About 250 years ago, advanced human societies took a dramatic turn for the better. In terms of life expectancy at birth, GDP per capita, kilocalories per person per day, technological adeptness, and personal political freedoms, the human condition in most European derived populations improved their situations.
There was a “great divergence” of accomplishment between Europe and the rest of the world — with Europe being led by Great Britain in some important ways.
For a few hundred years Europe leaped ahead in art, scientific achievement, literature and publishing, global exploration, and technological accomplishment.
Prior to the middle ages and the subsequent European renaissance, China and India have been often perceived as wealthier and in some ways more advanced than Europe. But as the ideas of the renaissance spread through the political domains of Europe, a form of intense competition between sovereign states set in. This competition resulted in the greatest period of sustained human achievement ever seen — at least when measured by the 5 criteria above.
India and China had lacked that spark of competition between sovereign states which drove the Europeans to devise more clever science, art, literature, and technology of all kinds. And they had never truly systematized the scientific method or the theories of science and technology. The great Asian states were always corrupt and complacent, and remained that way until violently pulled out of their slumber by outside (European) forces during the great age of European colonial development.
And Then There Was the USA
The US came out of the UK and Europe to dominate the global economy. This dominance did not occur by any plan or design by the US government. It happened because the US Constitution prevented the US government from standing in the way of US commerce — without sufficient cause. This non-interference policy by the government was a historical precedent among large nations, and was but one of many ways in which the essential difference of the USA would make itself known during its early centuries.
Suddenly Europe and Britain rose above the rest of the world in several key measures. Just as suddenly the essentially European and British peoples of the US were able to achieve further incredible advances in technology and trade in just a relatively short time.
The concept of “progress” is endemic to European cultures, whereas most eastern cultures believed in the cyclic nature of reality. The “singularity” idea is merely the idea of progress taken to an imagined limit. But the graphic at the top of this article surely displays a “singularity” and many other singularities of various degree have occurred through human history. Perhaps the singularity that followed the European renaissance and coincided with the European enlightenment and the scientific and industrial revolutions, should be referred to as the European Singularity. And it probably would if it were not so politically incorrect and so offensive to academic and media snowflakes.
As the number of books and other publications rose, knowledge became more detailed and more specialised. Disciplines of study were divided and sub-divided until a scholar is not able to master the breakthroughs in his own discipline, much less in other related disciplines.
China claims to publish the most book titles of any country, but China is not particularly known for its great book stores and libraries, open to the public for the wide dissemination of the world’s knowledge. China is instead known for aggressive censorship of ideas and a vicious limitation of intellectual freedom within the bamboo prison walls. As long as the party remains in control of China and takes the tyrannical approach to freedom of thought and action, its future will be greatly limited.
More on European Uniqueness
As noted above, neither China nor India ever systematized science or technology — so that various seemingly important inventions and discoveries in ancient Asia never really led to any great scientific or technological movements. The Chinese “treasure fleets” are one of the best illustrations of the typical Chinese failure to follow up on technological achievement. If China had been able to build upon its many earlier inventions, the history of human accomplishment would have been far different.