Jared Diamond’s 1987 article, The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race, got me wondering. How do you define “mistake”? He doesn’t. What would a successful species look like? He doesn’t say. While it’s thought-provoking, it’s very hard to pin down his meaning without some explanation for those concepts.
The biggest mistake, he claims, was agriculture. He argues against a progressivist view of history, which argues that agriculture couldn’t possibly be a mistake, because it must have improved human lives or we wouldn’t have adopted it, and on those grounds, I think he’s right in principle — we adopt stupid ideas all the time. But then he tries to take an extreme opposite tack, that agriculture was bad for human beings, and there I think he’s going wrong. Agriculture produced a different environment for our species, and it had a mix of consequences.