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Five apps that contributed to the West’s progress

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Published: Updated:

How did the West advance more than the rest of the world?

Books and researches have been published to answer this question and reveal its secrets so others can catch up. Famous historian Niall Ferguson provided an easy and modern recipe for this progress.

In one of his interviews, he said there are five apps which the West has downloaded before the rest and which contributed to its progress. If other countries want to follow suit, they must download some of these apps. However, these apps are downloaded to one’s brain and not to his smart phone.

The first app is the scientific revolution or the scientific approach. Europe has adopted this approach before many other countries as there were no rivals for Newton and Galileo during their times.

Science transformed the world from a magical and mythical phase, where human being was not in control of his life, to a rational phase where man has the confidence in his capabilities and does not only have the courage to understand space but also to invade it.

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For centuries, human being ran in closed dark circle that always brought him back to the same point. They traveled using donkeys, drank dirty water and died of the silliest diseases. Adopting a scientific approach changed everything.

Imagine how it would have been without the scientific revolution! We would have been suffering from malnutrition and we would not know why the moon rotates around the earth.

We would think the earth is flat and we would be afraid of approaching its sharp edges fearing a fall. The West was more advanced in sciences and this made it become more developed.

Political freedom, capitalism, rule of law and bases of citizenship all came together to nurture Europe into the continent we know today

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

The medical revolution

The second app is the medical revolution, which is linked to the scientific approach. The West discovered reasons behind diseases like the cholera and plague and figured out how to treat them at the end of the 19th century thus marking a significant revolution that prolonged man’s age.

Diseases are not curses but they can be fought off with medicine and treated. Life expectancy for people was in the 40s but it increased to 70s. The medical revolution will continue progressing until future generations live more than 100 years. We would not be alive until today if it hadn’t been for medicine as diseases would have killed our grandparents when they were young.

The third app is political and economic competition. Despite several attempts, Europe did not accept one tyrannical emperor who governs it with an iron fist. This was due to domestic social reasons which included competition among noblemen and politicians and which created strong balance thus paving way for forming an atmosphere of freedom.

Geographic factors also played a role as rivers penetrate Europe and it is difficult for an entire army to fully seize areas, unlike the case with China which is geographically flat. Different terrains encouraged the establishment of states and kingdoms that could be politically strong and that can flourish on the economic level via trade and without being suffocated.

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This is why it is said that liberalism and freedom preceded democracy in Europe. It’s the main reason which paved the way to establish a healthy democracy which lasted until today. Think of all the political freedom they had and the scientific and industrial revolution.

Capitalism is an expected result. This is why it was first seen in Europe and not somewhere else and why the sense of citizenship emerged from that area in particular – it emerged due to noblemen looking for fair representation. The social contract was then established along with the set of duties and rights.

Since people looked for something to protect them from injustice and oppression, they insisted on the rule of law that later developed. Political freedom, capitalism, the rule of law and the bases of citizenship thus all came together to nurture and develop Europe into the continent we know today.

Consumer society

The fourth app is the emergence of the consumer society with the beginning of the textile industry. This revolution made people feel that one piece of clothing is not enough and that they constantly need to shop. This meant the market’s prosperity.

Consumption thus became essential in our lives, from buying cars to iPhones. Whether you like it or not, you are a consumer. Even priests in the mountains of Tibet cannot contradict this reality.

This is how the concept of money developed to become the axis on which life rotates. There are no employees in the entire world who would accept their monthly salary to turn into moral preaches or romantic songs. They simply want money at the end of the month to spend it. This is how life became.

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The fifth app is the work ethic, which is linked to Protestantism, particularly to its Calvinism version. Hard work marked God’s satisfaction with his servants and not his wrath as Catholicism preached and which preferred the other world to this one. Work means production and production means success and development.

Sanctifying the culture of work led to the prosperity of developing small watches in Western Europe for the first time ever. Knowing time is important for discipline and commitment, it has economic significance today and it is not just about the time of sunrise and sunset.

All these apps contributed to the development of the West and America whose work branched from the West but later overtook it. It would be amazing if we can just go to the App Store and download them in seconds!

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.