guess is this process started when Jesuit (always…) missionaries started “going native.”

    • Thanks: RichardTaylor
  56. AndrewR says:
    @theMann

    Hangul was invented in the 15th century. It may be more complicated to print and type in than the Latin script, but compared to Chinese/Hanja, it’s a piece of cake.

  57. And it was not particularly technologically backward, judging by its success in warfare.

    Military success does not in general correspond to innovation. Ottoman power derived from Janissaries, a Medieval institution where slave boys from Christian families are converted to Islam.

    At Gutenberg’s time Germany was many centuries away from being known for her military might. Balzac wrote in Le Cousin Pons (1847)

    If the Germans cannot draw harmony from the mighty instruments of Liberty, yet to play all instruments of music comes to them by nature.

    Moveable type was invented during Song 宋 dynasty in 11th CE, pinnacle of Sinitic Civilization. A century before the birth of Temüjin, or Genghis Khan, whose exploits would go on stifle innovation in Slavic, Arab, and Chinese lands, only the West was spared.

    Since the Dark Ages in the West corresponded to Lorsque le monde parlait arabe (when the world spoke Arabic), the Turks, like the Chinese, literally did not believe there was anything new to learn, much less from despised Infidels.

    Hopefully modern day Americans don’t make the same mistake 😉

  58. What was the most important invention of all time?

    According to cartoonists, it was the wheel.

    Especially Johnny Hart, who created B.C., a strip set in prehistoric times.

  59. Nobody wanted to read, that’s why. I don’t know whether there’s an English source about the number of books sold by Ibrahim Muteferrika but the number is miniscule wrt to Europeans (IIRC, it’s less than 1000. Europeans had millions.). He probably sold more books to Europeans than Turks. That’s not much different in our times either.
    There is also funny story about a Venetian. He thought about selling printed Quran and be a rich man. Let’s just say it didn’t go well for him. He was luck enough to be alive at the end. If you can’t print and sell Quran, than good luck having a successful printing press.

  60. The Arabic alphabet isn’t all that bad. First, it has no majuscule/miniscule distinction. Second, though the alphabet has nominally 29 letters, many are identical except for a dot or two (or three) above or below — analogous to the many diacritics in, say, Polish.

    These count as three Arabic letters: ح ج خ
    So do these: و ف ق
    And these four: ن ب ت ث

    So I don’t buy the “technical difficulty” theory. Arabic isn’t Chinese. It’s not even as bad as Japanese.

  61. @angmoh

    – Amru the Conqueror was asked what was to happen with the library of Alexandria,
    and opined
    “The contents either conform to the Quran – then they are superfluous and should be burned;
    or they contradict the Quran – then they should be burned as a matter of course.”
    – It is said they heated the public baths for six months, contrasting pleasantly with contemporary Christian missionaries who did not do such a thing as bathing 😛

    More books are published in the US every year than have been translated into
    Arabic in all (granted that most books published in the US every year are not worth translating, but a certain indolence is undeniable – and is nothing new; nomadic overlords have no interest in administering and learning – only to “sit like effendis and eat”).

  62. @angmoh

    Boko Haram has a nice ring to it.

    • Replies: @Paleo Liberal
  63. @RichardTaylor

    We’re always hearing that the Chinese did something first but for Various Accidental Reasons it pretty much went nowhere.

    You probably haven’t heard, or read, really, the half of it, Richard! There was a big British Sinophile of the mid 20th century named Joseph Needham. Mr. Needham’s life and work in compiling 17 volumes about all the coulda/woulda/almost-invention of all kinds of things in China was related by one Simon Winchester in his own book The Man who Loved China*.

    Needhamless to say, I wasn’t about to read 17 volumes, but I did read Mr. Winchester’s book 10 years back or so. Mr. Needham’s motivation was partially the usual (a Chinese visiting grad student whom he was banging), but he was also very much of a Communist. It’s not that that aspect makes me discount his work, but it explains his access to China right through part of the Mao era (the guy even met with the Chairman).

    Mr. Needham spent many years digging up history in China. Per a table in Mr. Winchester’s book, the Chinese invented damn near everything. Here’s the big question: Why didn’t they make very much out of all those discoveries and “inventions”.

    Here’s my take – it’s one thing to draw a picture of an airplane that coulda/woulda worked (yes, “airplane” was in the table). It’s quite another to do the hard technical/engineering work that the Wright Brothers did. It’s a lot easier to think of a new idea, that might even work, until one gets to hands-on work and real calculations to prove it ou.

    Now, I’m gonna go all Libertarian here, though as a Conservative I don’t discount genetic factors either. The Chinese NEVER seemed to have had, or even believed in, limited government, real property rights, etc. Why would a bright individual in Chinese history have gone through the effort to work hard on one of these inventions, when anybody above him in the hierarchy could take credit and take the money to be made?

    It’s about the political/economic system in addition to the “type” of men. I’m not saying that it must be late 19th through mid-20th century America, a tremendous time for invention. After all, there were monarchies in Europe. With the benefactors of all those Renaissance med of science, the ability to capitalize on an idea, and the spirit of the age, it sure was a great time to be an inventor.

    .

    * John Derbyshire has a review of this book on his own site here.

    • Thanks: RichardTaylor, ivan
  64. You’ve obviously never read the Koran. That book is so well written, profound, gripping, deep, moving and life-changing that Allah created a kind of ‘difficult second album’ situation for the whole Arab world that had read the thing. How do you top perfection?

    In fact, if you were to try I’d probably have to chop your hands off and forcibly marry your sisters for even attempting such a thing, I’m afraid.

  65. J.Ross says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Robert Graves said that a contract survives from ancient Greece in which a laborer agrees to remove all the manure from a field so that a farmer can grow crops on it.

  66. Ralph L says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Once people were allowed to read the Bible and interpret it for themselves, all hell was let loose when it was discovered that the Bible contained obvious contradictions and ambiguities.

    More importantly, they discovered that medieval Roman church dogma and practice had little basis in Scripture. But why did Protestant study of Scripture change things wildly differently from Islamic study of the koran (spellcheck wants it capitalized)?

  67. Anon[144] • Disclaimer says:

    I have heard it’s against Islamic law to print the Koran. It must always be handwritten. In the modern era, they deliberately try to use a hand-writing like script to print the Koran to obey this law as much as possible.

    I suspect Arabs had a high regard only for handwritten manuscripts, and thought of printed manuscripts as being irreligious; hence the banning of the printing press in the Ottoman Empire. Even today, Arabs have a paranoid fear of modern knowledge unless it’s a STEM subject.

    However, in Arabia, calligraphy is considered to be a high art. They are like the Japanese in that respect. A conservative mentality wanting to avoid putting a lot of calligraphers out of work may have been behind the lack of innovation.

    As for the Arab intellect, wealthy Arabs seem more interested in drifting cars than reading books. In ancient times, if you look up the ethnicity of Arab intellectuals, you’ll find they’re always ethnic outsiders who were given an Arab name.

  68. anonymous[486] • Disclaimer says:

    Sailor, you should always remember that the accursed idea of pagan polytheist mangods-worshipping godlessness is a “very Christian thing after all.”

    We may be “losers” for not adopting soon enough, the “the most super-duper invention of them all,” but we adopted the true monotheism of Islam, 14 centuries ago.

    While you pagans are still wallowing in godlessness even now. Keep that in mind always.

    • Replies: @JerseyJeffersonian
  69. Economic historian David Landes argued for medieval Europe’s invention of the clock.

    Water clocks existed for a long time before mechanical clocks.

    The increased duration, precision and availability to the masses, however, probably represented an order-of-magnitude economic shift – as would the order-of-magnitude water-clocks represented over say the rising and setting of the sun.

  70. Corvinus says:

    “Why didn’t it spread to the Muslim world…In contrast, the Ottomans didn’t seem to want the movable type printing press much at all?”

    Perhaps if iSteve actually conducted some additional research…

    https://www.historyonthenet.com/printing-press-appeared-middle-east-400-years-europe

    However, we will see in this episode that scholars and sultans had no problems with the printing press. The real reason for the printing press’s slow spread was twofold: First, the thousands of calligraphers made hand-copied books so cheap that printing presses were not needed. Second, Arabic letters are more difficult to render than Latin ones, meaning that the printing press had to become more technologically advanced before it could cheaply and easily churn out Arabic, Turkish, and Persian texts.

    https://muslimheritage.com/muslim-printing-before-gutenberg/

    What is much less well known is that, little more than 100 years later, Arab Muslims were also printing texts, including passages from the Qur’an. They had already embraced the Chinese craft of paper making, developed it and adopted it widely in the Muslim lands. This led to a major growth in the production of manuscript texts. But there was one kind of text which lent itself particularly to mass distribution: this was the private devotional collection of prayers, incantations, Qur’anic extracts and the “beautiful names” of God, for which there was a huge demand among Muslims, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. They were used especially as amulets, to be worn on the person, often rolled up and enclosed in a locket.

    • Troll: GeneralRipper, TWS
    • Replies: @Rob
  71. Old Prude says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    Indeed. Every time Islam started to diversify and open up, it met with a reactionary movement that brought it back to fundamentalism. So each flourishing was sterile over the long run.

  72. anonymous[486] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anon

    intellectual retardation across the entire Islamic world

    Ok, point taken.

    But, that is still better that the spiritual retardation across the entire non-Islamic world.

    If you are a believer in the Hereafter, you may understand.

    • Replies: @Mark G.
  73. JosephB says:
    @ChrisZ

    There are a few language candidates for “biggest invention”:
    1. Spoken language. Your knowledge isn’t limited by what you discover.
    2. Written language. Your knowledge isn’t limited by who you know personally.
    3. Movable type. Knowledge was created appreciably faster than it was destroyed.
    4. Electronic records. Instant access to nearly anything.

    I read a neat book (title forgotten) about how these milestones were key upgrades in human knowledge and capabilities, and gave a ballpark for how many orders of magnitude increase in human knowledge each contributed. They concurred with Steve’s assessment that prior to movable type, the rate of book creation was roughly equal to the rate of book destruction. There were libraries, but not many and they were occasionally burnt to the ground.

    • Replies: @ChrisZ
    , @ChrisZ
    , @Marty
  74. @fitzhamilton

    I saw an interesting mini series on PBS about the invention of the alphabet.
    And yes, they completely concur with what you say.

    Apparently, printers in the “West” were able to produce type which looked almost exactly like fine calligraphy. That was pretty much impossible for Arabic writing, for exactly the reasons you described.

    So, according to this PBS series, the explosion in Europe of printing, and the advances in civilization which accompanied printing, were dependent on European alphabets.

    To be fair, of the non-European written languages, Korean probably had the best written language for a printable type. Another poster pointed out that Korea had type long before Europe, but it didn’t have the same cultural blast. So the combination of printable alphabets and a printing press were a necessary, but not sufficient, condition.

  75. @angmoh

    Actually, Boko Haram literally means “Books are forbidden”. Bok means book, and boko is the plural form.

    I suppose the wokesters that rule the news agencies decided that such a stark and honest translation would paint Africans in a worse light than they wanted, so they toned it down a tad.

    • Replies: @angmoh
  76. According to cartoonists, it was the wheel.

    Three of the first 20 hits on that DuckDuckGo link were the work of late iSteve commenter Baloo. Would Google have given you the same?

    (In Minnesota, DuckDuckGo is DuckDuckGreyDuck. There is even Grey Duck vodka.)

    Arabic is optimized for hand-writing.

    If you’re left-handed. Which is a sin in the Sotadic Zone.

    Right-to-left favors the right-handed in carving stone, but for writing, it’s left-to-right all the way. The Greeks would have known best; they’d had boustrophedon, which used both in the same text. The more efficient way won out.

    Eventually, in 1929 the extremely ambitious Mustafa Kemal Ataturk imposed a Romanized alphabet on Turkey.

    Turkish is a, well, Turkic language. Those, like Indo-European ones, need vowels. Lots of them.

    Kurdish, Persian and Urdu are all Indo-European. As are Ladino and Yiddish, which use the equally vowel-unfriendly Hebrew script. So they have to be splattered with dots, the way Vietnamese is splattered with single and double diacritics to show tones.

    • Thanks: SafeNow
  77. @Paleo Liberal

    To be fair, of the non-European written languages, Korean probably had the best written language for a printable type.

    Hangul is arguably the best written language for all practical purposes. Call it the metric system of script, indeed, better than metric, which doesn’t like threes.

    Calligraphy isn’t a practical purpose, however, and like metric, Hangul lacks soul.

    Though not Seoul.

  78. Old Prude says:
    @Achmed E. Newman

    The Chinese are always prattling on about the longest continuous civilization in history. How does that figure? If the current commie crooks are a continuation of the Ming and the Tang and the Mongols, how is that different than the EU being a continuation of the Holy Roman Empire, the Roman republic, the Greeks. Or how about Egypt being a continuation of, well, the Egyptians?

    I call B.S. on that brag.

  79. @Paleo Liberal

    To be fair, of the non-European written languages, Korean probably had the best written language for a printable type. Another poster pointed out that Korea had type long before Europe, but it didn’t have the same cultural blast. So the combination of printable alphabets and a printing press were a necessary, but not sufficient, condition.

    Koreans used Chinese characters until Park Chung-Hee’s reforms of the 1950s

  80. syonredux says:

    Interesting to do an intra-Occidental comparison, Anglo-America vs Latin America. Dates at which printing presses were first set up. Info comes from WIKIPEDIA, so the usual caveats apply.

    Brazil: 1808

    Chile: 1776

    Venezuela : 1808

    Argentina: 1780

    Mexico: 1539

    Cuba: 1707

    Some comparative dates from Anglo America:

    Massachusetts: Colony founded in 1630. Printing press set up in 1638.

    Pennsylvania: settled in 1681. Printing press set up in 1685.

    Interestingly, when compared to the North, the southern colonies show a lag:

    Virginia: settled in 1607. Printing starts in 1682.

    Maryland: Settled in 1632. printing starts in 1686.

    In Anglo-America we can see a definite North-South lag, with printing coming early in the North (8 years after the founding in Massachusetts, 4 years after the founding in PA), but late in the South (75 years after the founding in Virginia, 54 years in Maryland). In the case of Virginia, it was a matter of deliberate policy. The Anglican elite in Virginia was quite suspicious of anything that might serve to educate the broad masses. Cf the words of Virginia governor William Berkeley: “[T]here are no free schools nor printing , and I hope we shall not have these [for a] hundred years;for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!”

    In terms of Latin America, I’m not sure about the precise nature of the forces that brought printing to Mexico City in 1539, but not to Cuba until 1707 (White settlement in Cuba began in 1511; hence, the printing lag was 196 years).

  81. @Achmed E. Newman

    I’ve mentioned before that China has had a long history of basically suppressing capitalism and localism, all which likely contributed significantly to underdevelopment and even a lower tax base. I recently learned that Japan did something vaguely similar – such onerous developments seem necessary for large-scale authority, but have averse effects on scientific and economic development.

    I’ve heard in medieval Japan wheeled transport was outlawed in order to reduce the movement of rebel armies. Is that true or was the use of palanquins, and the like, due to bad roads and mountainous terrain? from AskHistorians

    e.g. Noel Perrin indicated that Japan, once having acquired the matchlock musket, proceeded to build them en masse and briefly advanced them technologically beyond their European equivalents. Then they banned them in total, to the point that it the general operation of muskets was no longer in the public consciousness by the time Matthew Perry arrived.

    But of course, that’s minimal compared to banning wheeled transporation.

    • Thanks: That Would Be Telling
    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  82. In principle, I’d say the distinction lies in need. Inventions are adopted when there is a need for them, else they languish.

    Consider, for example, the telegraph. It appears just as we’ve become a nation spanning three thousand miles. Obviously, there’s a need for it — and literally within a few years, there are telegraph lines going at least figuratively everywhere. A merchant in Seattle can communicate with a shipowner in Boston, and now he can — and why? Because he needs to.

    Now consider, say, videophones. I recall seeing those at Disneyland around 1970. Obviously, conceptually they were possible, but meh. We don’t actually need them. Effectively, they’ve finally came into use — but like half a century after they became technologically possible.

    So I’d suggest that for whatever reason, at least some people in Europe [i]needed[/i] to print. Evidently, no one in the Ottoman Empire did. In this connection, what’s the history of printing in Poland? Muscovy?

    • Replies: @Wielgus
    , @Wielgus
  83. Hi There says:

    Who cares? The people and civilizations of the past deserve credit for what they did in their time. Today, the living need to build their own marvels, accomplish their own achievements, and earn their own credit regardless of race or descent.

  84. Yak-15 says:

    Powerful calligrapher unions

  85. Matttt says:
    @syonredux

    Maybe it’s because Cuba is relatively close to Mexico. I’m sure someone will chime in, but it looks to be a boat ride of less than a day to get from Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula to Cuba. I wonder when the first printing press came to Merida.

    • Replies: @S. Anonyia
  86. @jon

    A cursory Google search reveals that the Korean Hangul alphabet was invented in 1443, roughly the same time as the Gutenberg press. The Hangul alphabet is phonetic, and has between 30-40 characters, so it would have been ideal for a printing press developed concurrently with the Gutenberg press. Before that though, the Koreans were using Chinese characters. With its thousands of non-phonetic pictograms, Chinese writing wouldn’t have made it to the printing press by that time.

    • Replies: @Anon
  87. @fitzhamilton

    I agree completely with you and others who posit that it was the cursive nature of the Arabic alphabet that discouraged the adoption of printing in Muslim countries. Besides there being different forms for initial, medial and final letters, adjoining letters in a word must flow into one another, a necessity which requires many additional forms for most letters.

    Elegant repetitive abstract patterns are what the Arabs love, both poetically and visually

    That bears emphasis. Directly translated Arabic rhetoric sounds bizarre to non-Arabs. It consists of endless repetitions of the same thought repeated with small variations. I first noticed this when reading an Arab description of the battle of Hattin and its aftermath. Most of the text was devoted to many slightly varying descriptions of how the Crusader army had been defeated and hacked too pieces, so much so that little attention was given to actual details of the battle, e.g. a timeline of its progression. The overall impression was a ghoulishly childlike fascination to dismemberment with little attention to anything else

    BTW, it’s interesting that the Arabs I have known make the same complaint about traditional western concert hall music. They regard the sonata allegro form as a boring repetition of the same theme over and over and over. In contrast non-western music, and Arabic music in particular involves the constant introduction of new themes over time. At least this is what my inormants claim.

  88. @Twinkie

    “numerous other factors at work”

    Western thinking on such things usually focuses on the big man and big institution rather than the associations and networks connected to the bigs that synthesize the activity. Dissociation is a Western problem; maybe it became ingrained after the Church canceled paganism in Europe. I’m on neither team but am aware that most pagan beliefs stress connectivity whereas Christians connect earthly behaviour with a (vaccine) passport to heaven and that’s about it.

  89. Anonymous[411] • Disclaimer says:

    The boatmen’s guild blocked construction of new bridges in London for centuries. (From Roman times to the 1700s there was just one bridge across the Thames, London Bridge.) I imagine that there was similar opposition to new bridges in the Ottoman capital.

  90. @Daniel Chieh

    “that’s minimal compared to banning wheeled transportation”

    The relationship between “muskets” and wheeled transportation is quite maximal. It’s Americana. See Chuck Heston wielding an M-3 grease gun in his red convertible in the opening scene of The Omega Man. Cars and guns: a great combo.

    • LOL: Daniel Chieh
    • Replies: @Joe Stalin
  91. @The Alarmist

    In Arabic folk belief the dot (“nuqta“) at the beginning of the First sura contains all possible wisdom.

    Books? Pffft.

  92. @BB753

    “Damn Unitarians! They’re never up to no good.”

    They’re up to nothing.

    • LOL: BB753
    • Replies: @BB753
    , @Mike Tre
  93. Rob says:
    @Corvinus

    Corvinus, I will take this as 100%, pure truth:

    The real reason for the printing press’s slow spread was twofold: First, the thousands of calligraphers made hand-copied books so cheap that printing presses were not needed.

    And just point out the extremely high cost of low wages. I remember when America used to invent and innovate. The greatest American invention of the last 50 years? The one that will define America forever?

    The Mexican.

    • Agree: JMcG
    • Replies: @Peter D. Bredon
    , @Corvinus
  94. 3g4me says:
    @J.Ross

    @10 J. Ross: Whence your fixation on ‘tedium’? Have you ever hand set type? I have. While I probably have higher than average manual and visual dexterity (extremely fast typist, used to have extremely rapid shorthand, etc.), once you have the layout of the type case memorized, it’s pretty much an automatic activity. You do have to set the type in the composing stick right to left, but again not that difficult to get accustomed to. I only really set and printed one book and bunch of posters, but if that was one’s actual job, one would have become relatively speedy and the work not necessarily ‘tedious’ at all. The real ‘work’ comes afterwards – printing a rough copy, perfecting the spaces, putting it in the ‘chase,’ etc. Putting together a quick single sheet political broadside, cheaply and rather sloppily printed, did not entail a great deal of work. Setting and printing a quality book, with illustrations, took a great deal more time and care.

    Prior to the invention of the linotype machine in the late 19th century, printing was far more artisanal and craft work than it was ‘tedious’ labor.

    • Replies: @Peter D. Bredon
    , @J.Ross
  95. @PhysicistDave

    Obsessive-compulsive.

    As the saying goes, “Men are autistic, women, borderline personality disorder, geniuses, obsessive-compulsive.”

  96. 3g4me says:
    @Wielgus

    @17 Wielgus: Funnily enough, I was just thinking about that sort of thing. Some of the more stylistic Arabic inscriptions are truly works of art. It would have been quite possible to have a skilled calligrapher engrave individual words on thin plates affixed to the top of the metal punches, which could then be printed from (i.e. printed calligraphy or script). This is how I had some illustrations in my book done (parts of ink drawings I found in some 19th century books) But this would have been akin to the ‘whole word’ learning to read method, so how to set up type cases by word rather than by alphabetic character would have been rather challenging, to say the least.

  97. @fitzhamilton

    I do not think the cursive character of Arabic greatly impaired printing in it. The Greek of the 16th century was essentially a cursive form, and is full of ligatures. Look at a page from Robert Estienne’s edition of Plato or other Greek printing by that famous typographer, set in the grecs du roi of Claude Garamond. Good examples are illustrated in D.B. Updike’s Printing Types (1937), vol. I, figs. 170 (facing p, 237) and 171 (facing p. 238).

    There were also many cursive faces in the Latin alphabet, e.g., civilité (cf. Updike, op. cit., vol. I, fig. 142, facing p. 201). Reproducing a cursive alphabet was a challenge early typographers met successfully. European presses often produced works in Oriental languages, including Arabic; the Muslim disinclination to do so did not arise from technical difficulty.

    • Thanks: Bardon Kaldian
    • Replies: @Philip Neal
  98. SafeNow says:

    “Interesting information given the strong anti-intellectual traditions that exist today in many Islamic movements.”

    Ironically, the anti-intellectual trend is ascendant in the U.S. today.
    (And, regarding books, Amazon is banning certain books.)

  99. White folks was in the caves while we was building empires. We built pyramids before Donald Trump even knew what architecture was. We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.
    Al Shapton, 1994

  100. @Anonymous

    Koreans actually came up with their own version of movable type before Gutenberg

    It was also a primitive piece of [ㅅ]…

    …vast Asian pictographic languages can never be efficient for printing (hence why they had to invent simplified versions in the modern era) as compared with European low-letter alphabets.

    The man said Korean. Do a little research before throwing mud, or feces in your case.

    Hangul has fewer letters than does English:

    Although a true alphabet, its letters in use are arranged more like a syllabary. This could be solved by making the letter blocks of varying sizes so to fit in different combinations. That is more complex than the linear arrangement of other alphabets– including Arabic– but hardly “vast”.

    • Replies: @Kent Nationalist
    , @22pp22
  101. Old Prude says:
    @Wendy Kroy

    Not the most important, but the most best invention was the Ipod. Better than even sliced bread.

  102. @Yak-15

    Powerful calligrapher unions

    So you a-scribe this to them? Rent-seekers carving out a niche? You’d think calligraphers’ influence would be minuscule. A hairline fracture at worst. No need to have a stroke about it.

    But why not? The porters’ union kept Smarte Cartes out of the Miami Airport for decades. I’m sure others can point to similar cases in their industries.

    • LOL: Daniel Chieh
  103. syonredux says:
    @Twinkie

    The development of the printing press in Europe may have been influenced by various sporadic reports of movable type technology brought back to Europe by returning business people and missionaries to China

    Stimulus diffusion, eh? Hearing that some fellow out yonder has managed something makes you decide to to it. Always a possibility (cf theories of stimulus diffusion for writing in the Old World).

    As for the Chinese and moveable type, I imagine that the very complexity of the Chinese writing system was a significant hinderance. I recall reading an article where an Occidental in China asked his university educated colleagues for the characters for “sneeze.” None of them knew.

    Exceedingly few people (almost none) can write the Chinese characters for the Mandarin word for “sneeze” (dǎ pēntì). I suspect that most people would also get one or both of the characters for “cough” (késou) wrong, though it’s not as hard as dǎ pēntì.

    https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=9182

    • Replies: @Jack D
  104. @syonredux

    The spread of printing was greatly retarded in Spain and its colonies because King Philip II in 1572 granted the Antwerp printer Christophe Plantin a monopoly on the publication of religious works in all states under his rule. The Plantin-Moretus family continued to benefit by this until the late 17th century, when the economic collapse of Spain ended it. In addition to his outright monopoly on religious printing, Plantin was made prototypographus regius, an office that gave him regulatory authority over other printers to assure their skill and their religious orthodoxy.

    Note that the Mexican press was set up in 1539, before Plantin acquired his monopoly, but that no other press was set up in the Spanish colonies until after it had ceased to be operative.

    • Thanks: res
    • Replies: @syonredux
    , @Jack D
    , @anon
  105. @Reg Cæsar

    Korean was written mostly in characters until the 1950s. Here is a page of an old printed Korean text.

    • Replies: @Twinkie
  106. Ralph L says:

    Pennsylvania and New England had urban markets for printed material much earlier than the South, where the well-off got their books and other manufactured goods from England.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  107. Anonymous[606] • Disclaimer says:
    @PhysicistDave

    I do wonder if the success of the West is due simply to a higher frequency of genes for Asperger’s.

    I have no idea if that is actually the case, but those sorts of emotionally obtuse males are exactly the kind of people that get drummed out of modern universities for failing to understand and bow to the orthodoxy of the day.

  108. Traditional societies suppressed technologies like the printing press because they knew that they would generate a proliferation of midwit thought and midwit power, eventually leading to a degenerate condition like that which currently obtains in the West. This proliferation of course has some positive externalities in technical fields (the hallmark of members of smart but spiritually deficient castes), but otherwise leads to the kind of ignorance that typifies modernity and “Enlightenment” thought. The “invention” of the printing press in the West more-or-less coincides with the breakdown of the authority of its principal organ of tradition — the Catholic Church.

    Tokugawa Japan is a good illustration of how a functioning traditional society can respond to this kind of threat. Muslims have carried out variations on the same kind of strategy for centuries. The Catholic Church might have done the same (or perhaps pursued an altered course, e.g. by monopolizing the press) had it not already been hobbled by rebellious secular rulers in the late Middle Ages (let alone after the emergence of Protestantism).

  109. Jack D says:
    @syonredux

    Young chinese don’t know how to draw the characters for the same reason that young Americans can’t spell. People are rarely writing with pencil and paper any more beyond elementary school. All writing is done on an electronic device that makes suggestions as you type . Chinese input is done in pinyin (in the Roman alphabet) and a menu of character choices pops up (Chinese has tons of homonyms) on your phone (people are never without their phone) or computer and all you have to do is recognize the correct character which is much easier than drawing it. After a while you forget how to draw the character just as Americans forget how to spell Pharaoh. Because you don’t need to.

  110. Jack D says:
    @Crawfurdmuir

    The Plantin-Moretus home and workshop has been preserved as a museum in Antwerp. It remained in the family continuously from the 16th century until 1876 when the last family member sold the building and all the contents to the city of Antwerp for preservation as a museum. That the building and contents made it intact through two world wars is miraculous. Going there is as close as you will ever get to experiencing time travel to the dawn of the age of movable type. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  111. Simon says:

    What was the most important invention of all time?

    . . . My opinion is that the master invention of all inventions is the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the middle of the 15th century.

    You’re certainly in good company. Back in the year 2000, Life magazine devoted a special issue to the 100 greatest advances of the past milliennium (as chosen by a team of historians). #1 was Gutenberg’s printing press, because it made virtually all the other advances possible:

    https://ecampus.matc.edu/mihalj/scitech/scitechfiles/assignments/inventions/life_articles.htm

  112. Weird conspiracy theory: as the Muslims didn’t like educating women as much as Christians did, they had half as many literate people as the Christian world, so half the demand–and women are really really good at using social pressure to get things they desire, so a Christian female demand for written works would’ve put more pressure than simply male demand. Outside of the Sultan’s Harem, few women in the Ottoman Empire were going to be educated in reading.

    Plus the Protestant Reformation was caused by/created by the printing press, and caused a demand for lots religious tracts to be spread quickly, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation also needed the same. There were competing translations of the Bible that either shaded to the Protestant side (e.g. King James Version ) or the Catholic side (e.g. Douay-Rheims) that were important for debates and argument. Meanwhile, no such giant religious division was going on in the Muslim world, so less demand.

    Of course, overall Christians have been kind of unique in their education of women; most non-Christian cultures put the kibosh on female education. Muslims weren’t alone; Jews never really liked educating their females. This might explain why the Jewish Enlightenment happened later than the Christian one; fewer females reading, fewer females demanding things to be read, fewer men with headaches trying to find things for the woman to read to just leave him alone, fewer men joining in with their woman’s latest fad of reading anything that wasn’t the Torah.

  113. Alden says:

    Could be full employment for copyists and scriveners. Or the beautiful curves and swirls . Sometimes if there’s enough people to keep doing the job at reasonable wages, there’s really no reason to automate. And Islam is somewhat socialist and paternalistic in theory. Did women ever do it? It seems like perfect piece work for happy housewives, unmarried daughters widows grandmas.

  114. Art Deco says:
    @GodFried Bob ('s Brain)

    The Chinese had invented printing presses 5000 years ago.

    Nothing resembling civilization was to be found in what is today China at that time. The Erlitou culture in the Yellow River valley is the earliest urban society identified, and appeared around 1,900 years BC or a tad later. I don’t think they had any printing presses, or even writing.

    • Replies: @Alden
  115. @Old Prude

    longest continuous civilization in history

    The conceit of this claim is that there are 4 ancient civilizations, with only one remaining, 1. Mesopotamia, 2. Egyptian, 3. Indus Valley (Harappan) 4. China.

    This argument is somewhat bogus, the first 3 have all certainly been displaced. However, ancient China, which should date no earlier than Shang (see below) is significantly the youngest.

    The 2nd claim is that of the 3 Axial Age civilizations, 8th-3rd BCE, 1. Plato, 2. Buddha, 3. Confucius, only the last one can be considered continuous

    The argument for this, whose validity of which you can judge for yourself, is that while a modern Sinophone can read classical Chinese with some difficulty; the same cannot be said respectively for ancient Greek or Sanskrit.

    Antiquity
    Xia 夏 dynasty (2070 – 1600 BC)
    Shang 商 dynasty (1600 – 1046 BC)
    Zhou 周 dynasty (1046 – 256 BC)
    Spring and Autumn 春秋 period (722 – 476 BC)
    Warring States 战国 period (476 – 221 BC)
    1st Reich
    Qin 秦 dynasty (221 – 206 BC)
    Han 汉 dynasty (206 BC – AD 220)
    Three Kingdoms 三国 (AD 220 – 280)
    Jin 晋 dynasty (AD 266 – 420)
    Northern and Southern dynasties 南北朝 (AD 420 – 589)
    2nd Reich
    Sui 隋 dynasty (AD 581 – 618)
    Tang 唐 dynasty (AD 618 – 907)
    Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 五代十国 (AD 907 – 960)
    Song, Liao, Jin, and Western Xia dynasties 宋辽金夏 (AD 960 – 1279)
    3rd Reich
    Yuan 元 dynasty (AD 1271 – 1368)
    Ming 明 dynasty (AD 1368 – 1644)
    Qing 清 dynasty (AD 1644 – 1912)
    Modern
    Republic of China 民国 (AD 1912 – present)
    CCP Commies 共和国 (AD 1949 – present)

  116. — Language
    — Written language
    — Fire
    — the Wheel
    — Place value numbers
    — Money
    — Smelting
    — Printing
    — Electricity
    — Microwave oven

    • LOL: Daniel H
  117. ChrisZ says:
    @JosephB

    What a great reply, JosephB. Thanks. If you remember the title of that book, I’d be interested.

    On the innovation of written language: The most memorable depiction I’ve seen of the civilizational value of writing came in the Bruce Beresford movie, “Black Robe,” about a French Jesuit missionary traveling upriver to convert the natives (the Algonquin tribes, I believe), set during the colonization of Canada. Early on, one of the Algonquins sees a Frenchman writing in a ledger, and asks what he’s doing. That’s a great idea in itself: How do you describe writing, to someone who has never encountered it?

    The Frenchman asks the Huron to tell him something he would not otherwise know; he’s told some detail about the native’s wife. The Frenchman writes it down, walks over to another of his own countrymen, and without saying a word shows him the sentence he had written. The second Frenchman blurts out, “Why are you telling me about this man’s wife?”–at which point all the Algonquins listening in leap back in a kind of holy fear, at the inexplicable sight of information being transmitted without speech. They can only understand it as some kind of supernatural power.

    It’s been years since I viewed the film, but it had many such scenes that left a deep impression. It lures you in with a promise of hopeful optimism in the equality of human beings, but it ends up as an utterly unromantic portrayal of the reality of savagery, and the fragility of civilization. Produced in the 1990s, but perhaps a film for our time.

    • Replies: @JMcG
  118. Unzerker says:
    @Twinkie

    Movable type printing was invented long before Gutenberg

    “movable type printing press

    The East-Asians printed everything by hand. They never invented a printing press. They also made the paper by hand instead of using paper-mills, like they did in Europe.
    Also metal movable type wasn’t widely adopted in East-Asia. (I remember this only being a thing in Korea). Add to this the fact that the Chinese script, with its thousands of symbols, isn’t very suitable for printing.

    Another factor that helped Europe was a much bigger share of literate middle class thirsty for knowledge.

    All of this resulted in printing staying a fringe thing in East-Asia, while it became an information revolution in Europe, only equaled by the invention of the Internet.

  119. Alden says:
    @syonredux

    It was probably Mercantilism. Spain wanted to keep the S American book market a monopoly for Spanish publishers.

    Colonies could sell raw materials only to the colonial power. Colonies could only buy manufactured goods from the colonial power. Colonies could not manufacture most things domestically. It was a major cause of the American and Indian revolutions against England.

    Domestically I believe Mercantilism meant high tariffs to protect domestic industries.

  120. @Abolish_public_education

    Boko Haram has a nice ring to it.

    Their song “Whiter Shade of Pale” was nice. 🙂

    • Replies: @Jack D
  121. Why didn’t they or why don’t they? I read someplace that the entire Muslim “world” ( they get a world; don’t ever try to speak of Christendom, however) publishes fewer original works each year than Belgium.

    • Replies: @Francis Miville
  122. Alden says:
    @Art Deco

    Thank you. Sometimes Brainfree gets confused about whether he’s defending glories of Chinese communism that swept away centuries of illiteracy, oppression, poverty and wretchedness or the ancients glories of China and whoever lived there 5,000 years ago.

    • LOL: photondancer
  123. @Desiderius

    Europe might have cultivated jealousy and rivalry more effectively than other cultures. Thus heterodoxy and liberty were turned into driving (=productive) forces instead of things that were just declared to be taboo (Kant’s idea that there can be too much peace…and eternity so to speak down here already, thus making people sheepish and lazy (cf. On Eternal Peace (=Perpetual Peace in the (weaker!) translation)) – the introductory lines there). – Europe = Make tensions work – try to get along with (lots of) differences.

    • Replies: @anon
    , @Desiderius
  124. @PhysicistDave

    For every aspergerish historical European inventor or “great man” there were far more neurotypical but intelligent ones whose conversational skills would probably put most modern professionals to shame. Social connections were a big deal in premodern times. Kind of hard to maintain patronage if you’re unable to communicate what you’re doing to your noble or wealthy sponsors.

    The idea of the lonely, misunderstood, and obsessive genius is post-industrial concept. A myth developed during the romantic era, and later amplified by obnoxious Hollywood, probably because it creates more tension in the story.

    • Agree: Bardon Kaldian
  125. 22pp22 says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Serious books were written in Chinese. Hangul was mainly used by the plebs. In the fifteenth century, woodblocks were used to print the Buddhist scriptures. The type was not moveable.

  126. @Jonathan Mason

    Apparently Pharoah Sanders was born Farrell Sanders, but when he was playing with Sun Ra (born Sonny Blount) on the planet Saturn or in Birmingham, Alabama (depending on what you believe) , Sun Ra, who, as his name suggests, was into all things Egyptian, suggested that should use the name Pharoah.

    Apparently he wasn’t sufficiently into Egyptian things to know how to spell Pharaoh correctly, but, hey, it sounded good, and I love Sun Ra’s music anyway, even though he never was much of a speller.

  127. ChrisZ says:
    @JosephB

    By the way, and just to clarify: In my original comment I stipulated the Alphabet as (arguably) the “most consequential” invention–which in your scheme would come between #2 (written language) and #3 (movable type).

    Realizing the all spoken words were made up of a limited number sounds, which could be assigned distinct characters, allowed writing to convey an infinite number of words with a very finite set of symbols. My understanding is that the alphabet was invented just once–with all the world’s alphabet’s descended somehow from the original alphabetic script. It suggests to me that it took a real genius to have the original insight, his name now lost to time.

    Thanks again, JB.

  128. The emperor Akbar of India was probably not that interested in the printing press as he was likely dyslexic and functionally illiterate. It would have been seen as a fancy and expensive item of technology with no practical utility.

  129. anon[446] • Disclaimer says:
    @Dieter Kief

    Europe might have cultivated jealousy and rivalry more effectively than other cultures.

    Lol! Best laugh all day.

    Thanks!

  130. @photondancer

    That was probably more of a comment on the lack of enthusiasm for bathing and personal hygiene.

    • Replies: @RichardTaylor
  131. @R.G. Camara

    There were female bestseller writers at least by mid 1700s in England. Dr. Johnson used to say things like, “You know, Mrs. X, whose books I’m always acting snide toward? Well, to be honest, I stayed up all last night reading her latest.”

    • Thanks: R.G. Camara
  132. @Crawfurdmuir

    Sound point: early Western printed books are full of ligatures (too many in the early years) and that cannot have been the problem. I suggest a different reason: that Arabic printing was unsaleable.

    Gutenberg’s basic idea was a font of 26 or so letters plus a space character, like this:

    GUTENBERGS BASIC IDEA WAS A FONT

    Simple and brilliant. Want to buy a printing press? It just needed trial and error to determine what features of manuscript writing were worth retaining (two cases and punctuation) and what were not.

    Arabic script lacks vowels and, crucially, a space character. If you just print the isolating form of each letter it looks like this:

    R B C S C R P T L C K S V W L S N D

    Hideous, unreadable, fatally ambiguous and wastes most of the paper. New technology? Who needs it?

  133. @Ralph L

    The first printing press in the American colonies was in … Cambridge, MA.

  134. The World’s Last Handwritten Newspaper

    The Musalman is the world’s oldest Urdu-language daily newspaper. It is also thought to be the world’s last handwritten daily newspaper. Every day, four katibs—practitioners of the ancient art of Urdu calligraphy—write The Musalman’s four broadsheet pages from right to left, by hand. Mistakes sometimes require rewriting the entire page. They then send it to a printer for reproduction, and sell it on the streets of Chennai, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

    https://gawker.com/5805086/the-worlds-last-handwritten-newspaper

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJyP-OtuzlRV-r-3vR9qQTg

    • Replies: @photondancer
  135. @syonredux

    Damascus, Beirut, Aleppo and Homs. I rest my case.

  136. Daniel H says:

    The reason for the non-adoption of the printing press in the empire may thus have been as simple as apathy,

    Yep, simple laziness. Muslim laziness.

    How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apa­thy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  137. @bomag

    Important advances in analysis came from Johann Bernoulli and Leibniz sitting around and wondering about the logarithms of negative numbers. I’ve figured that as one of the more spergy things in history.

    Despite that, Leibniz seems to have just about the least Aspergey person in the world. He was an immensely charming raconteur.

  138. anon[825] • Disclaimer says:

    The Sultan divined the future. Saw Vagina Monologues,
    something by Bari Weiss, Critical Race Hokum, a paper called NYT,
    decided the printing device would lead to a devolving of society.

    Better people speak, memorize, write using quills and ink.

  139. angmoh says:
    @Hamlet's Ghost

    You might be right, but multiple sources specifically counter this translation. This is the main source on wiki, and the author is apparently a Northern Nigerian himself: http://www.gamji.com/tilde/tilde99.htm

  140. DonutsMan says:

    Muslim liberals lost the war.

    When Muhammad died, it opened up a huge void because he could not fully elaborate an entire religion and all of its rituals in only 20 years of active prophecy.

    So a dispute broke out between the liberal Muslim thinkers like Ibn Sinna (Avicenna) and their conservative counterparts.

    Long story short, the conservatives won. One of the conservatives wrote The Incoherence of the Philosophers which said faith, not reason, was the most important thing, perhaps the only important thing.

    You don’t need too many books to keep the faith. You just need one: the Qu’ran. And maybe a few hadith books and you’re all set.

    • Agree: Mark G.
    • Replies: @Ian M.
    , @Pheasant
  141. @Mike Tre

    My opinion is that the master invention of all inventions is the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the middle of the 15th century.

    To recycle an old Aggie joke:

    “No, the greatest invention of all time has to be the Thermos.”

    “The Thermos?!

    “Well, yeah! Look: It keeps hot things hot, and cold things cold. How does it know?!

    • LOL: Achmed E. Newman
  142. anon[425] • Disclaimer says:
    @Philo of Alexandria

    How much I enjoy reading the whinings of soi-disant intellectuals bemoaning any communications system more complex than a quill pen on vellum. It is especially tasty to find such sophomoric gurgles on the planetary network, an object built and maintained by the thinking people so often disdained by failed artists.

    Lol @ yet another trolling poseur.

  143. @angmoh

    I’ve read that in most Islamic societies, the word “innovation” has a strong implication of “something to be frowned upon.” In other words, they’re already perfect, so any change must be a degradation, right?

    • Replies: @Pheasant
  144. anon[425] • Disclaimer says:
    @Crawfurdmuir

    The spread of printing was greatly retarded in Spain and its colonies because King Philip II in 1572 granted the Antwerp printer Christophe Plantin a monopoly on the publication of religious works in all states under his rule.

    Single point failure or bottleneck? Either way, we behold the glory of absolute monarchy in action…or perhaps inaction is a more apt word.

    Something to bear in mind when one encounters cranks, Ignatius J. Reilly wannabes and other mountebanks who mumble about “muh Catholic Monarchy” in lieu of reason or even common sense.

  145. @fitzhamilton

    I started to learn Arabic once; it didn’t take long before I was more interested in the script than the language.

    I’m impressed by how seamlessly you integrated the characters into your post.

  146. @theMann

    Thanks for the tip, I’d not heard of this book.

    Alastair Reynolds had a nanotech virus that destroyed cities by melding metal to other substances (including human flesh) in his Revelation Space series. Without metal advanced civilisation is hard pressed.

    • Replies: @Alden
  147. @3g4me

    Wouldn’t that proposed 18 foot case for all the variants actually increase the tedium, thus making Arabic more inclined to moveable type on this tedium theory?

    • Replies: @Alden
  148. @Old Prude

    “I don’t need an iPod to store 16,000 songs. I already have a device for that. It’s called my brain.” — some angry old guy on the early internet.

  149. @Yak-15

    “Nice type case you got there. Be a shame if something was to happen to it.”

  150. @SunBakedSuburb

    See Chuck Heston wielding an M-3 grease gun in his red convertible in the opening scene of The Omega Man. Cars and guns: a great combo.

    Smith & Wesson M-76. A relative said in the 1950s he got to handle a highly illegal M-3 grease gun that was possessed by the father of an elementary school acquaintance in Chicago!

  151. @Daniel H

    Gibbon or Churchill? Churchill read so much Gibbon around age 20 that it can be hard to tell the difference in their prose styles.

  152. @Jus' Sayin'...

    “They regard the sonata allegro form as a boring repetition of the same theme over and over and over.”

    And, they have a point; it is. What gives it structure, a sense of going somewhere, is harmony. Or, the other way around, harmony allows you to create large scale structures, from a sonata movement to Wagner’s Ring cycle.

    To do so, you have to sacrifice the “purity” of the notes, so as to make modulation easier. Traditionalists like Alain Danielou never stopped harping on that. But it’s really just a choice, and most people, including most non-Westerners, think it’s a sacrifice worth making.

    Hindu music is the same, long improvisations, perhaps as long as a Mozart symphony, but never going anywhere. If you like that stuff, it sounds “eternal” or primeval. Actually, Wagner himself caught the note (as it were) in the opening music of Rhinegold.

  153. @Matttt

    Many of the early printers in Cuba were French and Germans invited by the colonial government. Also nearby Saint Domingue (before it turned to Haiti) had several rival printing presses by the early/mid 1700s. Unsure of the exact date a press was first established there, but it could well be earlier than Cuba’s date. So the explanation for Cuba’s development may be proximity to Saint Domingue and the French sphere of influence instead.

  154. @anon

    If you want to accuse someone of being a poseur, maybe best not to lard your post with a bunch of French. Your projection is showing!

    • Replies: @anon
  155. Marty says:
    @JosephB

    Instant access to nearly anything.

    Sorry to be so far off-topic, but can you tell me – is it really true that you can’t retrieve bank records older than 7 years? Thanks.

  156. @Achmed E. Newman

    Thanks. Sounds very much like Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings, except people aren’t going around saying aircraft were invented in Renaissance Florence. I do get tired of people trying to claim credit for merely having an idea. We all have ideas but, as you say, it’s the hard work of translating them into reality that should count.

    I’ve noticed the last few years there’s been a push by SJWs to claim Muslims did invent all kinds of cool things. Usually it turns out they were invented by non-muslims in lands conquered by invading muslims.

    • Replies: @James J O'Meara
  157. BB753 says:
    @SunBakedSuburb

    Not in the lodges, they’re not.

  158. Jack D says:
    @Paleo Liberal

    Haram and harem both have the same root.

  159. Mike Tre says:
    @SunBakedSuburb

    That’s what makes them so dangerous.

    • LOL: BB753
  160. Much of what we know about the first Persian Empire (called the Achaemenid Empire) is almost exclusively from Greek sources. This was the empire founded by Cyrus the Great, that destroyed Babylon, than nearly conquered Athens/Sparta, the pass at Thermopolye, the battle of Marathon guys, etc. The ones Alexander destroyed so swiftly later and made himself a legend.

    Anyway, you’d think that the reason we only know it through Greek eyes is because we’re European-based, but no. The Persians, for all their great administrativeness, didn’t write much down outside of the necessary for business. They had statues and monuments and great cities but little written record.

    For example, most of what we know of one of Cyrus’s successors is from a single monument he erected explaining how he really was the rightful ruler, the guys he killed were impostors, etc. That’s all we get because that dude was unknown to the Greeks so they didn’t write anything about him, and the Persians certainly didn’t. It would be like if all we knew about Trajan was that column.

    Herodotus is the father of history for a reason. The Greeks like to spell things out in detail in writing. Highly verbal people.

    Later on, Julius Caesar was the first to give book-length propaganda reports about his war/political activities to shore up his position, and it worked fabulously to his legacy and to his immediate power. Caesar was precocious, a forerunner of all the long-winded writers of Europe later.

    Still, I keep hoping that one day we discover a vast treasure trove of writings from the Persian, Babylonian, Hittite, and/or Assyrian empires, buried en masse to keep them from being found by marauders. It would be interesting if a Robert Graves-type writer composed a fictional work of a “discovered” Persian history that gives an I, Claudius-type different take on the events of the time; perhaps one making Alexander’s victory look less amazing.

  161. Ian M. says:
    @Almost Missouri

    I’d take corporal punishment over diversity training any day of the week.

  162. @Ali Choudhury

    However, I think the claim that Medievals seldom bathed is false. That claim seems to have been cooked up by Renaissance intellectuals or perhaps later.

    https://www.medievalists.net/2013/04/did-people-in-the-middle-ages-take-baths/

    • Agree: Alden
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @BlackFlag
  163. @Old Prude

    I don’t think the iPod as iPod was so significant, but when the iPhone was invented, or at least in a second or third incarnation, it was actually just the same thing as an iPod with a cellular phone chip added.

    Back in those days I actually had an iPod which I had bought for a fraction of the price of an iPhone, and you could still use it for Skype calls with wifi and run all the apps that were available, because it was exactly the same thing as an iPhone except that it did not have a SIM card.

    In the end the smartphone microcomputer replaced the alarm clock, stopwatch, kitchen timer, the wrist watch, the music player, the Dictaphone, the tape recorder, the cassette player, the CD player, the camera, the newspaper, the book, the pornographic magazine, the library, the encyclopedia, the physician’s desk reference drug book, the map, the radio, the TV, satellite navigation systems, travel agencies, board games, poker rooms, and whole industries that were an integral part of life in the 20th century.

  164. BlackFlag says:
    @PhysicistDave

    I do wonder if the success of the West is due simply to a higher frequency of genes for Asperger’s.

    Edward Dutton calls it genius. He claims that the genius personality is a mix of low agreeableness, modest conscientiousness, extremely high IQ, and I guess some other stuff. Says this is based on going through the personalities of consensus geniuses. He claims that you find this phenotype mostly in European populations but that now fewer are being produced.

    https://geniusfamine.blogspot.com/

    What do you think?

  165. @anon

    “Traditionalists” churn this kind of boilerplate out without too much effort. It’s basically rewriting some passages from Guenon’s Crisis of the Modern World, with occasional updates for whatever the latest modern device is that offends them.

    Not that they don’t have distinguished predecessors. In fact, it goes back to Socrates, who bemoaned the invention of writing; books would not only impair our memories, but were literally “dumb” because you couldn’t interrogate them (a la the “Socratic method”)

    As you say, it was funny enough when Guenon was having books printed (and distributed by motor vehicles) and it’s still funny to read it on the internet. I like to add, as well, the point that like everyone who talks about ‘the master race’ believes he belongs to it, these guys always assume they’d be the wise men consulted by the king, rather than out in the fields hoeing rutabagas. Note that line about “the hallmark of members of smart but spiritually deficient castes,” pure Guenon: read my books and join the Brahmins!

    • Thanks: Mark G.
    • Replies: @Philo of Alexandria
  166. @RichardTaylor

    I think medievals liked to bathe but early moderns did not. Or something like that.

    • Replies: @Ian M.
  167. @R.G. Camara

    The Hebrews wrote about Cyrus the Great too.

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  168. During the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Early Modern Period, what were the literacy rates in the Ottoman Empire compared with Western Europe? Pretty much its taken for granted that literacy then up to and including the early 20th century (pre-Ataturk), Western Europe was far ahead and beyond the Ottoman Empire (and the Islamic world in general) regarding education, literacy, etc.

    One has to be interested in literacy, literature, learning, education etc and especially for one’s subjects to be better literate and not mired in ignorance, etc. Of course, one could state that by keeping one’s subjects illiterate and ignorant, the Sultans maintained their power base and a stronghold over their empire.

    The beginning of the end of Islam as a world dominant force can be traced to 1683, when they couldn’t conquer Vienna. From that point onward there wasn’t any doubt that the West was bigger, stronger, more technologically advanced, and of course, more literate and educated.

    Louis XIV of France had a great army and extended France to it’s present borders. Unlike the Sultan, he also cultivated education, (by building schools including the first for women), dramatists such as Moliere and Racine, poetry, as well as science and philosophy. Unlike the Sultans, Louis XIV (and other European monarchs) had a big picture theme for their people–to become better educated, literate, scientific discoveries, etc. Apathy means one does not care about the new developments in the world around them.

    Aside from their wars, battles, and of course White Slavery captives for their harems, etc. one really doesn’t think of the Ottoman Empire as a leader in the arts, in literature, in education, science, mathematics, etc. When a nation doesn’t take the lead vs its rivals in these fields, it tends to slowly decline into ignorance and backwardness. Basically all the Ottomans had was an army, especially if they had to ask Westerners like Leonardo and Michelangelo to help them out with building a bridge. Whereas if they had been cultivating their own creative talents, then they could’ve built it on their own.

    Why didn’t Muslims print books? (as opposed to Western Europe)

    To ask the question is to answer it.

    Historically, only one group is known as the People of the Book (and it ain’t Islam).

    • Replies: @James J O'Meara
  169. @Steve Sailer

    lol. D’oh! Forgot about that in the Bible. However, the vast majority of what we know of the Perisans was from the Greeks; the Hebrew accounts are a small part of it.

  170. MBlanc46 says:

    It was considered blasphemous to reduce the Holy Quran to type.

  171. Ian M. says:
    @DonutsMan

    That’s the standard narrative, though I don’t know how true it is. After all, after al-Ghazali, you had very influential thinkers such as Averroes (who wrote Incoherence of the Incoherence attacking al-Ghazali), al-Tusi, and especially Mulla Sadra (who is nearly 500 years after al-Ghazali).

    Dimitri Gutas has written about this (I haven’t read him myself). According to him, the reason it is erroneously thought that there was a decline after al-Ghazali is because Arabic works stopped being translated into Latin after this point, so the West was simply no longer aware of the intellectual development in the Arabic world. The Latin West had turned to Arabic sources in the 13th century for access to Aristotle. After this, however, the intellectual development in the West and the Islamic worlds diverged: the Latin West remained centered on Aristotle, while in the Islamic world, Avicenna displaced Aristotle as the primary influence on intellectual thought. With the Islamic philosophical tradition having lost interest in Aristotle, the Latin West lost interest in the Islamic philosophical tradition.

    It is interesting how some of the debates in 13th century Islam mirror the debates in 13th century Christendom, for example over the real distinction between essence and existence or over the analogy of being. Here we see the influence of Avicenna on both traditions.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  172. @photondancer

    Jason Jorjani always insists that most “Arab” or “Islamic” stuff is actually Persians under Islamic domination and using Arabic. Of course, he also thinks Persians invented everything else.

  173. Alden says:
    @photondancer

    Here’s an opinion I’ve always had. The greatest contribution to human civilization is war. Metallurgy, transport both vehicles and roads civil engineering bridges etc. from horse tack especially stirrups to the American highway system was sold to the taxpayers as a way to evacuate the cities and move troops around when the big bad Russians invaded. European railroads were designed with fast movement of troops in mind. First wheeled vehicles might have been war chariots instead of freight carts.

    Medicine and surgery especially plastic surgery WW1 blood transfusions had been thought of for centuries but WW1 British military Drs figured out how to test the types of blood. Meteorology for WW1 airplanes computers DARPA

    Napoleonic wars beet sugar margarine processed cheese and a truly revolutionary way of food storage, canned foods

    But the Big Bang would have been metal to make weapons and chain up prisoners of war for the slave market.

    Then there’s ships used for military invasions not civilian purposes. Movement of peoples. Han Chinese pressured the mongols who pushed the Celts Germans and Turks west. Military academies that emphases engineering and trigonometry and other artillery math.
    Not just medicine and surgery but sanitation and public health

    From the first caveman who made a stone tool specifically for bashing the enemies head in to the space race computers and the internet; it’s war that created human civilization

    Thanks for all the interesting information

    • Replies: @Prosa123
    , @photondancer
    , @anon
  174. @Twinkie

    1377 to be precise

    The 2nd to last column from left — 宣光七年丁巳
    宣光七年 7th year of Xuanguang Era
    丁巳 Sexagenary cycle – fire, yin, snake

    This is a transition period between Yuan and Ming, when the to-be Hongwu 洪武 (lit: massive martial) Emperor was at war with the other Heros 群雄 of Central China before his Northern Expedition against the Yuan.

    The Goryeo, in their History of Goryeo 고려사 高麗史, used Yuan Dynasty era names during this period of transition.

    The text itself is on Zen Buddhism 禅宗 (c: Chan, j: Zen, k: Seon)

  175. @Ghost of Bull Moose

    Most Muslims, when they want to study engineering, study it in English and less often in French or German, bar Indonesian which behaves like a Western language. In more ancient times they studied engineering in simplified Sanskrit or Hindustani to the point that engineering rapidly came to be called handasa : Indianizing, from Hind. Many Muslims write novels but novels are considered a Western genre to be written in a Western language or in Hindustani, writing one in Arabic they would feel as weird as using classical Arabic for rock and roll. The Qur’an seems encouraging towards the acquisition of knowledge but it must be preferably be acquired in its language of origin rather than in Arabic which should be used for Islamic and legislative matters, together with legit forms of poetry. Moreover most modern Arabs just don’t master written Arabic beyond a very low level of proficiency, they are generally better at written English or French when it comes to writing. Most of them master only one dialect and Arabs would be ashamed to write in dialect rather than at least a compromise between dialect and classical Arabic. So this does not mean that the Muslim world is underdeveloped, it has rather constantly be on the wrong side of bilingualism, which was generalized at all eras of their history no matter strong or weak their position. Last but not least, writing in Arabic exposes you to the judgement of so many self-styled Islamic critics and intellectual jihadis, an annoyance you escape from by having your work published geographically far from them even, and even especially when you write as an Islamic philosopher.

    • Thanks: S. Anonyia
  176. @Ian M.

    The Ayatollah Khomeini was a huge fan of Plato’s “Republic” and thus the modern Islamic Republic of Iran is the only government explicitly modeled on Plato’s philosopher-kings idea.

    • Thanks: Ian M.
    • Replies: @photondancer
  177. Ian M. says:
    @Steve Sailer

    What I’ve read (somewhere) is that this is correct: new clothing technology or material in the early modern age made it easier to wash clothes more frequently (or something), so early moderns didn’t think they needed to bathe themselves as often.

    I read that on the internet, so the usual caveats apply…

  178. Alden says:
    @Peter D. Bredon

    Most jobs are tedious desk jobs and are less dangerous to health and life than working with dangerous sharp farm tools, the fires necessary for metal smelting and metal work, unhealthy fumes, digging irrigation ditches in malarial swamps fishing and sailing urine and manure used for many things in the old days.

    I’d take calligraphy over farming fishing building and manufacturing jobs.

  179. a-non says:
    @Twinkie

    The world’s first movable type printing technology for paper books was made of porcelain materials and was invented around AD 1040 in China during the Northern Song Dynasty

    People say “movable type” as a shorthand. Sign-makers and cloth-printers had of course used movable wooden blocks since shortly after graduating from finger-painting. What Gutenberg developed was a system for making and setting large quantities of type. There’s a pretty clever two-piece mould that lets you cast a letter every few seconds, and they come out dead-uniform height. There are clever metal alloys that don’t shrink on cooling. These were key proto-industrial inventions that made printing suddenly useful.

    • Thanks: photondancer
    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
  180. @PiltdownMan

    That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  181. @Philo of Alexandria

    This does NOT mean that the Catholic Church was more intolerant or more obscurantist than the other religions and ideologies that were about to supersede its teaching, nor that the Catholic Church valued illiteracy as something positive for salvation. Actually obscurantism and anti-intellectualism have always characterized far more the anglo-saxon civilization (in its mass aspect) than the Italian one just to name one. Catholicism holds the pleasure taken at serious discussions to be a virtuous one, as part and parcel of the virtue of friendship, most contrary to the anglo-protestant mentality which consider them a loss of time, effort and ressources which should have been invested in economic survival or conquest.

    The invention of printing did not take place in Florence nor in other cities where the finest bloom of the Renaissance occurred. It took place mostly in Germany and other countries that most disapproved of the easy-going, open-minded and civilizing attitude characterizing Renaissance, it took place mostly for purposes of mass indoctrination to the point that the net effect of the generalization of printing and in particular of the access to relatively cheap printed matters to masses was fanaticism and moral intolerance as well as various points of view condemning most aesthetic and intellectual pursuits as vanities. The only thing that escaped that encompassing condemnation was money-making and politics as approached from a machiavellian point of view. Wherever in Italy proper printing became the first source of information rather than manuscript and direct conversation, Renaissance petered out right at that moment, as the medium amplified far more the voice of all Savonaroles rather than of of the Leonardos da Vinci. It took two centuries to make the printing word into a tool for the diffusion of critical thought. Most major inventions are underlined by evil intentions.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  182. Prosa123 says:
    @Alden

    Two major civil disasters that happened during wars led to medical advances that benefitted combat casualties. Treatment of severe burns took a major leap forward following 1942’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston. Almost certainly, these advances help saved the lives of many combat burn victims.
    In 1917, at least 300 people watching a burning ship in Halifax harbor from their houses were left blind when the ship exploded and the shockwave shattered windows and blew the glass into their faces. This led to major advances in rehabilitation and occupational therapy for the blind, which came in very handy for the large number of soldiers blinded by WWI’s gas attacks.

  183. @Alden

    That’s an impressive list, I think you’re definitely onto something. At the very least war or military ambition acts as a big spur to innovation.

    You’re in good company. Isaac Asimov had a similar idea which formed the basis for his short story In a Good Cause as well as driving much of the first Foundation, although in both stories it’s more people trying to avoid war because they’re weak.

  184. @Francis Miville

    But Venice printed the most books by 1500, followed by Paris and Rome. Florence was way behind, but Vasari’s “Lives of the Painters” cemented the reputation of the Florentines while Venetian artists tended to be less distinct personalities due to lack of a really good book pro-Venice book.

  185. Anon[237] • Disclaimer says:

    To have a need and a market for printing, you have to have stuff to print that can be legally distributed. I wonder if there was a problem here? In the introduction to the Lyons translation of the full Arabian Nights (Penguin, recommended, three volumes) they explain that all modern versions of the work have to be cobbled together from various sources because vernacular literature was only passed around underground.

    The main sources are an Arabic version that the British prepared for use in an Arabic language school in India (called Calcutta II), and the French Galland version for stuff not in Calcutta II, like Aladdin and Ali Baba and Sindbad.

    There were undoubtedly other Araabian Nights tales that have been lost.

    By the way, the phenomenon of the white man or colonizer being responsible for perserving the traditional culture of other peoples is pretty common. Most Native American culture comes right out of anthropology books from the late 19th and early 20th century. There was a gap where a few generations were not interested, then all of a sudden later generation recreated things from books. There was little continuity. Similarly, Joel Chandler Harris’s adaptations of black trickster and Br’er Rabbit tales preserved a lot of stuff that blacks themselves never wrote down and that was forgotten across the generations. Harris’s stuff had to be “blackwashed” through plagiarized, uncredited copies by black writers before it could make its way back into black culture.

    You could say that the Japanese preservation of American prep fashion in their magazines and books, particularly the book “Take Ivy,” was a reverse example of this. The Japanese and the French also were nuts about Levis jeans, and the authenticity revival owes a lot to them and their anal retentive reference/history books.

    • Replies: @photondancer
  186. @Philo of Alexandria

    Tokugawa Japan is a good illustration of how a functioning traditional society can respond to this kind of threat.

    Yeah, not having wheeled transportation was real cool.

  187. syonredux says:
    @Jack D

    The anecdote that I was referring to was pre-internet. Chinese has a tough writing system…..All those characters to memorize…

  188. @S. Anonyia

    S. Anonyia wrote to me:

    The idea of the lonely, misunderstood, and obsessive genius is post-industrial concept. A myth developed during the romantic era, and later amplified by obnoxious Hollywood, probably because it creates more tension in the story.

    Well… I have a bachelor’s from Caltech. I counted as a guy really experienced with the girls at Caltech because I had actually dated a girl in high school (two girls in fact). Most Caltech guys had still never dated a girl when they graduated from Caltech.

    And at Stanford, most of my friends were grad students in STEM — other physics students or a few engineers. Much the same.

    Sorry, but if you have not noticed that high-performing STEM guys tend to be Aspergery, both in our society and historically, you do not get around much or read much. Simon Baron-Cohen, one of the world’s experts on the spectrum, has said that of course all theoretical physicists are essentially Aspergery! His claim certainly matches what I have observed as a theoretical physicist myself.

    • Replies: @S. Anonyia
  189. @James J O'Meara

    Why would you assume that I think I’m anything in particular at all? I’m not talking about myself. I’m telling you there’s a way everyone in Eurasia did things (with mostly incremental change) for about ten millennia until the merchants and technicians came to rule the West, at which point the West had an incredible expansion followed by what looks to be an equally astonishing collapse. In the process of this expansion, the alternative (modern) mode of existence was transmitted to several other ancient civilizations which have taken on very different shapes. Case in point is China, whose traditional civilization appears to have been erased in large measure (maybe the old Chinese diaspora of the pacific islands is different).

    “Lol you don’t think technological development has been costless but YOU USE TECHNOLOGY!!” is an idiotic “argument.” My point isn’t that it is wrong in principle to use a computer. It’s that getting to a world with computers also meant getting to a world in which you worship George Floyd instead of God. Maybe there was another way to do it, but as I suggested above, it would have required something like the exercise of all-pervasive superintendence by the Catholic Church (which it did not have the capacity to do at outset of modernity and perhaps never really in its entire history).

    You guys who want liberal modernism without the Floyd cult, gynocratic social order, infertility and replacement via immigration, etc. don’t have a leg to stand on. And you don’t have a credible account of why people didn’t come up with something as straightforward as moveable type in the millennia of written history preceding its “invention” (let alone why Muslims didn’t adopt it for a while).

    • Agree: Ian M.
    • Replies: @James J O'Meara
  190. Islam means submission to God. That’s all you need to know.

    • Replies: @James J O'Meara
  191. @R.G. Camara

    Caesar was certainly a concise writer and could turn a phrase.

    He said:

    I love treason but hate a traitor

    Does anyone know what he meant by that? I can take a guess but I don’t find anything online. I’m guessing he means he loves treason by among the enemy but still hates the people who commit it.

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  192. Mark G. says:
    @anonymous

    But, that is still better that the spiritual retardation across the entire non-Islamic world.

    If you are a believer in the Hereafter, you may understand.

    So are you saying the printing press should have been banned in Christian countries like it was by the Ottomans? How many people in the non-Islamic world would really desire to live in the Islamic world? The majority of immigration appears to be Muslims trying to get into non-Muslim countries rather than vice versa. Many of them are coming here for the higher material standard of living but never really ponder whether the economic backwardness they are fleeing from is linked to the repressive nature of Islam. They seem to want to keep their religious beliefs while at the same they want to enjoy the material benefits of the modern era that started with the European Enlightenment. It may not be possible to have both and people may have to pick one or the other.

  193. anon[363] • Disclaimer says:
    @Alden

    Alden-2 is more interesting than Alden-1 as a rule, but not necessarily more accurate.

  194. @Bardon Kaldian

    It goes way beyond Prometheus, triumphant materialism just discarded the ‘theistic hypotheses’ as useless and archaic, a shameful intellectual embarrassment like kids fairy tales having no bearing on the materialistic triumph over phenomena. Only the West overthrew their Gods, Islam still crawls in the dirt in abject subjugation to theirs.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  195. Moses says:
    @Twinkie

    Yet, despite this early advantage, East Asia did not undergo the knowledge revolution that Western Europe did.

    Similar to how the Chinese invented explosive black powder first, but it was Europeans who figured out to use it to make guns.

    The Asian population mean for curiosity, exploration and experimentation is lower than the European one. I dunno why that is, but evidence suggests it so.

    I always think of the Danish astronomer who calculated the speed of light by observing the positions of Jupiter’s moons throughout the year in the late 1700s. He didn’t make money on that, and it was of no practical value. He was just a curious man with a wealthy benefactor.

    I know of no similar counterpart(s) in Chinese history (although admittedly I’m no Chinese intellectual history scholar). My understanding is Chinese knew the motions of the planets and stars well, but lacked interest in digging deeper to explain “why”. They’re just not as curious, on average, about how things work.

    The observation squares with my personal experiences doing business in Asia. I found there isn’t much to fear from most Asian competitors. They rarely innovate, prefer to copy slavishly. Again, little original thinking despite considerable brain processing power. It was easy to compete with them.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  196. anon[344] • Disclaimer says:
    @Philo of Alexandria

    Chacon a son gout, dude.

  197. Some links:

    https://www.thefridaytimes.com/origins-of-islams-crises
    https://web.archive.org/web/2020*/https://www.thefridaytimes.com/origins-of-islams-crises
    Origins of Islam’s crises
    Iqbal Jafar
    June 19, 2015
    »In 1515 the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, persuaded by the influential clerics of the realm, issued a decree that imposed death penalty on anyone using a printing press, invented in Germany in 1455, to print books in Turkish or Arabic. The ban remained in force for the next 270 years, till 1784, except for an attempt to circumvent the ban in 1729.«

    »The ban on the printing press was not the only ban to reckon with. There were other bans, taboos and restrictions which, compounded by sheer lack of curiosity, placed the Ottoman Empire in a self-imposed intellectual quarantine. It worked in devious ways. An astronomical observatory, the best in Asia, was demolished in 1580, not long after its construction, at the insistence of the then Shaikh-ul-Islam who argued that prying into the secrets of the heavens was blasphemous. Import of European wares was permissible, but export was forbidden. European ideas and innovations (except those connected with warfare) were discouraged, hence the opposition even to the new European methods to contain plague.«

    https://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2009/03/07/printing-banned-by-islam
    https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2009/03/07/printing-banned-by-islam
    Printing banned by Islam?
    Roger Pearse

    Chambers Edinburgh Journal p. 44, 1848
    »The Sultan Bajazet II. issued a decree in 1483 forbidding the use of printed books by the Turks, under penalty of death. This decree was afterwards confirmed by his son Selim I. in 1515, and implicitly obeyed by the Mohammedans, with equal ignorance and fanaticism, until the eighteenth century, when, in the reign of Achmet III., Seid-Effendi, who had accompanied his father, the ambassador, to the court of Louis XV. in 1720, was so much struck with the advantages of printing, that he determined his own country should participate in them. For the attainment of this object he employed the services of a Hungarian renegade, who was subsequently surnamed Basmadjy—’ the Printer.’ A memorial was drawn up, by means of which the grand vizier, Ibrahim Pacha, an enlightened protector of literature, obtained a favourable edict from the sultan. But fearful of wounding the religious scruples of his subjects, and of alarming the numerous class of copyists, Achmet forbade the printing of the Koran, the oral laws of the Prophet, the commentaries on these works, and books on jurisprudence—leaving to the industry of the printers philosophical, medical, astronomical, geographical, historical, and other scientific works. The renegade was placed at the head of the new establishment, but the national character was against him ; and notwithstanding his activity, at the time of his death, which happened in 1746, he had not been able to print more than sixteen works. The first was a Turkish and Arabic dictionary, 2 vols. folio, of which the impression was completed in 1729; the price was fixed at thirty- five piastres, by order of the sultan. In the following year a Turkish grammar appeared, a copy of which, with each leaf of a different colour, is still in existence.«

    Summary:
    » This data seems to make quite clear that printing was not allowed to take place before 1727, despite the repeated importunity of foreigners who could see the opportunity to make a fortune.

    Whether the ban was effectuated by a firman by Beyazit II and Selim I – and a firman only lasted for the reign of the Sultan – or by some other extra-legal process – is perhaps a technical detail. The point is that there was plainly a ban in practical effect.«

    • Thanks: photondancer
  198. @Almost Missouri

    > And [the Ottoman Empire] was not particularly technologically backward, judging by its success in warfare.

    They hired experts in military technology abroad, particularly from Europe, France, Italy, Hungary. Not much tech imports in other areas after the 10th c., as leading Islamic scholars had convened that anything permissible to be learned from heathens and dhimmi had been learned at the time.

  199. @PhysicistDave

    You’re describing anecdotal experiences in a specific, historically novel, and somewhat sheltered environment with ample resources. Anecdotally, I happen to know a lot of engineers and even a few physicists, including relatives and in-laws retired from NASA, and they have pretty normal interests and personalities (family, boating, travel, golf). Would only classify one individual (a physicist) as on the spectrum. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference between the South and California. All beside the point, though…

    The traits that sometimes enable success in modern STEM careers aren’t necessarily the same traits responsible for the rise of the West (your original claim). Technological advancement tangential to warfare, competition for trade, and artistic creativity seem to be better explanations, though still incomplete. Premodern and Early Modern scientists, composers, artists, writers, inventors etc. usually required patrons to accomplish anything. Coffee houses and salons were venues to exchange ideas. These people were not single-minded social pariahs.

    Prevalence of Aspergers is likely exaggerated anyway (it’s trendy diagnosis). People are starting to use it as a substitute for disagreeableness.

  200. @Jack D

    “Arabs are sort of like Mexicans – they are just not interested in intellectual type stuff. They find school to be boring.”

    They’re IQ’s are more suited to jobs that are repetitive and physical, like farm work, assembly lines, construction and transportation and cargo handling.

    • Replies: @anon
    , @James J O'Meara
  201. @RichardTaylor

    Many generals used spies and bribes and hated it. Robert E. Lee, a man of great honor, knew he needed his spies but was utterly disgusted by them and what they did.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  202. Let’s not be to concerned about the Arabs.

    They know how to control there women folk.

    There families are intact.

    There lands are not being overrun.

    They have no doubts regarding there spirituality and there way of life.

    I’d say they are doing pretty good!!

    ”Doubt is for westerners”
    TE Lawrence

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @anon
  203. @Jus' Sayin'...

    “BTW, it’s interesting that the Arabs I have known make the same complaint about traditional western concert hall music. They regard the sonata allegro form as a boring repetition of the same theme over and over and over. In contrast non-western music, and Arabic music in particular involves the constant introduction of new themes over time. At least this is what my inormants claim.”

    Perhaps they lack the intellectual capacity to appreciate the music of higher forms of man. They’re own music is ghastly and primitive.

  204. @R.G. Camara

    “Jewish Enlightenment”

    You mean the New York feminist movement?

  205. @Grahamsno(G64)

    Protagoras: Man is the measure ….

    • Agree: Grahamsno(G64)
  206. @Anon

    Agreed. I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve read an article about some group of people rediscovering their lost or near-lost language thanks to the painstaking labour of white anthropologists to record it. Without exception, these articles put all the blame for these people dropping their language in the first place on white people. Cos, you know, we infest houses and drop from the rafters onto anyone speaking a forbidden tongue.

    • Replies: @Peter D. Bredon
  207. @S. Anonyia

    You make fair points. I used to work in I.T. and most people I worked with were pretty normal, though perhaps more logical and meticulous than the norm. I see a lot of self-diagnosed Aspergers online and it’s hard to escape the suspicion it can be an excuse for or rationalisation of poor social skills (or, as you say, a predilection for being rude).

    To be fair though, Physicist Dave made his comment about high functioning STEM people which I took to mean he was thinking of the ones who make or made breakthroughs.

  208. @S. Anonyia

    S. Anonyia wrote to me:

    The traits that sometimes enable success in modern STEM careers aren’t necessarily the same traits responsible for the rise of the West (your original claim).

    I was mainly addressing the rise of Western science. Read Huff’s book. Read a decent history of chemistry such as John Hudson’s book. Top quality Western scientists being very, very nerdy goes back to at least the seventeenth century.

    S. Anonyia also wrote:

    Anecdotally, I happen to know a lot of engineers and even a few physicists, including relatives and in-laws retired from NASA, and they have pretty normal interests and personalities (family, boating, travel, golf).

    Good engineers, much less physicists, have not aspired to work for NASA for a very, very long time. And being nerdy does not prevent one from enjoying travel, gold, etc.! But top-flight STEM people are invariably obsessed about STEM at a level that strikes most neuro-typical people as being very, very weird.

    I have known a number of Nobel laureates: have you? My interactions with STEM people at top ten schools (Stanford and Caltech) was extensive enough to be more than statistically significant. It sounds as if you have not had similar statistically significant experiences.

    Frankly, you also sound as if you are extremely Aspergery yourself but so lacking in self-perception that you can see it neither in yourself nor in others.

    S. Anonyia also wrote:

    Prevalence of Aspergers is likely exaggerated anyway (it’s trendy diagnosis). People are starting to use it as a substitute for disagreeableness.

    I was using it in the colloquial sense to mean really nerdy. Although Baron-Cohen, one of the world’s experts on the autism spectrum, agrees with me.

    Read Huff’s book. Read Hudson’s book. Read Baron-Cohen’s books. And if you still think that top-flight STEM people are not obsessively nerdy, well then your ignorance is truly invincible.

    And indeed pretty funny, since any college sophomore can tell you how Aspergery the STEM guys on campus are!

    • Replies: @nebulafox
  209. J.Ross says:
    @3g4me

    Is it automatic when you’re inventing it?

  210. Anonymous[209] • Disclaimer says:
    @R.G. Camara

    The Japanese had a similar attitude. Samurai regarded ninjas with distaste. Spying and assassination were necessary but dishonorable.

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  211. @S. Anonyia

    It is meaningless to rely on personal experiences re these matters. Just read reliable biographies of great scientists in past, say, 200- 300 years & you’ll notice that virtually no one, except a few individuals like Dirac, had possessed traits that could be considered Aspergery.

    From alcoholic ecstasies of W.Rowan Hamilton and grounded and sex-charged family man Gauss through Einstein’s humor & sociability to Heisenberg’s joy of living & opportunism – no Asperger anywhere.

    • Agree: S. Anonyia
    • Replies: @JMcG
  212. JMcG says:
    @ChrisZ

    Thanks, I’ve meant to watch this for some time now, and you’ve jarred my memory.

  213. @China Japan and Korea Bromance of Three Kingdoms

    It’s possible to have a Gedankenexperiment of where East Asian civilization would be without encountering the West, for its only significant non-autochthonous component was Buddhism, introduced during in Han-Tang transition.

    So maybe C/J/K (my money is on J) discovers calculus and modern physics right around now? Is not too unreasonable? About four to five centuries slower.

    And maybe it takes us another five centuries to get to general relativity as opposed to the three that it took for whites.

    It is however totally anachronistic have the same thought experiment with “whites“, for—

    1. The Cradle of Western Civilization was Greece, which itself was stemmed from Ancient Near East

    2. After the Fall of Western Roman Empire, Classical learning was partly preserved by Byzantines/Arabs/Persians, hence Renaissance after the Fall of Constantinople and exodus of Eastern Roman scholars

    3. The Germanic tribes, who largely founded the Protestant West, while displaying immense potential as testified by Tacitus, were largely illiterate until times of Charlemagne (AD 800), and through High Middle Ages studied in Greek and Arabic

    4. The basis of the European Miracle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Divergence on non-autochthonous inventions— paper, gunpowder, compass, Hindu-Arabic numerals

    The question isn’t so much why East Asia fell behind, so much as why Whites surged ahead, and now somewhat exhausted.

  214. @Redneck farmer

    Gotcha 😛

    Hay is an intelligent extension of lactose tolerance, making it doublepluswayciss !!!

    My 3c …

    – blasting powder
    – flotation
    – pneumatic drill

    (I swear it is coincidence all three are German, but I still remember when the Russians had invented everything also 😀 )

  215. @R.G. Camara

    fewer females reading, fewer females demanding things to be read, fewer men with headaches trying to find things for the woman to read to just leave him alone,

    • Replies: @Peter D. Bredon
  216. Anon[278] • Disclaimer says:
    @Hapalong Cassidy

    A cursory Google search reveals that the Korean Hangul alphabet was invented in 1443, roughly the same time as the Gutenberg press. The Hangul alphabet is phonetic, and has between 30-40 characters, so it would have been ideal for a printing press developed concurrently with the Gutenberg press. Before that though, the Koreans were using Chinese characters. With its thousands of non-phonetic pictograms, Chinese writing wouldn’t have made it to the printing press by that time.

    The Chinese had been making extensive use of printing presses for several hundred years by that time. What they weren’t using was movable type. They used block printing.

    Block printing, obviously, completely removes the problem of letters having different forms. You carve the image you want on the wood, and then you print it.

    Note that the Muslim world is geographically between China and Europe; it makes more sense to ask why printing wasn’t adopted from China than why it wasn’t adopted from Europe.

  217. @Dieter Kief

    Yes, we got this from both sides of the family, Greek and Hebrew. If one considers the crazy quilt Bismarck forged into Deutschland perhaps it’s more of an Allemagne thing than particular to any specific culture.

    The mistake Europe made was letting that rivalry bleed into the existential. See: Cain and Abel.

    Raising twins sheds a whole new light on the Brotherhood of Man.

  218. Wielgus says:
    @bomag

    A scholar commenting on 17th century writer John Aubrey’s compilation Brief Lives, full of fascinating though often rumour-based stories about well-known people, noted that in Aubrey’s time people tended not to separate work and leisure the way they do today. People into mathematics, classical languages or other branches of study often had a tendency to overdo it, in much the same ways others might overdo alcohol, gambling or sexual activity.

  219. anonymous[251] • Disclaimer says:

    Thanks Steve Sailer – yeah, this works well for Westerners to be on guard in our clash of civilizations with world Islam as world Islam will/is pushing us to the cliff of an Islam dominated dark age where we won’t have good or any books.

    Making extremist Islam or just “Islam” the #1 propaganda enemy works in places like Switzerland (The Swiss People’s Party) in Hungary and Poland.

    It sort of worked for Donald Trump when he proposed a Muslim immigrant ban but that got pushed aside when Trump foolishingly made his Jewish son in law Jared Kushner the gate keeper to the Trump administration.

    Unz review readers should all know that any immigration restrictions, including restricting Muslim terrorists are all taboo once Jewish advisers be they Liberal, Neo Conservative, Libertarian take over any government, any media. I’m not sure how long we’ll have free speech to discuss, oppose the Muslim migrant invasions of the West in the Unz Review.

    Here’s a Farstar comic we commissioned that just “noticed’ that idiot Hollywood Libs like Michael Moore are on the same side as the worst Islamists. Why do they do this? They both hate us.

    https://images.app.goo.gl/RC39UmQLEboqdUYW8

    J Ryan
    The Political Cesspool

  220. @S. Anonyia

    For every aspergerish historical European inventor or “great man” there were far more neurotypical but intelligent ones whose conversational skills would probably put most modern professionals to shame. Social connections were a big deal in premodern times. Kind of hard to maintain patronage if you’re unable to communicate what you’re doing to your noble or wealthy sponsors.

    But this did indeed happen.

    But this engine, along with Papin’s several other inventions for the Landgrave – a blowing machine, a steam boat, a steam cannon – never went beyond the prototype stage, and Papin felt himself increasingly beset by enemies in Marburg. After an accident with his steam cannon in 1707 wounded several notables, he decided to be quit of the place. After an unpleasant voyage in which his prototype steamship was confiscated and destroyed by boatmen jealous of their guild privileges, he washed up again in London. His former patron Boyle having died many years since, Papin fell into destitution and died himself sometime after January 1712, when the last written evidence of his life was recorded.

    https://technicshistory.com/2021/05/05/the-pumping-engine/

    There’s a surprising amount of history where the inventors largely did not profit from their developments, and sometimes were not even popularized. Their knowledge, fortunately, was often not lost and communicated to a future generation but many did not profit from their work, and certainly not in proportion to what they contributed to humanity.

    This idea has also been explored by autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen:

    Why can humans alone invent? In The Pattern Seekers, Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen makes a case that autism is as crucial to our creative and cultural history as the mastery of fire. Indeed, Baron-Cohen argues that autistic people have played a key role in human progress for seventy thousand years, from the first tools to the digital revolution.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  221. Zimriel says:

    I looked up the first Imperial-Aramaic printing press (that script best known for postexilic Hebrew). Abraham ben Hayyim dei Tintori, or Dei Pinti, AD 1473. Arabic can be rendered in this script – the ancestor, through Nabataean, to Arabic script – and somewhat famously has been so rendered. But only for Jews.
    This tends to support that the printing press is something that Muslims simply didn’t want.

  222. anon[825] • Disclaimer says:
    @Joe Paluka

    They’re IQ’s are more suited to jobs that are repetitive and physical, like farm work, assembly lines, construction and transportation and cargo handling.

    Don’t know if true but these are useful and needed unlike
    those who read and “generously” give Frankfurt School-type
    products; “think tank” jobs; and “scholarly” emptiness.

    Those graduating from elite institutions seem to devolve
    and to devolve society unlike the manual workers who
    continue society as a life-giving, healthy experience.

    Our intellectuals reduce life into fakery. Unpretentious, ordinary Joe is real.

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @Joe Paluka
  223. @Moses

    Similar to how the Chinese invented explosive black powder first, but it was Europeans who figured out to use it to make guns.

    Well, not exactly. Fire lances and other protoguns existed in China: the great European innovation with gunpowder was corning, but really it was the entire ecosystem in Europe that benefitted the development of guns: improved barrels, precise lock mechanisms, and in my opinion, a much better system of “understanding of the world” that encouraged knowledge as a kind of holiness.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeticism

    In 1964, Frances A. Yates advanced the thesis that Renaissance Hermeticism, or what she called “the Hermetic tradition”, had been a crucial factor in the development of modern science. While Yates’s thesis has since been largely rejected, the important role played by the ‘Hermetic’ science of alchemy in the thought of such figures as Jan Baptist van Helmont (1580–1644), Robert Boyle (1627–1691) or Isaac Newton (1642–1727) has been amply demonstrated.

    https://www.micahredding.com/blog/francis-bacon-christian-transhumanist/

    For Francis Bacon, science was no less than humanity’s religious mission. He believed you could read this right out of Genesis 1, where God laid out his own creative process, and then invited humanity to imitate it.

    As Bacon saw it, God had ordained for humanity to rule over the world, and although humanity had corrupted its reign through wickedness, humanity’s reign could be restored through the ambitious, but disciplined, application of humility and love.

    It’s important to understand how he saw this fitting together.

    Humanity’s power, Bacon said, was knowledge. To know the world was to have power over it. So in order to exercise all the power that God had intended for us to have, we first had to understand everything we could about the world that God had made.

    China has a kind of anti-intellectualism instead, which largely made it difficult for first principles to ever develop, as only only inductive rather than deductive reason was used with any frequency.

    • Agree: Twinkie
    • Replies: @Jack D
  224. Jack D says:
    @Ali the Ayyrab

    ”Doubt is for westerners”

    Apparently so is spelling.

  225. @Daniel Chieh

    I’ve skimmed though it & all I can say is- this is a self-promoting pop-science.

    Baron Cohen is, if we judge him from this book, clueless about human history & people who made most “inventions” (to call it that). The book is, roughly, intersection of 3 or 4 segments: his scientific work on autism; his speculations on development of human cognitive abilities 70,000 – 100,000 years ago; assortative mating (a rather small part) & his observations, or communication he received about types of behavior of some people,now, in NASA, MIT or similar institutions.

    His speculations on pre-history are entertaining, but of no importance. He is, in this respect, similar to Hegel or Marx, who applied their simplistic central ideas to vast areas of human history & life, conveniently ignoring everything that didn’t fit into their Procrustean bed. Baron Cohen is a specialist in autism, and not in- how to call it?- human mind & rational thinking. Of course, there is no specialization in “human mind”. He sees autism wherevere he looks. Sorry, but this is funny.

    Then, he speaks of “inventors”. It is not clear what he meant by that term. Does it include scientists? Philosophers? Artists? Any type of cognitive achievement, including the military leaders & history shapers, like Caesar or Napoleon?

    Characteristically, Baron Cohen didn’t include any significant historical figure that could fit his agenda, except a few people that could actually be some kind of Asperger or autistic types, at least at some level- for instance, Newton.

    What is highly characteristic of this disorder are traits like – I’ll quote Britannica:

    Asperger syndrome, a neurobiological disorder characterized by autism-like abnormalities in social interactions but with normal intelligence and language acquisition.
    ……………………………………….
     In contrast to patients with autism, individuals with Asperger syndrome usually do not have major cognitive difficulties—their IQ is in the normal or even high range—and they do not exhibit a delay in language acquisition. However, children with Asperger syndrome do display repetitive behaviour patterns similar to those observed in children with autism, and they often avoid eye contact, have poor control over fine motor movements, giving an impression of clumsiness, and have an obsessive interest in a single object, such as a computer or a type of car. This obsession generally manifests as a persistent desire to learn and to speak only about the object. Children with Asperger syndrome may become upset when instructed to focus on a task not related to their obsession and when their day-to-day routines are disrupted even in only minor ways, such as drinking from a cup that differs in colour or texture from the cup the child normally uses. Some individuals with Asperger syndrome also are affected by anxiety and depression in adolescence and adulthood.
    ………………………………………………………………
    In the absence of a formal diagnosis, individuals affected by Asperger syndrome may be perceived as simply absentminded, socially and physically awkward, or highly intelligent.

    So, metaphorical use of “absent mindedness” could be automatically labeled as Aspergery? If this is not quack science, I don’t know what it is.

    Many introverts are absent minded, physically clumsy & highly intelligent (in their areas). Just- they have nothing to do with autism or similar disorders. What Aspies lack is, generally speaking: empathy, social skills, capability of warm human contact, broad field of interest & enjoyment in many areas of life, as well as capability for deep friendship. In short, Aspies are short in areas of love & wisdom.

    Anyone who knows about lives of Aristotle, Avicenna, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Shakespeare, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume, Huygens, Hegel, Bach, Beethoven, W. Rowan Hamilton, Lagrange, Watt, Lavoisier, Gauss, Helmholtz, Marx, Tolstoy, Wagner, Mendeleev, Cantor, Einstein, Hilbert, Poincare, Planck, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Feynman … will dismiss his “theories”.

    Perhaps only Newton, Cavendish, Dirac and a few others could be classified as having a sort of autism disorder, at least partially.

    So what Baron Cohen writes in this book is a reductionist speculation.

    • Replies: @photondancer
  226. Wielgus says:
    @Colin Wright

    Wars can produce dramatic technological leaps, probably because those concerned want them to and will make the effort.
    WW2 started off with many warplanes still being biplanes. By the end, six years later, the Jet Age was coming in.

  227. Wielgus says:
    @Colin Wright

    First books printed in Poland in the 1470s. Many of those involved seem to have been Germans. The first printing press in Moscow was not until the 1550s.

  228. Jack D says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    but really it was the entire ecosystem in Europe that benefitted the development of guns: improved barrels, precise lock mechanisms,

    There are many instances in history where something is invented or discovered (often in a non-European country or else by some spergy guy) but then the invention or discovery goes nowhere because the inventor doesn’t have the complete package of skills and/or does not live in a society that is capable of capitalizing on the invention. The basic invention means little if you don’t have the necessary skills to turn the invention into something that is widely used. (The history of invention is replete with stories of lone inventors who are unable to turn their invention into a marketable product. )

    REALLY earth shaking inventions are accompanied by the full ecosystem that you mention. Gutenberg didn’t just “invent” movable type, he created a complete system for financing the production of and producing books (and not just any books – to this day the Gutenberg Bible is among the most beautiful books ever printed). Not just movable type but a method for inexpensively casting thousands of pieces of type from a matrix instead of hand carving each letter. The ink, the paper, the binding, the decoration, etc. Edison (unlike that black guy) didn’t just “invent” the light bulb – he created and obtained the considerable financing needed to build a complete ecosystem for generating electricity, bringing it to homes and businesses, standardizing all the fittings so they could be mass produced, making it easy for people to replace their own bulbs when they burned out, billing people for their usage, etc. (many aspects of which survive to this day). Just getting a filament to glow is not nearly enough.

    • Agree: Johann Ricke, Twinkie
    • Replies: @anon
    , @Anonymous
  229. @a-non

    What Gutenberg developed was a system for making and setting large quantities of type. There’s a pretty clever two-piece mould that lets you cast a letter every few seconds, and they come out dead-uniform height. There are clever metal alloys that don’t shrink on cooling. These were key proto-industrial inventions that made printing suddenly useful.

    This is absolutely spot-on, to the best of my knowledge. Gutenberg had been a goldsmith, hence was a skilled worker in metals. The technology of casting type was his real invention. The press, and books printed from wood blocks, were already known in Europe by his time. The movable type attributed to the Chinese or the Koreans was not mass-produced.

    The key to the success of printing in Europe was Gutenberg’s method of cutting steel punches of the various letter-forms, which were then struck into brass matrices, enabling type to be cast from the eutectic alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, in moulds suited to quick production. And, as you point out, type metal does not shrink on cooling, enabling sharp and uniform casts to be made of the matrices. Printer’s type made using these techniques was, if not indeed first, certainly among the first mass-produced and relatively precisely manufactured industrial products.

    It is really somewhat amazing that this technique remained the state of the art technology for centuries. In the 20th century, type was still capable of being cast from matrices made in the 16th – 17th centuries and used successfully for printing. Stanley Morrison (1889 – 1967) of Monotype took casts of matrices at the Musée Plantin-Moretus and patterned several typefaces of his own design after them. The Oxford University Press revived the use of type cast from matrices brought from Holland by Dr. John Fell in the 1670s.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  230. The history remains hazy, in part because, you know, the Ottomans didn’t print much.

    Lol

    C’mon, Steve. Seriously?

    My vague impression is that Muslims really liked their handwritten Korans.

    Your vague impression would be correct not only for The Qur’an, but for all manuscripts. Moreover, the cultural and economic impact upon copyist guilds should not be understated:

    Myths and reality about the printing press in the Ottoman Empire

    https://www.dailysabah.com/feature/2015/06/08/myths-and-reality-about-the-printing-press-in-the-ottoman-empire

    Yet, the Turks did not like books that were printed in the printing houses, but rather preferred hand-written ones. The published books lacked the art and grace of hand-written books. Ottoman intellectuals, who were keen on aesthetics, enjoyed books written with elegant handwriting and whose ink shined, along with edges that were ornamented with golden gilt and covers that were made with care. Reading books was not only a necessity, but also a pleasure. Besides, there were many calligraphy artists who copied plenty of books rapidly. All these people could be out of a job. On top of that, those who were keen on books belonged to a certain class, just as today.

    What was true for the Ottomans was also true for the other Muslim lands you reference.

    • Replies: @photondancer
  231. @ChrisZ

    I’d further qualify that with “Roman or Greek alphabet. Having barely twenty-something letters [the Latin alphabet didn’t have a “J” or a “Y”] – to memorize, plus having them relatively simple rather than the hundreds or thousands of fuzzy pictographs used in other languages – enabled literacy to spread much faster. Three-year old’s can learn the English alphabet; toys especially blocks have the letters everywhere so that children come into contact with them while their brains are very plastic. Being able to form words from [largely] phonetic symbols makes reading and writing easier. There was no standard spelling in use until relatively recently; I believe the Mayflower Compact has the settlement of what is now Plymouth, MA spelled as “Plimoth” and that can still be found at the entrace of the tourist trap known as “Plimoth Plantation.” In any event, we have tens of thousands of words and word forms created with 26 letters. Alternate spellings are generally confined to homonyms such as “blue” and “blew” and in text that does make comprehension easier.

  232. anon[374] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jack D

    There are many instances in history where something is invented or discovered (often in a non-European country or else by some spergy guy) but then the invention or discovery goes nowhere because the inventor doesn’t have the complete package of skills and/or does not live in a society that is capable of capitalizing on the invention.

    There was an American Army soldier who escaped from the Imperial Japanese in the Philippines in mid 1942. He fled as far as he could, and wound up living with a tribe way up in the hills, people who were pretty much hunter-gatherers. Being bored he decided to create The Wheel for them, and got it right, axle and all.

    Wheels aren’t very useful in the jungle. His creation wound up being a toy that the tribal children played around with in the clearings.

  233. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi

    “Louis XIV of France had a great army and extended France to it’s present borders. Unlike the Sultan, he also cultivated education, (by building schools including the first for women), dramatists such as Moliere and Racine, poetry, as well as science and philosophy. Unlike the Sultans, Louis XIV (and other European monarchs) had a big picture theme for their people–to become better educated, literate, scientific discoveries, etc. Apathy means one does not care about the new developments in the world around them.”

    This stinks like the Enlightenment. Clearly, here is where the rot set it. Educating women! Spreading literacy, scientific discoveries! The inevitable consequence is Drag Queen Story Hour and the like. At least that’s what E Michael Jones tells us.

  234. The history remains hazy, in part because, you know, the Ottomans didn’t print much.

    Handwritten archival material as well as oral history suffices in this case.

    My vague impression is that Muslims really liked their handwritten Korans.

    Your vague impression would be correct not only for The Qur’an, but for all manuscripts. Moreover, the cultural and economic impact upon copyist guilds should not be understated:

    Myths and reality about the printing press in the Ottoman Empire

    https://www.dailysabah.com/feature/2015/06/08/myths-and-reality-about-the-printing-press-in-the-ottoman-empire

    Yet, the Turks did not like books that were printed in the printing houses, but rather preferred hand-written ones. The published books lacked the art and grace of hand-written books. Ottoman intellectuals, who were keen on aesthetics, enjoyed books written with elegant handwriting and whose ink shined, along with edges that were ornamented with golden gilt and covers that were made with care. Reading books was not only a necessity, but also a pleasure. Besides, there were many calligraphy artists who copied plenty of books rapidly. All these people could be out of a job. On top of that, those who were keen on books belonged to a certain class, just as today.

    What was true for the Ottomans was also true for the other Muslim lands you reference.

  235. Corvinus says:
    @Rob

    “The greatest American invention of the last 50 years? The one that will define America forever? The Mexican.”

    That’s fifth on the list. First is the pro-white, western civilization Christian populist. Redundant, I know. But accurate, nonetheless. A distant second is the squatty Guatemalan housekeeper, followed by the Jewish elitist, Deep State influenced media mogul.

    Fourth is Karen. Surprised? I know I was.

    • LOL: Grahamsno(G64)
  236. Pheasant says:
    @Dieter Kief

    ‘I do think, that the European monasteries and universities from medieval times on were the places specializing in the effort described in No. 2). Not leats by institutionalizing contradictive discourses (cf. scholasticism – the battle over universals’

    YUP

  237. Pheasant says:
    @Jack D

    ‘Arabs remain uninterested in reading:

    There are five times as many books translated into Greek in recent years compared to books translated into Arabic, although there are 300 million native Arabic speakers compared to 11 million Greeks.

    The population of the 22 Arab countries makes up about 4.5% of the world population, but all countries combined publish only 0.8% of all books worldwide.

    Although South Korea only has a population of 49 million versus 79 million in Egypt, it publishes more than 30,000 books per year compared to 2,215 in Egypt.

    Most bestsellers published in Arabic sell between five and twenty thousand copies, while for languages like German, Japanese, Italian, Dutch and Danish it’s usually between 100,000 and several million.

    https://www.islamicity.org/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=17841&title=small-number-of-books-published-in-arabic

    Arabs are sort of like Mexicans – they are just not interested in intellectual type stuff. They find school to be boring.’

    Pretty much. Although they do read lots of newspapers and poetry.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  238. Jack D says:
    @Crawfurdmuir

    Jenson’s typefaces from 1470 (the very first Roman typefaces) are still being used as models for modern day fonts.

    Ironically, Jenson didn’t create this font for beauty. The usual typeface of the time was Blackletter (aka Gothic) – like the masthead of the New York Times (and many other newspapers). Jenson realized that a simplified Roman font would allow you to fit more text on a single page, resulting in shorter books (less paper) with faster setup times.

    • Replies: @Crawfurdmuir
  239. Pheasant says:
    @Anonymous

    ‘It’s probably got something to do with the grip the Christian church had over medieval Europe – remember the word ‘clerical’ is related to clerk and clergy – in that it was the church which kept the flame of letters and literature burning, the priests and monks usually being the only ones who could read. Also remember that ‘universities’ originated as religious institutions for the express training of clergy.

    By inculcating a literate class devoted to learning, in contrast to actually physically working, the church cultivated a class of men who enjoyed reading for its own sake, as well as the function of disseminating ancient knowledge, hence there was a ready market for literature just waiting for printing to capture, a case of an idea whose time has come.

    Apart from the Bible, the second work of ancient literature ever printed was generally Aesop’s Fables, that delightful collection of moral lessons which still are very relevent today, hence it is understandable why all the literate wanted their own personal copy.’

    The scriptorum was very important in the development of literacy.

  240. thoth says:
    @Twinkie

    Movable type was invented in Crete before it was in China

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaistos_Disc

  241. Pheasant says:
    @DonutsMan

    ‘Muslim liberals lost the war.

    When Muhammad died, it opened up a huge void because he could not fully elaborate an entire religion and all of its rituals in only 20 years of active prophecy.

    So a dispute broke out between the liberal Muslim thinkers like Ibn Sinna (Avicenna) and their conservative counterparts.

    Long story short, the conservatives won. One of the conservatives wrote The Incoherence of the Philosophers which said faith, not reason, was the most important thing, perhaps the only important thing.

    You don’t need too many books to keep the faith. You just need one: the Qu’ran. And maybe a few hadith books and you’re all set.’

    Agree.

    Thank you.

  242. Pheasant says:
    @Herp McDerp

    ‘I’ve read that in most Islamic societies, the word “innovation” has a strong implication of “something to be frowned upon.” In other words, they’re already perfect, so any change must be a degradation, right?’

    Yes Muhammad is the perfect man dontchya know?

  243. @Philo of Alexandria

    “getting to a world with computers also meant getting to a world in which you worship George Floyd instead of God”

    So, we can’t have Goethe’s Weimar, only the Stone Age, because it leads by ineluctable logic to Drag Queen Story Hour.

    This stuff always reminds me of an argument on MST3k:

    The Bots are unhappy with the movie’s ending, so they suggest that after the credits, Zack’s life completely falls apart; Mike asks if that isn’t a little extreme, and they sarcastically suggest that he’d prefer an ending that’s so unrealistically saccharine it makes the average Disney movie look bleak.

    Mike: So, there’s no middle ground with you? It’s either straining grain alcohol through toast in back alleys or a happy little world of rodents in feety pajamas?
    Crow: Well yeah, Mike. Why’s that so hard to understand?

    Season 10 Ep 1 “Soultaker” (highly recommended, by the way).

  244. @John Up North

    Well so does Christianity. There’s a considerable literature listed on Amazon about how to be a good servant, which is itself a [deliberately?] misleading translation of the Biblical word for “slave”.

    Arguably, so does Judaism. All the Abrahamic religions are based on a universe modelled on an Middle Eastern despotism. No one becomes a slave of Buddha or the Tao.

    Of course, the neat thing about surrendering your sinful will and becoming the slave of Christ, is that it makes everything you do “God’s will”. You’ll notice that the Arabs are not especially passive (conversion by the sword and all that).

  245. @Joe Paluka

    Also physically. Was it Earl Butz who got cancelled for saying that Mexicans were uniquely suited for picking crops, as they were “built low to the ground”?

    • Replies: @Ralph L
  246. @photondancer

    “Without exception, these articles put all the blame for these people dropping their language in the first place on white people.”

    Same with slavery; everyone did it, but only White people ended it, and only White people are blamed for it.

    To paraphrase Homer (Simpson): White people, the cause and cure for all of life’s problems.

  247. Jack D says:
    @anon

    unlike the manual workers who
    continue society as a life-giving, healthy experience.

    Fantasizing about the heroism of the common man is gay. If you have to deal with the unwashed masses on a daily basis you are quickly cured of any fantasies about them. They are flawed humans like everyone else. In a technological society, most smarter people find a gig (preferably high paying) for themselves that does not involve backbreaking labor in all weather conditions so the people who end up doing manual labor (which BTW also tends to be ill paid) tend to be from the shallow end of the gene pool. Such people would not be capable of maintaining an advanced society without the help of the eggheads.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
    , @Twinkie
  248. @Bardon Kaldian

    “fewer men with headaches trying to find things for the woman to read to just leave him alone,”

    Out foraging and hunting in the wild bookstalls.

    • LOL: photondancer
  249. @Jack D

    Such people would not be capable of maintaining an advanced society without the help of the eggheads.

    Certainly.

    But eggheads, without these ordinary people, would not be capable of maintaining any society.

    • Agree: 3g4me
  250. @Pheasant

    I would add just an observation. A year or two ago was accessible UNESCO’s Index Translationum (they’re currently unavailable, more than a year they’ve been working on updates – https://maintenance.unesco.org/).

    Anyway, there were interesting stats, and you can see them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_Translationum

    I’ve noticed strange numbers about Arabic, Urdu, Chinese, … But, when I asked my Dutch or Swedish acquaintances, they said that most translations were comic books, various cheap thrillers etc. So, most “developed” people don’t read, either- or they tend to read trash, except some good fiction.

    On the other hand, Poles, Czechs & Germans had an impressive chunk of translations a non-negligible part of them had been reading – for instance works about history, culture, serious subjects etc.

  251. JMcG says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    Agreed- John Von Neuman was famously sociable and among the smartest men who ever lived.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  252. TWS says:
    @Steve Sailer

    If you don’t see depictions of hay stacks in fields, probably didn’t happen. I believe it. Keeping significant numbers of steers past a single year is difficult without it

  253. @Jack D

    Ironically, Jenson didn’t create this font for beauty. The usual typeface of the time was Blackletter (aka Gothic) – like the masthead of the New York Times (and many other newspapers). Jenson realized that a simplified Roman font would allow you to fit more text on a single page, resulting in shorter books (less paper) with faster setup times.

    There may be some truth to what you write, but it is also the case that the invention of printed books coincided with the rediscovery of classical Latin literature by people like Petrarch and Poggio. The important syllable in the word “renaissance” is “re-“. The original humanists (i.e., students of literæ humaniores) represented a particularly reactionary strain of thought, which sought a return to the literary and artistic styles of antiquity, and the abandonment the more recent styles, which they deprecated as “gothic” relics of barbarism – hence the application of that description to blackletter type, and the description of roman type in the style of Jenson as “antiqua.”

    The oldest manuscripts available to the renaissance humanists dated to the Carolingian era, and what we now call lower-case roman type is patterned after the Carolingian minuscule. This was not, of course, the style actually in use at the time of Cicero and Cæsar, which looked more like unrelieved lines of caps without any spacing. Nonetheless, the early punch-cutters thought they were replicating ancient Roman handwriting, just as (for example) Monteverdi and Peri thought their musical novelties (the first operas!) were re-creations of Greek choral drama, which, on the basis of classical sources such Aristotle’s Poetics, was reputed to exert near-magical effects on its audience.

    Evidence that roman/antiqua faces were used primarily out of imagined deference to classical tradition may be seen in many examples of German or other North European blackletter typography where a Latin word is introduced into the vernacular text. These words stand out immediately to the reader because they appear as islands of roman type in the midst of a sea of blackletter text. This practice was followed from the earliest introduction of roman type into Germany all the way through the 18th and well into the 19th century. As I write this I have just finished looking at a German book printed in 1775 that exemplifies the practice. It was also usual to set quotations in romance languages in roman type when the rest of the German text was in fraktur. I have in my collection another German book published in 1816 illustrating this.

    • Thanks: Johann Ricke
  254. Anonymous[209] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jack D

    You can say something similar about the discovery of America. Columbus wasn’t the first, but he was the first to make it count.

  255. @Anonymous

    Agreed that the Samurais disliked assassins and sub rosa type intrigue. And of course Japan, like all civilizations, had assassins, spies, and the like.

    However, there actually is some debate about whether “ninjas” as such ever existed at all, or whether they were a later historical invention. Much of what we believe about ninjas has been traced to fantasies concocted for Westerners or for nationalistic purposes. On the surface, such a fanatical spy/assassin brotherhood in a culture with strict rules of honor, with all their secret rules and weird abilities, seems very far fetched.

  256. orionyx says:
    @Voltarde

    Along those lines, I’d say that beer was our greatest invention. Think about it. And it’s another one Muslims don’t think much of, to their own detriment.
    Of course, by ‘beer’ I don’t mean the disgusting slop produced for mass consumption in the USA, which is to beer as PornHub is to getting it on with the local hottie.

  257. BlackFlag says:
    @RichardTaylor

    Goddammit! 75% of factoids I learn turn out to be false.

  258. @Bardon Kaldian

    I haven’t read that book but I read earlier books by Baron-Cohen. He has a very broad definition of autism which boils down to people who are good at thinking logically. No wonder he finds autism everywhere. He’s not quite a charlatan but I don’t consider him a real researcher.

  259. @AnonStarter

    Medieval Europeans liked their beautifully handwritten and illustrated and gold-edged manuscripts too. So the question still remains: why were Europeans willing to give that up for the printing press and the Ottomans (and all Muslim lands) were not?

  260. Ralph L says:
    @James J O'Meara

    No, he got the boot for blacks desiring only “tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit.”

  261. Right_On says:

    On this issue of The West gaining an advantage by (the fluke of) inheriting the Latin alphabet – hence ease of printing/spread of literacy/selective advantage for high-IQ people/ . . .

    Do smartphones (or laptops) for Chinese and Arabic speakers use a western-formatted keypad or are they nightmarishly complicated? If they must use a Latin alphabet it presumably is a big help to have mastered a European tongue?

    感謝期待。

  262. Twinkie says:
    @Jack D

    Fantasizing about the heroism of the common man is gay.

    Any kind of mythologizing or fantasizing about people, who are by natured flawed, is unhealthy, but you elided the anon’s point. He wrote of “the manual workers” and you referred to “deal[ing] with the unwashed masses on a daily basis.” They are not the same things.

    Obviously, many higher IQ people with better education are going to do “high value-added” works that are essential for the functioning of an advanced society and are compensated well. But some such people will also do parasitic work that may enrich themselves enormously with plenty of negative externalities for the society at large.

    Look, I am a product of elite education through and through, but I acknowledge that there is something very honest about working with one’s hands. And there is a reason why many highly accomplished people have hobbies such as working on cars, woodworking, gardening, or chicken-raising or what have you (mine is tinkering with guns – I want to be accomplished at gunsmithing before I die). It’s because there is no “bullshit,” no office politics, no parasitism (benefitting at the expense of others) with such things.

    You put in the work, you do a good job, and you are rewarded with an end result – something that works well, period. There is, indeed, beauty in that. And it’s the kind of simple beauty, what anon called “a healthy experience,” that people who don’t do any manual labor miss and don’t even know they miss.

    Similarly (here it comes, my hobby horse), combat sports provide the same “no bullshit,” physical environment people miss (or don’t even know they miss). I live in a very elite zip code, but when you step into my Judo dojo or the BJJ school, there is no dick-size contest through job status, the kind of car you drive, how much money you have, or whom you know. In training, you are basically judged by the coaches/sensei’s and your peers on three things: 1) Are you skilled? 2) Are you tough, courageous, and gritty? 3) Are you a good training partner for the others? Are you a good dude to train with?

    In a “manual” environment like that, the rest is noise (and it’s not just Judo or BJJ, the same goes in boxing gyms or wrestling mats).

    And it doesn’t have to be anything heroic or grand. You’d know what I meant if you have ever fixed a really intractable plumbing problem at home. When you figure out the problem and fix that toilet mechanism, there is that honest sense of satisfaction that is derived from having physically impacted on the world positively.

    • Agree: Mark G., JMcG
  263. @Jack D

    This is a great point, but doesn’t apply to the Chinese learners whom we know.

    Our young kids are learning Mandarin in an immersion program. Although all their classes and most of their homework is done online, they are required to write out the traditional characters daily. They typically write directly on the screens of their tablets with fingers or electronic “pencil”, with no prompts or offers to automatically complete the character. Hopefully that continues to be the case in the higher grades of the program.

    However, the great majority of Mandarin immersion programs in the USA, both government school and private school, teach only simplified, not traditional. See Mandarin Immersion Parents Council website’s List of Mandarin Immersion Programs.

  264. @R.G. Camara

    Excellent theory about Christianity gaining its persistent advantage in publishing in part due to the increasing formal education of some women in Christendom.

    Sad, though, that so much natural talent, and effort, in the West were wasted debating one arbitrary view of a meaningless issue over another arbitrary view (many of the allegedly “important doctrinal differences” between protestantism and roman catholicism). Centuries spent chopping down trees to publish competing bibles and polemics — and chopping up the rival Christians — over the clash between one version of conclusory nonsense and another.

    But the spirit of freer inquiry and debate, and the habits of publishing and reading more viewpoints … those redounded to our benefit nonetheless. Especially when more of the populace became literate and eventually read books containing rational debates about actual useful, practical issues of science, medicine, philosophy, agriculture, mining, forestry, transport, education, natural preservation, etc.

    • Troll: R.G. Camara
  265. nebulafox says:
    @PhysicistDave

    Paul Dirac.

    >I do wonder if the success of the West is due simply to a higher frequency of genes for Asperger’s.

    I don’t know about the past, but East Asia does not lack for ASD traits today.

  266. nebulafox says:

    I’m not sure if anybody has commented on this upstream, but one thing to remember is just the length of time. The Arabs got started on literate tradition later than Greco-Roman or Chinese civilization, and while the Persians had that, they never placed the written word in as high esteem as the Greco-Roman or Chinese worlds did. This seems to be cultural: Zoroastrianism placed an extremely high premium on truth-telling, and ancient literacy was not about telling the precise truth straightforwardly.

    The early Islamic narrative relies off oral tradition as to what happened: this was how the Bedouin did-and in some remote areas of Arabia, still do-preserve memories. In this sense, the Qu’ran is the birth of Arabic literacy.

    • Replies: @anon
  267. nebulafox says:
    @S. Anonyia

    People with ASD-overdiagnosis accounted for-are a small minority of the population. Disproportionate representation in hard STEM and still being a minority of scientists are not mutually exclusive.

    You don’t need to be a social pariah to be a groundbreaking physicist or mathematician: Von Neumann, Feynman, Heisenberg all come to mind as immediate counterpoints. But you do need to be utterly, totally obsessive. That filters naturally for people with atypical neural chemistry, especially when coupled with a lack of material incentives. Most people who are bright enough to do the work take a good, long look at the cost/benefit ratio involved and rationally decide they’d rather spend time raising a family rather than obsessing over a paper that might be read by 10 people at a conference in Germany some day.

  268. @Right_On

    Do smartphones (or laptops) for Chinese and Arabic speakers use a western-formatted keypad or are they nightmarishly complicated?

    The keyboards are pinyin (Roman alphabet) based, so not at all daunting.

    This is evident by the fact that the Japanese, who had thought of doing away with kanji on occasions (Meiji and post WW2), are now moving in the opposite direction to use it more extensively.

    Then again it was always futile since so many uniquely Japanese concepts are written only in kanji. Take—

    武 martial
    士 c: scholar, j: samurai
    道 the Dao, the Way

    You get—

    武士道 – bushidō, Way of the Warrior

    Similar construction,

    柔 gentle 柔道 jūdō
    剑 sword 剑道 kendō
    合 combine 氣 energy 合氣道 aikidō
    神 deity 神道 shintō

    • Thanks: Right_On
    • Replies: @Twinkie
  269. anon[148] • Disclaimer says:
    @nebulafox

    The early Islamic narrative relies off oral tradition as to what happened:

    The original Quran was pure oral tradition, memorized and recited. I believe that writing it down only began after some of the memorizers began to die off. If I recall correctly, the Quran is presented by length, with the longest suras first followed by shorter and shorter ones. This has the side effect of scrambling chronology.

    • Replies: @nebulafox
  270. nebulafox says:
    @PhysicistDave

    I broadly agree that heavy-duty STEM tends to select heavily for Aspergerish personalities, but it needs to be remembered that the people with ASD who have the IQ and drive to succeed in those fields are still a minority. A person with an average IQ and ASD is going to suffer in the 21st Century American economy, and hard.

    Moving on, there are a few underlying factors behind the explosion in ASD diagnoses that I don’t think are pointed out enough. As I’ve already said, I think the condition is real, but overdiagnosed, and that kids who actually have it are much better served by treating them more normally.

    (It does not help that “insert diagnosis here” has become code for “male personality which HR drone or educrat does not like”. I did once read a paper that studied sex differences for people with ASD, and it did manifest differently: the girls were below average for their sex, but could blend in as tomboys or loners better.)

    1) The 21st Century, by and large, has far more intricate, complex modes of human interaction. Professionally and socially, there’s a much higher penalty for not being as quick with them if you aren’t lucky or smart enough to be granted a de facto “exemption”: for example, in tech or academic science. There’s also a lot more constant, heavy stimulation, which is the real basis of autism: you don’t have the ability to filter out stuff as effectively as most people.

    I’m sure there are a lot of people with high-functioning autism who would have blended in just fine in previous time periods, perhaps being considered a bit eccentric but nothing worse. They would have still had to learn social skills analytically, but the social rules themselves would have been more simple and obvious.

    2) Social networks have degraded, meaning that someone who starts out late often has a hard time building them from scratch in later life. This means you don’t practice as much, which is really vital if you don’t want to regress, let alone get better. I strongly suspect that in previous times, some relative or neighbor would have noticed an isolated, mentally scarred NEET, would have intervened, and rehabilitation could take place.

    3) In upper-middle class America in particular, for a variety of reasons, there’s a strong incentive to have your kid be considered mentally abnormal than to admit he is subpar, obnoxious, or both. This is particularly toxic because social skills and sensory integration can be improved, like anything else, with practice. It’s a much better way of addressing issues than to drug kids.

  271. @anon

    Not putting down the jobs which are important, but just saying that those type of jobs are the ones that they are suited to. I will agree that many people who graduate from “elite” institutions do not use their brains for the benefit of mankind and create nothing of value.

  272. Right_On says:
    @Jack D

    Chinese input is done in pinyin and a menu of character choices pops up

    Thanks. That answers something I’ve been wondering.
    If I type, “I spied a female bear” my spellcheck would probably not hint that I might have meant, “I spied a female bare”, but I see that the Chinese system you describe is always alert to such possible confusions!

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  273. Anon, 'cause my choice of nic was nixed[652] • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Yes, it was Churchill. In his book about the reconquest of the Sudan. The passage occurs early in the book, maybe 10% or 15% of the way in.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @nebulafox
  274. @Anon, 'cause my choice of nic was nixed

    Thanks. Churchill wrote in his wonderful memoir of his early years, “A Roving Commission” that he finished reading an 8 volume edition of Gibbon as a subaltern in India:

    “I was immediately dominated both by the story and the style. All through the long listening middle hours of the Indian day, from when we quitted stables till the evening shadows proclaimed the hour of Polo, I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all. I scribbled all my opinions on the margins of the pages and very soon found myself a vehement partisan of the author against the disparagement of his pompous-pious editor. I was not even estranged by his naughty footnotes. On the other hand the Dean’s [the editor’s] apologies and disclaimers roused my ire.”

  275. Twinkie says:
    @China Japan and Korea Bromance of Three Kingdoms

    士 c: scholar, j: samurai

    士 can also be translated simply as “-man,” “-master,” or “-professional.”

    E.g. 武士 = military-man, aka warrior

    Or 弁護士 = defensive advocacy (pleading)-professional, aka lawyer

    And so on.

    This is evident by the fact that the Japanese, who had thought of doing away with kanji on occasions (Meiji and post WW2), are now moving in the opposite direction to use it more extensively.

    Koreans had been going the other way, almost completely eliminating Chinese characters and relying entirely on their phonetic script, but then once China started to rise in power and prominence, they have begun reversing course and and emphasizing the teaching of Chinese script again.

    柔 gentle 柔道 jūdō

    柔 should really be translated as “flexible” or “pliant” rather than “gentle.” Contrary to the common usage, Judo is most certainly not a gentle way. 😉

  276. @Right_On

    The clarifications are pretty good due to the way the iconographic system works and does some logical checking. You can try it out:

    https://www.chinese-tools.com/tools/ime.html

    If you follow the examples in it, you can see if you type in “zhong”, you get a couple of possibilities, but if you type in “zhongguo” it rapidly reduces it to almost none. Alternately, try “America” or “meiguo” and it reduces it swiftly to just one possibility.

    • Replies: @Right_On
  277. nebulafox says:
    @Twinkie

    It’s underrated how much overlap there can be between linguistics and computer programming. This sounds mundane given that computer languages are… languages, but people in the industry act shocked when they encounter really high-tier mathematicians and physicists that can’t code their way out of a box, whereas a former DLI guy takes to it like a fish to water.

    >Koreans had been going the other way, almost completely eliminating Chinese characters and relying entirely on their phonetic script, but then once China started to rise in power and prominence, they have begun reversing course and and emphasizing the teaching of Chinese script again.

    So, question: did the South ever have a DPRK-style ban on hanja for nationalistic reasons, or was it just sort of shunted off, not banned exactly but left as irrelevant during the Cold War years?

    In Vietnam, what happened was that the French colonial authorities heavily discouraged the usage of the imported Chinese characters (Chu Nom) in a way the Japanese obviously never would have given their own language, hence the Western writing script. Chu Nom was never as standardized as hanja or kanji was, for a variety of reasons-relative lack of literacy compared to pre-modern Japan or China (I don’t know enough about Korea to comment intelligently on that), non-standard Chinese dialects being more common due to geography-so the adaptation didn’t take much time. If you look at very old Vietnamese Catholic texts from the 18th Century, though: all Chu Nom.

    It’s interesting to look at how Western theological terminology was linguistically represented. The Taipings in China used the characters for an ancient primordial Chinese deity (“Shangdi”) to represent the Christian God.

  278. nebulafox says:
    @Anon, 'cause my choice of nic was nixed

    TBH, Islamic civilization was a relative step up from Hinduism in my eyes. Caste systems sicken me.

    IIRC, most of the “Indian” bureaucrats the British encountered when they took India were actually imported Persians. I remember that Khomeini’s grandfather was born in Lucknow.

  279. nebulafox says:
    @anon

    The Islamic tradition credits Uthman-the 3rd caliph-with standardizing the Qu’ran. Modern scholars are skeptical that it neatly took place at the time-there are hadiths that allude to “non-standard” Qu’rans being destroyed.

    But it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that the Arabs developing the literary tradition necessary to write the Qu’ran coincided with the conquests. The earliest Arab graffiti was dated to 644 AD: so right in that ballpark. You can see how the early Arabic script was beginning to be developed, in block-like form. The thing about oral tradition is that there’s a historical core there, but with more and more elaborations surrounding that core as decades go by, because anything relying on human memory alone will mutate. Or, in the case of the Homeric epics, centuries.

    Another interesting fact: you don’t get regular dedications to Muhammad until the 8th Century. A bit strange if you take Islamic orthodoxy at face value and assume the conquerors had a fully defined religion at the ready. 😉

  280. Twinkie says:
    @nebulafox

    So, question: did the South ever have a DPRK-style ban on hanja for nationalistic reasons, or was it just sort of shunted off, not banned exactly but left as irrelevant during the Cold War years?

    Initially, post-war South Korean literary elites held onto Hanja and prized being able recite classic phrases, but various regimes chipped away at it to encourage egalitarianism. It was still taught from middle school and on as its own subject. But when democracy came, the nationalistic tendencies actually increased and the government started to emphasize nativism in language (one attendant fad – younger Korean parents started to give their kids “real Korean” names instead of those derived with Hanja). But then, as I wrote before, China became an economic colossus, and the government decided to emphasize learning Hanja again.

  281. Right_On says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    I typed “beijing” and got five options.
    Are there other Chinese words that sound similar to the name of the nation’s capital? (Just as “Rome” and “roam” are homophones.)

  282. Blade says:

    Well, I doubt that technical difficulty was the primary concern. After all, the printing press still can be done with the Arabic script and be much more effective than handwriting. However, writing books was a profession and an art/craft with thousands of practitioners. Earlier attempts were rejected because scribes had their lobbies and interests. Basically they thought “this will take our jerbs.” So it was not allowed. Even in 1728 when Muteferrika’s printing press was established, it was conditional. Islamic books would not be printed. Jews of Istanbul had their printing press since the 15th century on the other hand.

    The bigger problem with Arabic script, as far as the Turks were concerned, was the fact that the two languages are not even remotely related thus the lack of letters and signs Turkish language needed. It was causing problems in written communication. Before Ataturk, there was already an ongoing debate among Ottoman elites to address the alphabet problem.

  283. Blade says:

    And on Korea, they had basically nothing in the name of civilization. They just keep coming up with these ludicrous claims that they invented this and that. In reality, there was nothing in Korea before Japanese brought them civilization and then America supported them for strategic purposes. This is how English Socialist Beatrice Webb described them:

    The Koreans are 12 millions of dirty, degraded, sullen, lazy, and religionless savages, who slouch about in dirty white garments of the most inept kind, and who live in filthy mudhuts…

    She thought only Japanese could civilize Koreans. A historically proven truth Koreans resent to this day.

  284. Twinkie says:
    @Blade

    In reality, there was nothing in Korea before Japanese brought them civilization

    That’s rather amusing.

    Who brought civilization to the Japanese on their islands?

    Now modernity and Westernization would be a different story.

    They just keep coming up with these ludicrous claims that they invented this and that.

    https://tricycle.org/magazine/buddhist-history-moveable-type/

  285. @Twinkie

    士 appears all over in referring to titles of prestige…

    绅 Silk belt 绅士 (English) Gentleman
    族 Clan 士族 (Northern Chinese) Scholar-bureaucrat clan (largely swept away after Mongol invasion 13th CE)

    There’s some additional plays on this in kanji that’s pretty slick

    武士道 as Way of Warrior or Way of Samurai

    騎Ride 騎士Knight (de: Ritter)

    So there is—

    騎士道 Chivalry (de: Ritterlichkeit) or Way of the Knight
    騎士団 Chivalric order (de: Ritterorden)

    There was actually such a thing as 武士団 Bushidan in Muromachi Period, which would be translated as Samurai Order or in German Samuraiorden.

    they have begun reversing course and and emphasizing the teaching of Chinese script again.

    It would be a shame for a great people to lose connection to their past. And otherwise how can you truly appreciate the histories of the great battles of Three Kingdoms Era, Imjin War and Sengoku Period 🤓

    Seriously, it was always up for the Sinosphere to bring CJK together. A major part of the equation for C/J/K to step up on the creativity front is a common communication medium.

    Even when Britain/France/Germany’s relationships were at their most acrimonious, scholarly exchange did not discontinue and inventions were self-reenforcing. In Charles Murray’s Human Accomplishments, it refers to a so-called Blue Banana region in Europe from Edinburgh to Paris and Rome that dominated and fed-off each other.

    There should and will be one also one day from Tokyo to Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai and Chengdu.

    柔 should really be translated as “flexible” or “pliant” rather than “gentle.” Contrary to the common usage, Judo is most certainly not a gentle way.

    Yes of course. I practice Shōtōkan Karate-dō 松濤館空手道 myself. Germans have helpfully created a diagram showing the relationship between Schools of Philosophy and Karate-dō

    View post on imgur.com

  286. @nebulafox

    but people in the industry act shocked when they encounter really high-tier mathematicians and physicists that can’t code their way out of a box, whereas a former DLI guy takes to it like a fish to water.

    Could you give a specific example (I have background in these areas so feel free to talk shop)?

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