Table of Contents

Human history

Three revolutions. The human history I find most compelling is the history of three revolutions:

  1. The neolithic revolution: the beginning of agriculture and human culture
  2. The industrial revolution: the end of sustainability; luddites
  3. The information revolution: mass media, computers, and social media; neo-luddites
The neolithic revolution

Nomads were one with nature, immersed in it, apex predators. They were not yet humanity as we know it: protected from nature, separate from it, conquerors and exploiters of it. Nomads were in desperate competition with the rest of nature: an unsuccessful hunt or an unusually dry summer meant starvation.

The first farmers. About 12,000 years ago a few nomads settled down and became farmers. Farmers could produce more food than nomads. They lived in permanent camps and 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. Private ownership was born.

Alcohol. Excess fruit and grain meant that beer and wine could become a regular part of life, not just a rare treat. Alcholism was born.

Culture & class. Prosperous farmers could afford specialists: people who brewed beer & wine, built houses & fences, made ceramics & jewelry; sang & played music, healed wounds & propitiated angry gods. Human culture and art were born. Also class differences: the farmers were the wealthy class.

Growth & 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.

Crime & slavery. A successful farmer was a juicy target for clever parasites: 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 would'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, that's how we've always been. All the human nastiness of exploitation, crime, repression, drug & alcohol addiction, violence, slavery is part of us; it can't be fixed, it's in our blood. It doesn't need fixing; it's simply how humans are. Disruption is our role here. It's true that the planet can only support so many disruptors. There are far too many of us now, and the planet will have to fix that, because we can't. Global warming should do the trick.

The industrial revolution

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 expansion of cities. Cities became so large and powerful that they took over all the villages in their political domain, one way or another. 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 gradually 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.

The information revolution

Mass media. Printing, radio, movies, TV. Mass media introduced something new: easy entertainment. 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.