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For the enlightenment, advancement, and inspiration of its members


Proudly presents

With the kind permission of
Intelligence Squared

A filmed talks in which




competition + science + democracy +
medicine + consumerism + Protestant work ethic

Date: Monday April 18, 2011

Venue: Home of Prodos & Barboo, 153 Lennox Street, Richmond


6.30 PM: Doors Open

Food: Optional. We’re going “Potluck“.

i.e. Perhaps you’d like to bring along a plate of snacks or something with “food value” for sharing. (Sweets and junk food not that welcome.)

7.30 PM: Commencement of Films + Chaired discussion.

Who: Only registered PRODOS Film Study Group members and guests of members allowed. You can apply to join on the night. To join you need to agree with our purpose and pay the $5 annual fee.

Policy: Leaving straight after a film and therefore skipping the discussion goes against one of the conditions upon which our permission to screen these films is based.

9.45 PM: End of meeting.

Cost: No charge. But if you’d like to make a personal donation to Prodos that’s greatly appreciated. (But please NEVER miss out just because you’re short of cash. We want you with us!)



In his latest book, Civilisation: The West and the Rest, (Dr Niall Ferguson) asks how Western civilisation, from inauspicious roots in the 15th century, came to dominate the rest of the world. His answer is that the West developed six “killer applications” that the Rest lacked: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the Protestant work ethic.

The key question today is whether or not the West has lost its monopoly on these six things. If it has and the Rest of the world can successfully download these apps, we may be living through the end of Western ascendancy

American soldier and Iraqi boy

Summary of Dr Ferguson’s 6 “killer apps” from Gypsy Scholar ….

1. Competition: a decentralisation of political and economic life, which created the launch pad for both nation states and capitalism.

2. Science: a way of understanding and ultimately changing the natural world, which gave the West (among other things) a major military advantage over the Rest.

3. Property rights: the rule of law as a means of protecting private owners and peacefully resolving disputes between them, which formed the basis for the most stable form of representative government.

4. Medicine: a branch of science that allowed a major improvement in health and life expectancy, beginning in Western societies, but also in their colonies.

5. The consumer society: a mode of material living in which the production and purchase of clothing and other consumer goods play a central economic role, and without which the Industrial Revolution would have been unsustainable.

6. The work ethic: a moral framework and mode of activity derivable from (among other sources) Protestant Christianity, which provides the glue for the dynamic and potentially unstable society created by apps 1 to 5.

Summary of the 6 “killer apps” from eamonn.com

In the year 1411, the Forbidden City was under construction and the Ottomans were closing in on Constantinople. Meanwhile, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were wretched backwaters ravaged by war and disease. Aragon, Castile, France and Portugal were little better. Yet, out of these abject places came a civilization that would dominate the world for most of the next half millennium.

In his new book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson argues that the triumph of Western Europe over its rivals in the Orient was due to the development of six “killer apps”:

1. Competition: Europe’s fragmented political structure led to competition and encouraged people to seek opportunities in distant lands.

2. Science: In the Muslim world, clericism curtailed the spread of knowledge, while in Europe, aided by the printing press, the scope of scholarship dramatically widened.

3. Property: British settlers brought to North America a particular conception of widely distributed property rights and democracy, inherited from John Locke.

4. Modern medicine: Western medical advances increased life expectancies across the world, including in the colonies.

5. Consumption: The industrial revolution in 18th and 19th century Britain created a model of consumerist society that has proved irresistible.

6. Work ethic: Protestantism, noted Max Weber, was a form of Christianity that encouraged hard work, reading and saving.

American flag on the moon

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