Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

Tony Griffiths tonyg at OntheNet.com.au
Sat Sep 19 02:31:39 EST 1998


Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin wrote:
> 
> Peter da Silva wrote in alt.memetics:
> 
> >Leonardo da Vinci is the most likely MotM, politically and socially.

Hmmm...  Not sure L da V had much impact on the political _or_ social
environment of his time, or even later.  Even his science was cloaked in
secrecy and didn't do much to spur others to advance at a greater rate.

For me, the one act by a single person that had greatest influence on the
nature of this millennium was the burning of the Chinese fleet and the
turning of the Chinese empire for outward looking to an enclosed "universe"
oblivious and contemptous of the rest of the world.  This occurred at a time
when the plague (bubonic?) was sweeping through Europe and the nation states,
if you could call them that, were really constantly changing alliances of
ducal fiefdoms.  The Europeans were afraid of sailing beyond the sight of
land for fear of falling off the 'edge' at a time when Chinese trading ships
were sailing all the way to the west coast of Africa and the Persian gulf.

Given the start in technology that China enjoyed at the time, and the power
of a highly organised and well administered state with a VERY LARGE (for the
time, I believe about 300 million is the estimate!) population, the Chinese
empire could EASILY have expanded west and cleaned up, much as the Mongols
under the Khans had done a few hundred years earlier.

This one act, in all probability, turned an early millennium "super-power"
into an insular declining state and finally a technology backwater later
dominated by the European powers determined to enforce their will by military
might.  The boot could quite easily have been on the other foot!!!

> >Though a lot could be said for Malthus. *sigh*
> 
> But only if they start publishing the second edition of his work,
> instead of the first edition.
> 
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