Homo sapiens evolved as a separate species about 300,000 years ago. Measured in generations (with each generation lasting 20 years), that means there are about 15,000 great-great-etc. grandparents separating you from the earliest human ancestors. While that’s a remarkable fact in itself, what’s really remarkable is how the world each of those generations experienced was remarkably static. Of course, there were natural disasters and wars. In general, however, the “techno-social” universe your 9,045th great-grandparent lived in was not very different from the one your 9,046th one inhabited. The same holds true for the vast majority of generations after them.
But this kind of generation-to-generation stasis is clearly not the case for you, me, and most people on the planet today. Instead, we inhabit a world of rapid change driven by technology that has produced a techno-social world of staggering complexity. It’s a situation utterly unlike almost every other generation in the human lineage.
The arc of human cultures has, generally, run from smaller hunter-gatherer groups to larger and more complex arrangements. The story that’s often told is one where the switch to agriculture and domestication of animals about 9,000 years ago drove humans to create sedentary societies. These grew in size along with the food yields that crop cultivation and animal husbandry allowed. In this way, villages grew into towns, towns into cities, and cities into empires. While some aspects of this story — such as the role of agriculture — are now more fiercely debated, it’s clear that human societies have grown in both size and complexity.