Produced by and starring the author of the book Jared Diamond (as himself) as he goes around the world trying to figure out why the world in the present day is unequal with one civilization more advanced than the other. Diamond went to New Guinea originally to study about the birds when in his trips, one of his New Guinean friends asked him an Armor-Piercing Question: "Why do white people have so much cargo, but we New Guineans have so little?" Diamond found the question that seemed simple at first to be much more complicated and thus went on his journey to figure out the answer to the question.
In between Diamond's journey, the theories was slowly explained throughout a re-enactment of historical events from Ancient Middle East to the Spanish conquest of the Americas to the European colonization of Africa.
The book and the documentary provide examples of:
- Armor-Piercing Question: What made Diamond go through his journey in the first place.
- Infant Immortality: Shown when the Zulus massacred a Boer family. Everyone died, except the baby. There is also a rather tragic, real-life aversion... Near the end of the third installment, Jared Diamond visits a children's hospital in Zambia, set aside for malaria patients. He is informed that children less than a year old die there almost on a daily basis. Diamond breaks down in tears at realizing many children he's seen there will die.
- Schmuck Bait: The instance of conquistador Francisco Pizarro's encounter with the Incan Emperor Atahualpa, depicted on the book's cover. Atahualpa was captured by the Spanish and told he could buy his freedom with a massive sum of gold. Atahualpa agreed and ordered the riches delivered, whereupon Pizarro executed him anyway. Diamond uses Atahualpa's falling for such an obvious trap as a main question for the chapter.
- Series Of The Book: The documentary adaptation by the National Geographic.