Historian Niall Ferguson discussed "the six killer apps" of prosperity in his recent TED talk.
These "apps" refer to certain ideas--competition, scientific revolution, property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society and work ethic-- that define and set apart Western culture. Ferguson explains that although in the past these characteristics have given the West an advanced role in society, things may be changing.
"The average American used to be 20 times richer than the average Chinese," he explained. "Now it's just 5 times and soon it will be 2.5...the Great Divergence is over, folks."
For more on these ideas, check out Ferguson's book, "Civilization: The West and the Rest," or watch the video below.