1 hr 32 min

Charles C. Mann - Americas Before Columbus & Scientific Wizardry The Lunar Society

    • Society & Culture

Charles C. Mann is the author of three of my favorite history books: 1491. 1493, and The Wizard and the Prophet. 

We discuss:

why Native American civilizations collapsed and why they failed to make more technological progress

why he disagrees with Will MacAskill about longtermism

why there aren’t any successful slave revolts

how geoengineering can help us solve climate change

why Bitcoin is like the Chinese Silver Trade

and much much more!

Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform. Read the full transcript here.

Some really cool guests coming up, subscribe to find out about future episodes!

Follow me on Twitter for updates on future episodes.

If you enjoyed this episode, you may also enjoy my interviews of Will MacAskill (about longtermism), Steve Hsu (about intelligence and embryo selection), and David Deutsch (about AI and the problems with America’s constitution).

If you end up enjoying this episode, I would be super grateful if you shared it. Post it on Twitter, send it to your friends & group-chats, and throw it up on any relevant subreddits & forums you follow. Can’t exaggerate how much it helps a small podcast like mine.

Timestamps

(0:00:00) -Epidemically Alternate Realities

(0:00:25) -Weak Points in Empires

(0:03:28) -Slave Revolts

(0:08:43) -Slavery Ban

(0:12:46) - Contingency & The Pyramids

(0:18:13) - Teotihuacan

(0:20:02) - New Book Thesis

(0:25:20) - Gender Ratios and Silicon Valley

(0:31:15) - Technological Stupidity in the New World

(0:41:24) - Religious Demoralization

(0:44:00) - Critiques of Civilization Collapse Theories

(0:49:05) - Virginia Company + Hubris

(0:53:30) - China’s Silver Trade

(1:03:03) - Wizards vs. Prophets

(1:07:55) - In Defense of Regulatory Delays

(0:12:26) -Geoengineering

(0:16:51) -Finding New Wizards

(0:18:46) -Agroforestry is Underrated

(1:18:46) -Longtermism & Free Markets

Transcript

Dwarkesh Patel   

Okay! Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Charles Mann, who is the author of three of my favorite books, including 1491: New Revelations of America before Columbus. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, and The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World. Charles, welcome to the Lunar Society.

Charles C. Mann   

It’s a pleasure to be here.

Epidemically Alternate Realities

Dwarkesh Patel   

My first question is: How much of the New World was basically baked into the cake? So at some point, people from Eurasia were going to travel to the New World, bringing their diseases. Considering disparities and where they would survive, if the Acemoglu theory that you cited is correct, then some of these places were bound to have good institutions and some of them were bound to have bad institutions. Plus, because of malaria, there were going to be shortages in labor that people would try to fix with African slaves. So how much of all this was just bound to happen? If Columbus hadn't done it, then maybe 50 years down the line, would someone from Italy have done it? What is the contingency here?

Charles C. Mann   

Well, I think that some of it was baked into the cake. It was pretty clear that at some point, people from Eurasia and the Western Hemisphere were going to come into contact with each other. I mean, how could that not happen, right? There was a huge epidemiological disparity between the two hemispheres––largely because by a quirk of evolutionary history, there were many more domesticable animals in Eurasia and the Eastern hemisphere. This leads almost inevitably to the creation of zoonotic diseases: diseases that start off in animals and jump the species barrier and become human diseases. Most of the great killers in human history are zoonotic diseases. When people from Eurasia and the Western Hemisphere meet, there are going to be those kinds of diseases. 

But if you wanted to, it's possible to i

Charles C. Mann is the author of three of my favorite history books: 1491. 1493, and The Wizard and the Prophet. 

We discuss:

why Native American civilizations collapsed and why they failed to make more technological progress

why he disagrees with Will MacAskill about longtermism

why there aren’t any successful slave revolts

how geoengineering can help us solve climate change

why Bitcoin is like the Chinese Silver Trade

and much much more!

Watch on YouTube. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast platform. Read the full transcript here.

Some really cool guests coming up, subscribe to find out about future episodes!

Follow me on Twitter for updates on future episodes.

If you enjoyed this episode, you may also enjoy my interviews of Will MacAskill (about longtermism), Steve Hsu (about intelligence and embryo selection), and David Deutsch (about AI and the problems with America’s constitution).

If you end up enjoying this episode, I would be super grateful if you shared it. Post it on Twitter, send it to your friends & group-chats, and throw it up on any relevant subreddits & forums you follow. Can’t exaggerate how much it helps a small podcast like mine.

Timestamps

(0:00:00) -Epidemically Alternate Realities

(0:00:25) -Weak Points in Empires

(0:03:28) -Slave Revolts

(0:08:43) -Slavery Ban

(0:12:46) - Contingency & The Pyramids

(0:18:13) - Teotihuacan

(0:20:02) - New Book Thesis

(0:25:20) - Gender Ratios and Silicon Valley

(0:31:15) - Technological Stupidity in the New World

(0:41:24) - Religious Demoralization

(0:44:00) - Critiques of Civilization Collapse Theories

(0:49:05) - Virginia Company + Hubris

(0:53:30) - China’s Silver Trade

(1:03:03) - Wizards vs. Prophets

(1:07:55) - In Defense of Regulatory Delays

(0:12:26) -Geoengineering

(0:16:51) -Finding New Wizards

(0:18:46) -Agroforestry is Underrated

(1:18:46) -Longtermism & Free Markets

Transcript

Dwarkesh Patel   

Okay! Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Charles Mann, who is the author of three of my favorite books, including 1491: New Revelations of America before Columbus. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, and The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World. Charles, welcome to the Lunar Society.

Charles C. Mann   

It’s a pleasure to be here.

Epidemically Alternate Realities

Dwarkesh Patel   

My first question is: How much of the New World was basically baked into the cake? So at some point, people from Eurasia were going to travel to the New World, bringing their diseases. Considering disparities and where they would survive, if the Acemoglu theory that you cited is correct, then some of these places were bound to have good institutions and some of them were bound to have bad institutions. Plus, because of malaria, there were going to be shortages in labor that people would try to fix with African slaves. So how much of all this was just bound to happen? If Columbus hadn't done it, then maybe 50 years down the line, would someone from Italy have done it? What is the contingency here?

Charles C. Mann   

Well, I think that some of it was baked into the cake. It was pretty clear that at some point, people from Eurasia and the Western Hemisphere were going to come into contact with each other. I mean, how could that not happen, right? There was a huge epidemiological disparity between the two hemispheres––largely because by a quirk of evolutionary history, there were many more domesticable animals in Eurasia and the Eastern hemisphere. This leads almost inevitably to the creation of zoonotic diseases: diseases that start off in animals and jump the species barrier and become human diseases. Most of the great killers in human history are zoonotic diseases. When people from Eurasia and the Western Hemisphere meet, there are going to be those kinds of diseases. 

But if you wanted to, it's possible to i

1 hr 32 min