Zionosis wrote:Not true, East Asia has always been strong. In fact if you did history you would see that prior to the 16th century east Asia was ahead and the west was lagging behind as far as technology and prosperity.
Those less than 50 or so important white inventors changed things a lot though.
If anything white civilization rode on the back of those inventors and so did the rest of the world.
Your statement brings to mind what is known in academic circles as "the Needham Question": Why did China fall behind the West in technological advancement, after having been at the forefront for so long?
Here is the pertinent Wikipedia entry, which I will include without comment.
"Needham's Grand Question", also known as "The Needham Question", is why China had been overtaken by the West in science and technology, despite its earlier successes. "Gunpowder, the magnetic compass, and paper and printing, which Francis Bacon considered as the three most important inventions facilitating the Westâ€™s transformation from the Dark Ages to the modern world, were invented in China". Needham's works attribute significant weight to the impact of Confucianism and Taoism on the pace of Chinese scientific discovery, and emphasizes what it describes as the "diffusionist" approach of Chinese science as opposed to a perceived independent inventiveness in the western world. Needham held that the notion that the Chinese script had inhibited scientific thought was "grossly overrated".
His own research revealed a steady accumulation of scientific results throughout Chinese history. In the final volume he suggests "A continuing general and scientific progress manifested itself in traditional Chinese society but this was violently overtaken by the exponential growth of modern science after the Renaissance in Europe. China was homeostatic, but never stagnant."
Nathan Sivin, one of Needham's collaborators, while agreeing that Needham's achievement was monumental, suggested that the "Needham question", as a counterfactual hypothesis, was not conducive to a useful answer: "It is striking that this question â€“ Why didn't the Chinese beat Europeans to the Scientific Revolution? â€“ happens to be one of the few questions that people often ask in public places about why something didn't happen in history. It is analogous to the question of why your name did not appear on page 3 of today's newspaper."
There are several hypotheses attempting to explain the Needham Question. Yingqui Liu and Chunjiang Liu argued that the issue rested on the lack of property rights and that those rights were only obtainable through favor of the emperor. Protection was incomplete as the emperor can rescind those rights at anytime. Science and technology was subjugated to the needs of the feudal royal family, and any new discoveries were sequestered by the government for its use. The government took steps to control and interfere with private enterprises by manipulating prices and partaking in bribery. Each revolution in China redistributed property rights under the same feudal system. Land and property were reallocated first and foremost to the royal family of the new dynasty up until the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when fiefdom land was taken over by warlords and merchants. These limited property rights held back much of the potential scientific innovations of that time.
The Chinese Empire enacted totalitarian control and was able to do so because of its great size. There were smaller independent states that had no choice but to comply with this control. They could not afford to isolate themselves. The Chinese believed in the well being of the state as their primary motive for economic activity, and individual initiatives were shunned. There were regulations on the press, clothing, construction, music, birth rates, and trade. The Chinese state controlled all aspects of life, severely limiting any incentives to innovate and to better oneâ€™s self. â€œThe ingenuity and inventiveness of the Chinese would no doubt have enriched China further and probably brought it to the threshold of modern industry, had it not been for this stifling state control. It is the State that kills technological progress in Chinaâ€.
According to Justin Lin, China did not make the shift from an experience-based technological invention process to an experiment-based innovation process. The experience-based process depended on the size of a population, and while new technologies have come about through the trials and errors of the peasants and artisans, experiment-based processes surpasses experience-based processes in yielding new technology. Progress from experimentation following the logic of a scientific method can occur at a much faster rate because the inventor can perform many trials during the same production period under a controlled environment. Results from experimentation is dependent on the stock of scientific knowledge while results from experience-based processes is tied directly to the size of a population; hence, experiment-based innovation processes have a higher likelihood of producing better technology as human capital grows. China had about twice the population of Europe up until the 13th Century and so had a higher probability of creating new technologies. After the 14th Century, Chinaâ€™s population grew exponentially, but progress in innovation saw diminishing returns. Europe had a smaller population but began to integrate science and technology that arose from the scientific revolution in the 17th Century. This scientific revolution gave Europe a comparative advantage in developing technology in modern times.
Lin blamed the institutions in China for preventing the adoption of the experiment-based methodology. Its sociopolitical institution inhibited intellectual creativity, but more importantly, it diverted this creativity away from scientific endeavors. Totalitarian control by the state in the Chinese Empire inhibited public dispute, competition, and the growth of modern science, while the clusters of independent European nations were more favorable to competition and scientific development. In addition, the Chinese did not have the incentives to acquire human capital necessary for modern scientific experimentation. Civil service was deemed the most rewarding and honorable work in pre-modern China. The gifted had more incentives to pursue this route in order to move up the social status ladder as opposed to pursuing scientific endeavors.