The article is very interesting, but there is this Hollywood simplistic approach where one man is responsible for all things. The text even mention the Allies developing a poison gas, why not other German chemic? No one other person would be able to discover how to produce amonia? I don't subscribe to this way of looking into historical figures.
Nevertheless, a great text.
The world has yet to churn out another mind quite like Einstein's, that flips convention on its head, or opens up humankind's collective knowledge by an order of magnitude. Special people, like Einstein, this man, Norman Borlaug or Ada Lovelace, I think, may have just been the right people at the right moment.
Having read somewhat widely, as a kid, about the history of technology, I was struck by how often several people were working independently on the same ideas at the same time, but that is not so surprising once you realize that the timing is often determined by when some prerequisite knowledge became available, or some prerequisite capability was mastered. Einstein stands among the most original thinkers of all time, but even he was standing on the shoulders of people like Heaviside, Fitzgerald and Lorentz (and Maxwell, of course) - yet the first three, at least, are invisible in popular historiography.
It is a case of having the right person in the right place at the right time, Einstein would have not had his theories had he been around 20 years earlier, or if he had not had the opportunities that he did. And if he had not been around then I think it would have been others. It is about the environment, Calculus was developed by two people simultaneously.
As to why we haven't had someone who has done this, well who's to say that we haven't and they are just overlooked? Or that greater capital expenditure it has to be groups of people (finding DNA, cloning, Graphene, etc). Or that there has simply not been the right environment.
Draw a line between these and choosing what field of study or what kind of change to the world counts to make a "special person" changes the number of special people dramatically.
Didn't take the Allies long to muster a response though, and they had their own Nobel Laureate Victor Grignard to build chemical weapons for them.
Look at the history of sound recording for example. You can see that the technology that made it possible existed for years and years before anyone attempted such a feat. Now imagine if the first one who decided to record audio never done it would you think that we will be where we are now because "For sure someone would have done it" argument? I highly doubt that.
What bugs me though is what are the things that could exist right now but are not because someone still didn't think about them.
Reminds me of Hero's engine . Had a single person decided to build a working industrial steam engine back then, then it is possible that the industrial revolution could've happened two thousand years ago.
I believe the technology to build it was there, nobody had the imagination to see the potential for this though.
Humanity missed its opportunity back then, thankfully we had another chance almost 1800 hundred years latter and this time there were people that seized the opportunity ,
However, it was probably only worth using one once labor costs reached a certain threshold. e.g. if you were an ancient roman landlord with abundant slave labor, why would you go to the trouble and expense of building steam engines to remove water from your mines rather than just having some workers work the pumps?
Moreover a Newcomen engine was so inefficient that it was really only usable when sited right at a coal mine, and in ancient times there were plenty of surface coal sites that didn't require deep mines (and thus pumps).
It's hard to imagine someone leaping straight to a Watt engine, especially given the metallurgy required.
I am making a separate argument - this would not have been invented at all, yet, if humans, throughout history, did not celebrate or recognize specific individuals as being responsible for these monumental discoveries or events.
I'm skeptical. What leads you to conclude that we need to pretend that people did more than what they did, or otherwise we wouldn't have computers and governments? I'd say we have plenty of inventions more important than computers whose authors were never really recognized, at least in their lifetimes. Were the inventors of the toilet really hailed for their accomplishment?
If we, as a society, did not assign degrees of greatness to accomplishments, there would not really be any. You're free to disagree, but to me, this is an obvious conclusion of human nature and history. Do famous politicians deserve their place in history, given that their accomplishment is the result of thousands to hundreds of millions of people support them? Did Newton deserve his success? By his own word, he was standing on the shoulders of others. However, consider every scientist who followed him desiring to achieve his level of prominence - nearly every human who fervently applies himself to any single pursuit desires that, whether or not they will admit that to themselves or others. If history did not allow the idea of outliers, in favor of the argument that all discoveries were collective achievements or "an eventuality, regardless of who", Newton, and those after, would've had far fewer shoulders to stand on - those minds would've applied themselves elsewhere.
I am not arguing that we, as a society, assign the proper "weight of recognition" to an inventor, discoverer, politician during or after their lifetime - that is a separate question. The chain is regarding "whether or not we should assign large weights of recognition to individuals".
I'll agree to disagree rather than continue writing a thesis - I believe my perspective to be inalienably correct, though.
I didnt imply causation to Hollywood, I just used it as an adjective. I agree that storytelling with heroes personification is very common in humankind since always (since there is written documents at least). It happens that Hollywood became a thing by replicating this phenomena in fiction, so I think is very fit to use it as a qualifier.
But I disagree that this human characteristic is the cause behind human progress.
Collaboration was a human evolutionary advantage, so I think human are more naturally colaborative that competitive, at least intra tribe size levels.
I also think that humans seek recognition among peers - and a peer has a very broad and flexible definition, not necessarily recognition from history. So I disagree that highly focused scientists motivation is to be like historical figures. They want that recognition in life, from peers, not historians.
Still, I also think recognition from others is not the sole motivation for all human endeavors, not even the biggest factor.
I applaud you for that, this gives some hope that not all is lost. A real historian can only be someone who loves the truth ( .. more than his personal well-beign)
Fritz Haber's life story is intertwined with Einstein's and the book pairs extremely well with Walter Isaacson's Einstein biography, which is a MUST read (or audiobook listen).
@ - Full title: "The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler"
It also covers Carl Bosch, who took Haber’s process and industrialized it at BASF. Haber got the process to work in a small bespoke quartz reactor, which obviously wouldn’t scale.
Haber was not a solution. He was as tragic and as fanatic as everybody else in Europe at that time. Nazi Germany also have invented A LOT of world changing things. They solved a lot of problems. Yet, they managed to do such unspeakable things that all the good stuff instantly fades.
In my humble opinion, it's not difficult to judge a person who commits unspeakable crimes by his good or bad deeds. Good deeds are optional, always. Bad deeds are never an option, regardless of eventual outcomes or consequences.
The same logic that wipes out his achievement could also absolve him of his sin. Certainly someone else would have also invented chlorine gas.
Based on the little I've read of him I agree that he doesn't sound like a great guy (though I certainly don't know enough to really have an informed opinion). But, more generally, I oppose the notion that summarizing someone is as simple as a toggle switch between good and bad; I think that's too reductionist. Humans are (and the world is) more complicated than that.
The question stands how many people would‘ve not only disocered this deadly weapon but also were so enthusiastic about its use (see also: some quotes of him in the article)
That is a distribution problem, though. Up to 50% of the food produced around the world never reaches a human stomach.
Well, in 50-100 years noone would really care about atrocities of ww2, just like almost noone cares about ww1 now, and literary noone about the atrocities of the wars before ww1.
But "the world-changing things" will stay, and the people who created these things will be remembered
It's the bad things generations of people remember, the good things not so much. You know, hate sows war, war sows hate. The vicious circle as old as time.
Is it really? I think most people only remember them as successful conquerors.
> British colonial era? Same thing, but half the world still remembers what atrocities they have commited, and it was longer ago as WW I.
Depends! The British Empire lasted until the 1960s -- arguably 1997. That's much fresher than WW1 or WW2.
Besides, who remembers the British concentration camps?
Everyone, because it's the answer to the question "who invented the concentration camp".
Unfortunately it's the incorrect answer, because nobody remembers the American, Spanish, French and Paraguayan (the possibly correct answer) concentration camps that came earlier.
It's quite strange/interesting that atrocities in the "wars before WWI" got turned into atrocities in the "British colonial era" though; maybe people remember what they want to remember.
That's simply not true.
Global levels of hunger are at their lowest point in human history.
If you believe that "most of today's populus have barely enough to eat" there is a good chance you have a much more dismal view of the world than actually exists.
I'd recommend checking out http://forms.gapminder.org/s3/test-2018
Thanks for the link to worldhunger.org though. It's nice to see that per definition we solved the hunger and poverty problem! I had no idea! Yet I wonder what people think of the accessibility and variety of food. They pretty much don't give a flying fart about raw numbers and definitions we set up for arguments.
The problem how to generate enough for everybody shifted to how to provide that overwhelming amount of food to those who have the least? Clearly, discussing about how many actually starve and how many barely not hunger misses the whole point. Haber didn't solve the problem, he generated a ton of different other problems.
"The world produces enough food to feed everyone. [...] A principal problem is that many people in the world still do not have sufficient income to purchase (or land to grow) enough food or access to nutritious food."
It's amazing that we produce enough food to feed everyone. The question is how to ensure that everyone has enough access to income to feed themselves. There are two major factors here, the price of food and the income of the person. Both of these can be adjusted to ensure that everyone can eat.
Advances like nitrogen fixing, rust resistant wheat and proper irrigation can push the price of food down. Some of these have the amazing property of being able to be solved essentially once and have the whole world benefit, the green revolution had absolutely amazing ROI, the work of just a handful of people produced wheat that can be raise yields dramatically almost everywhere. It'd be great to see the same thing done with cassava, rice and other staples.
Raising incomes is fairly tricky and even more contentious, but thankfully that is happening as well.
That is simply untrue. Not even close to to true. The world has grown from ~1 billion to ~7.5 billion, and we have reduced - in raw numbers - those in extreme poverty. A large part of that is down to Haber.
And maybe a shorter war would havve led to less humiliation of Germany afterwards so that WWII wouldn’t have happened.
But today, this is a political problem, not a scientific one. After all, the world produces more than enough food for everyone.
I don’t really understand how and why war happens. Like, it starts out as two parties both wanting the same resource, and then somebody says “over my dead body” or something and then a million other people decide to also join in this fight? I do not get it.
The other thing is : The “inherent harm of technology”. Every single advancement will 100% hurt someone. In this case it hurt a lot of people. But it’s impossible to stop progress, even if you keep a discovery secret for a while, it won’t last. Humanity will advance, and somewhat destroy itself in the process.
That is how war happens. Leaders who for various reasons taunt and provoke each other, implementing what to either populace seems a reasonable policy. (NK would like to be able to defend against the US, so they get nukes. The US would like to not be nuked, so they agitate strongly against them). Alas, these policies are in conflict, so tensions rise.
At some point, a small event - a misunderstanding, a border skirmish, etc - happens. In the context of already ratcheted up tensions, it spirals out of control because everybody feels the need to react quickly, before the other side escalates.
Nobody says "over my dead body". Everybody takes the next step, a step that's entirely reasonable from their perspective, but opens up "reasonable" steps for the other side. The core problem is that neither side considers the needs of the other side.
Peace requires active communication to constantly de-escalate and compromise, from both sides. An interest in a common good. War is what happens when you lose that and move to self-interest.
Of course I have to stipulate now that the Kim Dynasty are very bad no-good people whom we should all detest, otherwise trolls might pretend to misunderstand me.
Unless your parents are really young, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War is an obvious counterexample. There was a reasonably clear goal and the goal was accomplished.
I will grant that this is the only example I can think of right now, though.
I agree that keeping troops in place after the war was a bit questionable. Though one does need to answer the "OK, we kick Iraq out, what keeps them from coming back?" question. Which was answered in a ham-handed way, if at all. Keeping troops in Kuwait maybe made sense. Keeping troops in Saudi... one of the ostensible goals was in fact to prevent an Iraqi invasion of Saudi, not just to kick Iraq out of Kuwait. I do think in retrospect this was a bad idea. It's harder to tell how it looked at the time, and in particular what the Saudi government was telling the US government.
 One supposes that another option would have been to disrupt the governance of Iraq such that it would stop invading Kuwait, but later experience suggests that could also have had its drawbacks...
I don't think pre-1990 Middle East, where Iraq had just invaded and occupied a neighboring state (Kuwait) was exactly a stable place, either. Remember also the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War.
It is probably one of the most memorable (in the literal sense of the term) exhibits regarding the War that I've seen. I absolutely recommend it.
Short answer: nationalism and a lot of treaties and grudges from past wars.
Once the armies were assembled it was going to be
impossibly difficult to move them all back so they got
put into action instead.
In short, at the start of WW1, the Russians had two plans available: A plan to mobilise against the Austro-Hungarians only, and a plan to mobilise against them and the Germans at the same time.
But if they went for the Austria-Hungary-only plan, they'd be extra-vulnerable to German attack. After all, the troops and trains are all in the wrong place!
So although they were _mostly_ worried about Austria-Hungary, they were moderately worried about Germany, so they went with the mobilise-against-both plan. And as soon as Russia started massing troops at the German border, what could Germany do except respond in kind? Hence there was an escalation to war despite the fact neither side would benefit from it.
In other words: The logistics played a part, but it wasn't _just_ using the troops because they're here now - the logistics forced the Russians to choose between two bad options, forcing them into a choice that would inevitably trigger the escalation to war.
A good military commander needs to be able to adjust plans on the fly to circumstances anyways, and while the logistical hurdles would have been substantial. Mobilization itself takes the form of several stages, and it's possible to hold at certain stages for lengthy (in comparison to the crisis) periods of times. Military commanders would certainly have objected strenuously, but politicians could have overridden them if necessary.
The real truth is that, by the July Crisis, most of the politicians weren't trying to avoid war anymore. Certainly not in Germany, which is the only case where the timetable argument comes close to applying.
Contemporary experts also claimed that "the economic cost of war was so great that no one could possibly hope to gain by starting a war the consequences of which would be so disastrous."
This is one reason I find the modern argument for MAD to be insane. Conflict escalates, despite it being a negative-sum game.
Orwell captured one way total war can happen: a powerful small group of people gains control of a propaganda apparatus, and uses control of messaging to divide a country, or turn a country against a demonized minority group or external rival.
That happened with Mao, with Hitler, with Stalin, with Mussolini. Today’s challenge is ensuring that the propaganda arms created by Murdoch and Mercer and Koch don’t do that to America.
I think we don't really know. We know that greed plays a role, but it is not always the case of someone stronger attacking someone weaker.
In Steven Pinker's Better Angels of Our Nature, this is shortly discussed. IIRC he says that no reason put forward as an explanation for war can be conclusively proven from the available data (he mentions some war databases containing over 20k conflicts of more than 100 people each).
So, I think, unfortunately, conflict is like rain. You know that condensation is the cause, yet you can't really predict when and with what intensity it will happen. But you know it will.
So it has nothing to do with a "single event", but rather the "pre-conditions" which allow for that single event to evolve into such consequences. Don't blame an idiot who broke a brittle system.
I suspect that even if the assassination had failed they would have kept trying other provocations at least until they provoked an Austria-Russia war.
At best, wars are primarily a tool of the bankers and the international elite in a path towards control of all countries economic and physical resources. They finance and play both sides, and no matter the victor, they win. This is essentially the John Perkins position.
Even John Perkins claims there is no "grand conspiracy" though... and I would simply claim otherwise. Of course I've heard all the common retorts. "It could never be kept secret." "It's all incompetence, not malice." (hanlons fallacy) "It's just self-interest manifesting nastily." and so on.
Look, after the war I realized I had been lied to about so much, I sat down and decided to do what I call my "Descartes reset". Essentially, it consists of two parts. One, if I were to start fresh as if I knew nothing, and then evaluate the inductive and deductive evidence, if my past conclusions were correct I should arrive at them again. (they were't, and I didn't). Two, you must decide what you desire the most. The truth, no matter how ugly? Or a beautiful lie? I chose truth.
I won't get into the details right now, but suffice it to say I walked away believing there is indeed a "grand conspiracy". Of course that doesn't mean the other points of view aren't true at the same time, because they aren't mutually exclusive. If anything, the self-interested and the incompetent creates a nice cover for the abuse of the compartmentalization of black operations. There are often competing factions within as well, that sometimes align in purpose and sometimes don't. I still update and check my information and model as well. It's a continuous process mostly gained by gleaming bits and peaces of information from just straight up voraciously reading the best books related to the subject I could get my hands on.
That said, there are three primary sources that have a hefty academic background I used to pivot to other things. Carroll Quigley, Peter Dale Scott, and Antony C. Sutton. A third that was less academic and more experience based was Fletcher Prouty.
There are many other sources that have interesting things to say, but aren't as unimpeachable as the others. For this, a mainstream board, if you are really interested, I will just leave it at those four as a good start to pry open the very obsfuscated subject just a bit.
I agree that the first step is taking stock of all the lies. There are some obvious untruths that most Americans physically can't even consider, let alone disagree with, because they've been lied to from childhood. My current favorite is, "USA military is powerful and effective". Historians to come will puzzle over how anyone could have believed that, based on its unblemished record of ignominious defeat from Korea to Iraq and back again. When I talk about it today, however, I can see people's brains locking up.
I think it's possible there is no grand conspiracy, or perhaps we should say that myriad small conspiracies are reinforced by a larger unconscious equilibrium of interests. I'm not sure whether it would be better to react to the conspiracies or try to destroy the equilibrium...
First, discard any notions you may have regarding "winning" wars or "mission accomplished". The military hasn't been at war in a de jure legal sense since 1945. But it has been involved nearly continuously in de facto wars ever since then.
Is the world really such a dangerous place? Or is there another hypothesis that might explain it?
Here's one: the US military is an instrument for moving public funds from the Treasury into private hands with little or no public oversight, designed to work equally well when popular opinions swing in favor of the military or against it. To this end, media channels and public relations outlets are controlled through the use of financial incentives and proactively crafted narratives.
Milo Minderbinder is in charge. The US military spends $600 billion every year. Powerful means of moving money. Only $150 billion goes to personnel. Effective? Depends on what you think the intent may be.
In future I would suggest a less personal idiom such as, "...one might think". My HN posting history makes obvious that I completely agree with everything you've written here.
My hypothesis. Party A wants Thing from party B. Moreover, party A things they could take it by force. Even if party B things they couldn't defend Thing, they can't just give it, because that sets a wrong precedent.
Party B relies on being able to exact a very high toll should party A try to get thing.
Rationally, you don't declare a war you don't expect to win. So, in the above scenario, when part A declares war, they expect that party B cannot exact a high enough toll for Thing. When they do, it was a mistake.
The alternative are wars for 'moral' reasons, which are mostly about retribution or saving face. This is essentially how the murder of a prince lead escalated to a war that became WW1.
Unfortunately for the junta, they weren't the only unpopular right-wing government who saw warfare and jingoism as a handy distraction from internal economic and social problems.
Those are the kinds of things you say that already imply 100s of other theories and assumption and then you are like 'We have no choice'.
Germany was in a fantastic geopolitical situation after Bismark but then just fucked it all up because they had all these wrong (and sometimes crazy) assumptions.
The error you are making is that you are thinking in terms of groups or states.
Think of these people as individuals. Quite simply, some individual people wanted war to fulfill their political/personal ambitions and think war can make them happen. They really don't care much about the people who die. Its quite as simple as that.
So the army marches because from their perspective a legit government said, because it is in the interest of the country, plus they get payed.
The defenders are just defending their home country because they don't want to see it destroyed.
WW1 is really that simple.
The part about getting people to not care about the people who die is, I think, very important as far as understanding how warfare can happen on the scale it does. Most wars are characterized by strong propaganda denigrating the opposing side in negative stereotypical terms. In many cases, I think that the leaders who push for war actually share similar beliefs as a nationalism-driven populace -- it's more than mere exploitative.
Such explains why how, say, conflict over scarce resources can turn into something like violent conflict, which often (ironically) has a negative impact on the scarce resources itself.
Nationalism (and some things which are tangentially related like imperialism) was by many historical accounts one of the major forces that led to WWI. (As well as many other wars, I might add.)
I don't think its as simple as inherent in tribal nature. Leaders are selected and they need to consider the opinion of the electorate (this concept applies to non-democratic states as well).
In Political Science this is called electorate theory.
> I think that the leaders who push for war actually share similar beliefs as a nationalism-driven populace -- it's more than mere exploitative
> Nationalism (and some things which are tangentially related like imperialism) was by many historical accounts one of the major forces that led to WWI. (As well as many other wars, I might add.)
Nationalism I would agree but in the end the choice was with some leaders, and many of those were not really nationalist but rather classical conservatives.
Your point about resources is correct, they wanted to control those resources, not relay on markets and cooperation. After that the Nazis doubled down on those terrible zero sum ideas.
A similar argument could be made about the Haber-Bosch process. There's no way back from too much growth. And there are serious side effects.
I guess you could always explain any war by listing all the events that came righ before, but I don’t think that answers another question, which is this:
Why is it “ok” for governments to hire huge groups of people to murder other people, when murder is not ok in other settings? This is an obvious legal and moral contradiction right?
No it is not. Legally it is only for members of the own society.
But in war this society acts as a group against another group.
Legally totally different. (morally different story)
But still complicated especially today with asymmetrical warfare.
(france for example has no death penalty, but don't want their (IS) djihadists to come back and create legal problems (proving guilt is hard and putting them in jail creates also problems) ... so apparently it is easier for the French government to (secretly) order their special troops to make sure that not much of the french jihadists ended up as prisoners in syria or elsewhere and then demanded being brought back to french .. because killing in war is legal .. but since they have doubts on their own, it is of course not officially practiced)
Oh and in theory of course, nobody is starting a war anymore, since this is somewhat outlawed.
Everyone is only "defending".
Which does make sense, also morally - so yeah I believe in general it is OK to have a group of people trained to kill in case bad killers invade. Having a army to defend. Simple isolationist?
But what if there are friends of yours under attack somewhere else in the planet?
You go and help them, morally right, I believe.
But then things get complicated ... as "friends", people, cultures and states are not homogeneous things. So those friends of yours might be part of a legally justified dictatorship.
So you invade that dictatorship? And teach them democracy?
Well, that failed quite spectacular all the last times, but maybe that was also because of different reasons, as there were usually not so much "friends" who needed help, but rather a lot of hypocrisy to disguise plain old power politic where war is just a tool for politics in the bigger cultural struggle.
It is, of course, possible that even Bismarck could not have continued to manage them given the strains of nationalism that he set in motion. However, Bismarck was very motivated to maintain the peace rather than motivated to engage in war and that served Germany very well for a remarkably long time.
Even worse, Bismarck understood about not letting things get out of hand. He was quoted in 1898--"One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans"
I absolutely despise these statements, that are perpetuated to the present day. I'm from near the Balkans, from Romania.
They depict the Balkan region as being some sort of backwards warmongers, which is not the case (yes, the region is not very developed but it's far from the poorest regions on this planet; also, yes, I know about the Yugoslav Wars, but that's a rather extreme scenario and even people in the region were appalled at what the Serbs did, especially).
Anyway, the reason I don't like it: it was foreign empires vying in the region that made the mess. Turks, Austrians, Russians, Brits, Italians, Germans, French, they're the ones that started the wars. There was no way the local conflicts would have ever become global conflicts. The locals just didn't have the desire or resources to escalate such a conflict. Instead these empires just used them as battering rams against the other empires.
The statement is true and you give yourself a very good description of it. He did not say "it will come of some damned fools" but "some damned foolish thing in the Balkans", i.e. the power play between Russia and Austria-Hungary.
In my eyes the main difference between those and the Balkans was that the former were mostly allowed to blow themselves up. Peace only came when they got tired of it. In the Balkans they got tired of it in 1999. They couldn't do it earlier because of... empires :)
Of course, there are no guarantees in life, but if I were a betting man I'd say that for each extra peaceful year of peace in the Balkans you can add 1 year of peace in the future.
So my forecast is for at least 19 years of peace :)
The reality is simpler, there was a group of people in Austria who wanted war with Serbia, and a group of people in Germany who wanted war with Franz and Russia. Unfortunately for world history those people happen to be in particular places at that time, and so they started the war.
It is really that simple, a number of people wanted war, so they started it.
As for technology, the purpose of a machine or a construct is primarily a solution to problems which made people's lifes difficult. The solutions of technology make people's lifes easier, more secure, but it also bears risks and unsforseen consequences. That's not always that case, as the special case of war clearly show it. War machinery makes people's lifes worse, but it's not the fault of machinery or technologies, it the fault of people waging wars.
Rudyard Kipling's writings (before and during WWII) are probably the best source if you want to learn the sentiment that leads to the war.
>million other people decide to also join in this fight
Most people don't get to decide. Most of them are conscripted.
I don't think it's controversial to say that there's way more going on behind the effort to staff an army than threat of punishment from the government. Historically there are many examples of citizens eager to line up and fight for their country (whether for pragmatic or idealistic reasons). This isn't just patriotic rhetoric, it's a very powerful social force once set in motion.
If our species has any enduring trait then violent conflict through war must be pretty close to the top of the list.
I’m pretty poor too but I feel like I have other options than to put my life in danger.
Different wars start for different reasons.
The Great War started because the Serbian government financed a small group of separatists in Austria-Hungary, who assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The Austro-Hungarian government naturally objected, and presented the Serbians with an ultimatum essentially demanding the ability to investigate & prosecute anyone involved. Serbia refused, supported by its ally Russia, who mobilised & threatened to invade Austria-Hungary & Germany if either did anything to Serbia.
Due to the military realities of the time, if one country mobilised and another didn't, the former country would be able to take great swathes of territory from the latter before the latter could do anything. So of course with Russia mobilised Germany had to mobilise. And of course with Germany mobilised France had to mobilise too. France, meanwhile, really wanted to take back a piece of territory that Germany had won in 1873 (and France had previously won in 1648 …), so planned to invade Germany as soon as Germany & France's ally Russia were fighting.
The Russian army was large but poor, while France's was smaller but deadly. Faced with a two-front war, the German plan was to hold Russia at bay while defeating France first, then swing to the east and defeat Russia second. However, a fight across the heavily-fortified Franco-German border would have been far too slow to defeat France in a timely fashion, so the Germans planned to go around the French border fortresses by marching through Belgium, never mind that Belgium had not agreed to this plan.
So, Germany invades Belgium, invades France, almost makes it to Paris, gets pushed back, the Brits join the fight, the Western Front solidifies into a four-year stalemate in which roughly 3 million men die and 8 million are wounded; Austria-Hungary invades Serbia but does remarkably poorly; Russia invades Germany & Austria-Hungary; Turkey joins the fray, hoping to reconquer some of the Balkan countries which had won their independence.
Ultimately the victorious Allies assign guilt for the war to Germany, imposing reparations which set the stage for the much nastier Second World War; the monarchs of Serbia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia & Turkey lose their thrones and/or lives; Russia falls to Bolshevik Communism (which sets the stage for the much nastier Second World War); Eastern Europe is broken into a patchwork of states with an unstable ethnic mixture (which sets the stage for the much nastier Second World War); millions die; and the Belle Époque, the highest point of western civilisation, gives way to the horror & madness of the twentieth century, the single bloodiest hundred years mankind's ever seen.
As for the assassin who started it all? Too young to be executed, he wastes away & dies in prison of tuberculosis.
Humanity’s foremost achievement is overcoming its biological roots, and any view of the world based on supposedly unchangeable evolutionary mechanisms is deeply flawed.
I think we're very far from that. I would say our biological roots are responsible for our individualism, which often doesn't manifest as boundless reproduction, but rather as greed.
I am however pessimistic.
Every time I see someone who is described like that, I have to wonder how much of the disdain we have for him is because that wasn't our country? If we had a brilliant man who invented a solution to the worldwide fear of an impending food shortage, but they also made a disturbing wartime weapon, would we feel the same way?
He might be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch!
This is only half true. You also needed to breed new crop varieties that were able to put all that abundance of nitrogen to good use. Older crops varieties, adapted to grow well in the less nitrogen-rich soils, would not simply double their output even when given double nitrogen.
So there is another man, plant breeder Norman Borlaug, who is equally responsible for feeding most of our 8 billion people today.
Use of gas projectors did not violate the 1899 Hague Declaration against use of gas-filled projectiles. Use of irritants like chlorine arguably didn't violate the 1904 Hague Convention on use of poison or poisoned weapons (is an irritant a poison? does dosage matter?).
The first German use of chemical weapons (tear gas, again) was on the Eastern Front, near Warsaw, not at Ypres. I don't know if the use of chlorine at Ypres was intended as an irritant or a poison — it's been too long since I studied the history.
> As Germany’s population grew along with their economy, the newly formed country became ambitious. The decision was made to further their status in the world by attacking France through Belgium.
That's a description of the beginning of the Great War so short that it's a lie. It's not as though the Germans woke up one morning and thought, 'hey, let's invade France!' The reason Germany attacked France was that Russia had mobilised on her eastern borders, while France was mobilising to her west (and the belief was that France was the far deadlier foe). This was in an era in which a mobilised army was believed to mean almost certain victory. And the reason that Germany invaded Belgium was that the French frontier was too heavily fortified. As it turned out, that was a good operational decision but an extraordinarily poor strategic one: while the German Army almost got to Paris, violation of Belgian neutrality led to Britain's entry into the war.
Has anyone other than you argued that chlorine gas is not poisonous?
As if this is a gift. A big assumption to make. More and more, I am taking to the anti-natalist viewpoint.
It sort of blew my mind when I read it back then
Nobody out people there would've lived without him inventing a process that lead to first generation chemical fertilizers.
An invention I rank second to invention of fire in history of our species.
(third being the metallurgy)
Yet, the man is unknown to non-chemist, and some anthropologists
He didn't solve it. He just delayed the problem for a while. Solving it requires stopping the exponential growth of the human population.
We will soon have the opposite problem in many countries - an aging population with no base of support.
Even remaining population growth is a big problem, but using he word 'exponentially' to describe growth that is slowing down and is most likely sublinear is not accurate.