Three revolutions. The human history I find most compelling is the history of three revolutions:
Nomads. Mesolithic nomads were one with nature, immersed in it, hunter gatherers. They were not yet conscious in the way we are, not yet humanity as we know it: protected from nature, separate from it, conquerors and exploiters of it. They were on an equal footing with the rest of nature and in desperate competition with it: an unsuccessful hunt or an unusually dry summer meant starvation. They lived and died as animals, fully immersed in nature and natural cycles and at their mercy. The urge to return to nature is atavistic. It's a betrayal of our humanity.
tech·nol·o·gy | /tekˈnäləjē/ | noun | the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes -Google
Early farmers. About 12,000 years ago a few nomads settled down and became farmers living in permanent settlements instead of seasonal camps. Early farmers used new technology for planting, cultivating, irrigating, harvesting and storing food. Science as we know it hadn't been born but that didn't deter early farmers. They observed and innovated: practical science and engineering. With new technology they could produce more food than nomads. They lived in permanent camps where food could be stored. People didn't starve just because hunting or foraging was bad. Life was more secure now that they were farmers and had their own fields. Technological innovation and private ownership were born, along with love.
Alcohol. Excess fruit and grain meant that beer and wine, soon spirits could become a regular part of life, not just a rare treat. Alcoholism was born.
Culture and class. Prosperous farmers could afford specialists: people who brewed beer and wine, built houses and fences, made ceramics and jewelry, sang and played music, healed wounds and propitiated angry gods. Human culture and art were born. Nomads had art but not artists as we know them. No one could devote a lifetime to art. Artistic development was severely squeezed by the need to survive. Class differences were also born: the farmers were the wealthy class.
Growth and development. Agriculture made leisure time a possibility; nomads always worked full time to survive. Leisure time could be used for meditation and personal growth. Self actualization was born and took its place at the top of the hierarchy of human needs. Self actualization is a human invention, our very finest.
Crime and slavery. A successful farmer was a juicy target for a clever scumbag: make a show of force and demand half his crops from now on, and maybe his daughters would live. Half became the vast majority, and his daughters did not fare well; they might've welcomed death. Farmers became the exploited class: serfs, economic slaves to the usurping owners of their farms. Welcome to humanity as we know it.
Humans are disruptors. That's how we started out and that's how we've been ever since. We disrupt nature, creatively imposing our will on the natural order of things. That disruption makes human culture possible, all the wonders of science, technology and art. Those wonders come at the terrible price of human misery: crime, repression, exploitation, alcohol and drug addiction, violence, slavery and the emotions all of that is based on. All that is part of us. None of it can be fixed. It's all the inevitable outgrowth of thinking. Disruption is our role here, our part to play in the game. The only way to be human and not ruled by misery is to make progress with love and keep making progress, a path rarely taken. It's true that the planet can only support so many disruptors. There are far too many of us now. The planet will have to fix that. Global warming should do the trick.
Village life. Ancient cities began to form during the neolithic revolution, but for thousands of years most people lived in villages. Villages could be more or less self-sustaining, trading minimally or not at all with other villages. Villages could be sustainable in a given area if the population was stable. That was rarely the case. The advantages of settled life resulted in population growth; villages tended to grow.
Ancient cities. Meanwhile, cities were developing. The concentrated population of a city required lots of surrounding land for support. Cities swallowed villages, gradually expanding outward. Sustainable villages became an endangered species.
Tipping point. The industrial revolution was a tipping point in the development of new technology and the expansion of cities. Cities became so large and powerful they took over all the villages in their political domain. One way they did this by being attractive, exciting. Village life was lots of hard work with no great prospects. There was more potential in cities; some people got rich. Another way was eminent domain: powerful people in a city could simply wipe out villages if that land was needed for mining or defense. Cities made village life undesirable and irrelevant.
Luddites. Some people resisted industrialization. They didn't fare very well. They were severely punished, often executed. Nobody cared about their grievances. Time doesn't run backwards; the power had shifted to the cities, and there it would stay. So far it shows no signs of leaving.
Mass media. Printing, radio, movies, TV. Mass media introduced something new: easy entertainment. Thanks to mass media and the Internet, entertainment has replaced religion as the opiate of the people. It's way better opium, much more seductive. TV trumps church, even in Texas. Before mass media we had to work for entertainment by physically traveling to wherever the entertainers were. People traveled to the arena for spectacles, the theater for plays and later movies, the auditorium for music. Mass media brought all that into the home, first as books and then as broadcast media.
Computers. Before the Internet computers were a tool for business and government. The coming of the personal computer changed that. Computers became a tool ordinary people could use. The coming of the Internet made computers a means of communicating. The coming of social media changed everything.
Neo-luddites. Some people resist computerization, and any technology that's not been proven harmless. That's absurd. All technology is harmful. There's alway a tradeoff. Nobody cares what the neo-luddites think.