It’s just too difficult. I imagine what it might be as:
- I watch a pair of design students talking to each other half-way round the world both using light-pens to draw on ‘opposite sides’ of the screen in front of each, and an expert in a further corner of the globe commenting by videolink…
- I see architects fashioning forms from crumpled paper, which can be read and then replicated by machine, fifty times bigger in titanium without a problem…
- I am an excited flaneur through the virtual responsiveness of YouTube and Wikipedia, and see all the material around me tend to become ordered following the Google algorithm of privileging the most popular.
In the end I guess the answer to your question is:
The domestication of dairy and meat animals through their slow genetic selection and similarly the development of agricultural staples through breeding and systems of artificial irrigation. This allowed architecture and thus urban as well as non-urban, sedentary life.
All sorts of more recent innovations, using increasingly clever technologies, are great boons to large groups in the world’s population.
But today the central Faustian pact with technology breaks a link between the long husbandry involved in the sustainable production of food and a healthy population of a sustainable size. This is fast removing for much of the world’s exploding population a quality of architecture and urban as well as non-urban life.
John McKean is author of The New Banister Fletcher: A Global Architectural History