Reflection of the Past and Lessons from “Other” Societies


jdiamondJared Diamond studies other cultures and societies. He has conducted fieldwork with tribes in Papua New Guinea. His main goal is to search for what we can learn from other societies and the impact this could have on our own. He has written many publications on these topics including Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and The World Until Yesterday. Diamond would bring a social science perspective to transduction themes, which would be mainly focused on humans and how they react to their environment and with other humans.

Diamond compares small-scale societies, such as hunter-gatherers, and modern industrialized societies in his work. In this session, themes relating to his books, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies or The World Until Yesterday are relevant. In his first book, he explores why Eurasian people conquered Native Americans, native Australians, and Africans. He argues that the European continent is what allowed for advantage to more advanced forms of technology and domestication of animals. Agriculture is a key characteristic that moves small-scale societies into a higher categorization on the scale of societal evolution. This topic would connect to the urban metabolism session we have had. By exploring the materials and human interactions within these societies, we will find out more about their socio-economic processes. It would be interesting to explore the connecting themes of this session with others.

The second book discusses what the modern world can learn from tribal societies. Topics include treatment of the elderly, raising children, resolving disputes, and so on. This would provide a panoramic view of our societal makeup. This would provide an opportunity to explore signals that are present in societies, different media or methods that are used, and human interfaces that are similar across societies. Mapping one or both of these topics would incite a great discussion about current issues in the modern world.


The goal of this session would be to understand Diamond’s interpretation of characteristics of various societies and to ask ourselves if any of these pertain to society today. Some potential questions to think about:

  • What are the benefits of some practices in our own society?
  • What are some of the disadvantages?
  • What are some of the values of our society?
  • Could changes actually be successfully applied? If not, why do they function in the small scale societies that Diamond has studied?


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Proposed by Jessica  Rojsuontikul.