For most of human history, individuals and communities have lived in ‘one present’ and looked forward to ‘one future’, defined by one set of technologies. For most of human history, technological change was rare, slow, and the social and environmental consequences almost unnoticed. During most of this time, people lived and thought collectively in small face-to-face groups, not separately and individually. There was no concept of ‘privacy’ or ‘my individual rights’. Some Greek and Roman philosophers eventually conceived of the ideas, but the overwhelming majority of humans neither imagined nor experienced privacy or individual moral freedom. Indeed, the social value and impact of the Greek and Roman philosophers was near zero until they were rediscovered in the late middle ages. Community-focused life dominated until the scientific-industrial revolution and events leading up to it (the Reformation, Renaissance, and Enlightenment) when people began using technologies that gave them first the experience and then the idea of individualism and individual freedom while rediscovering/inventing texts that explained and justified their experiences.
From the middle of the seventeenth century until the middle of the twentieth century, modern societies were increasingly dominated by individualising technologies, spurred by the printing press and culminating with the automobile and the telephone. During that period, each new technology seemed to free the individual from the confining traditions and bonds of the community, eventually creating free individuals each with their own unique sense of self and their future—their personal values and beliefs – (give me liberty or give me death; its my way or the highway) leading to the opportunities, ideologies, triumphs, and disasters characteristic of modern times.