What distinguishes humans from the technological tools they have made? The split of our species from our under-evolved ancestors is marked by our ability to use and create tools. Some would argue that the biggest impact on social development throughout the millennia has been religion. Others say it has been empires. But the greatest impact on the trajectory of human social development has not come through politics or religion.
The most monumental shift in human progress began with a piece of machinery: the steam engine. From that point there was no turning back. Humans began an inextricable bond with machinery that will last for the remainder of our species existence. As machinery advanced, so too did society. It altered the course of the previous thousands of years, bringing us off of the farm and into cities.