What makes a society innovative?
Tracing the story of five great civilizations, from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, to the Middle East, Europe, the United States and China, this book will tell you. History offers us a model and lessons for what can be done right, and it shows how once mighty and innovative societies can fall. The story here departs from pundits who believe that the Western or American-style political and legal system is universally best for economic success. At various times China, the Middle East and elsewhere were the great engines of innovation; later leadership passed to Europe and the United States. As some places rose to the top of science and technology, others fell away. And some, like China, rose again.
The lessons of history are clear. Centers of innovation learn from and borrow ideas, practices and technologies from elsewhere. They adapt ideas and practices to add new value. They activate strengths of their population through education, cultural openness, and access to financial resources. They build strong institutions that pursue new knowledge and reject orthodoxy. At a time when the world seems to be closing doors to the talented and pulling back from global engagement, when suspicion of the foreign is running high, we may be losing the essential traits that make for innovation, the most important of all assets for the future of the human race.