Ian Morris' Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future is perhaps the best argument for why we should keep investing in training PhDs and allocating resources to our institutions of higher learning.
Morris is a Stanford professor, a Cambridge University PhD, and the author of 10 books and "more than 80 articles on archaeology and history." He is a guy who gets his hands dirty, leading digs in places like Monte Polizzo, Sicily - as well as a gifted writer.
Should you invest the 24 hours and 41 minutes necessary to listen to this book?
Yes if you often wonder "how did I get here," in the sense of owning all this crap, burning all this fuel etc. etc., while most of the world (at least the vast numbers of rural poor in Asia), today live quite different lives.â€¨â€¨
Yes if you've ever argued out loud (or thought to yourself), that the reason we Westerners have so much crap and burn so much fuel was either an inevitable development due to geography, climate, species, disease patterns etc. (long-term lock-in), or the result of actions and decisions by both great and incompetent historical actors (short-term accident).â€¨â€¨
Yes if you wonder why social development in the Eastern world (as measured by energy capture, information exchange, war making capacity, and city size) outstripped the Western world from the 1,000 years between 600 CE and 1600 CE, only to fall radically behind the West by 2000.â€¨â€¨
Yes if you think it is important to take the really long view, from the beginning of agriculture (8,000 to 5,000 BCE), rather than starting the story at the beginning of the industrial revolution in late 18th century England.â€¨â€¨
Yes if you have the sense that real story of the 21st century will happen in Asia, and that if we want to be working where the big changes in higher ed will be occurring we better be prepared to work in East or South Asia.â€¨â€¨Yes if you love history, sociology, archeology, and economics - and like books that integrate theories, ideas and facts from across the disciplines.â€¨â€¨
Yes if you want to escape, if only for a few hours, the world of fast changing technology (where my 6 month old iPad is already out-of-date), and place your brain inside much larger time scales thinking about much bigger questions.â€¨â€¨
What are you reading?