It can be argued that there were two major technological revolutions which have transformed every aspect of society. The first was the Neolithic revolution, in which the invention of agriculture allowed production of surplus food, urbanization, specialization of labor, and many revolutionary technologies in areas such as transportation (the wheel, roads, ships), tool-making, and housing, and infrastructure such as aqueducts, roads, postal services, educational systems, and complex legal and administrative systems. Industrialization, occurring in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the West, extended and multiplied these innovations and changed them by supplementing the muscle power of humans and animals with extensive machine power. The changes included the following:
- The industrial revolution allowed far more efficient agriculture, significantly reducing the amount of labor recovered to cultivate food. This meant that a far greater amount of land was cleared for food production, in turn supporting massive increases in population.
- Population explosion: The world's human population exploded from approximately 100-300 million people at the end of the middle ages to reach approximately one billion by 1800 to over seven billion now. Much of this population has been clustered in massive and ever-growing cities. This gave rise to the phenomenon of urban slums with poor sanitation and rapid spread of epidemic diseases.
- Technology has improved many aspects of our daily lives, including our life expectancy in the developed world. We have many labor-saving and comfort enhancing objects. Machines have replaced human labor and made our lives safer in many areas. Communication and travel are vastly more efficient, with the world becoming increasingly globalized.
- Human-caused climate change and environmental degradation have been major negative outcomes of industrialization, with vast areas of land being devastated permanently by toxic waste, farmlands destroyed by overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, fisheries collapsing, species extinctions, and aquifer depletion. The world's oceans are filled with non-degradable plastics and drinking water in most of the world contains traces of everything from chemical to medical waste.