The study of world history reveals an interesting pattern. The center of thought, creativity, innovation, and understanding is slowly moving west.
Starting about 1,000 years ago, China was the center of innovation. The Song Dynasty Chinese invented paper, paper money, gunpowder, a process for making fine porcelain that will still call “China,” and a host of other everyday things.
Slowly the center of creativity moved to the Arab world. The Arabs wrote the first medical textbooks after getting paper making from the Chinese. They developed higher mathematics. An Arab named al Jebra invented a system of math based on balance and equations that was named after him: “algebra.” We get our modern numerals and numbering system from them.
Eventually, the center of culture shifted westward again to Italy with people like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The Medici family invented the modern banking system. Further west and a hundred years saw the invention of the printing press in Western Europe and artists like Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms; musical instruments like the piano and organ and painters like Rembrandt came along and theologians like Martin Luther.
Still later, Great Britain became the heart of the industrial revolution with the invention of the steam engine, railroads and mass production. The British Empire spanned the globe due their economic strength.
By the twentieth century it was the United States’ turn with advances in electric lighting and electronic communications. The US invented Jazz and Rock and Roll and forged ahead in space travel. Artists like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Andy Warhol thrived. Advances in civil rights and education made the twentieth century the Golden Age for the United States.
In the twenty-first century the US is slowly turning its back on education and creativity. Intellectuals are called elitist or nerds, education and the arts are being marginalized, and innovation is slowing to a halt.
Meanwhile the center for learning and creativity continues to move west with China, Japan, and South Korea once again emerging as the world leaders in education, manufacturing, and design. If the thousand-year-old pattern continues, the Far East will dominate world thinking for another hundred years or so.