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Perverted Wisdom

If we were forced to suppose that there have been a few secret time-travelers in history, suspicion would naturally fall on people like Leonardo da Vinci, Jules Verne, maybe Marcel Duchamp.

How were these guys so far ahead of their time?  Maybe they were ahead of their time, literally. Maybe they weren’t great geniuses so much as plagiarists of the future—they took good notes and then came back and tried to take credit.

My candidate for secret time-traveler is Ibn Khaldun (1332 – 1406). Several hundred years before the West reinvented anthropology and sociology, Ibn Khaldun invented, by himself, an incredibly modern “science of culture.”

Intellectual achievements normally attributed to Europeans of the modern era (i.e., after c. 1492) can be found throughout Ibn Khaldun’s Introduction to History, written in North Africa in 1377:  the economic law of supply and demand; the labor theory of value in economics; the “Laffer…

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