If you were a teenager in the 1990s, you may remember En Vogue’s chart-topping song which went “Free your mind and the rest will follow”. Western philosophy has celebrated the past three centuries or so—the modern era, if you will—as the freeing of the human mind. (The 18th century, for instance, is known as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason.) Indeed, this time has been dominated not only by the rise of Western democracies but also, in parallel, the rise of scientific thought and technological progress—most spectacularly embodied in the Industrial Revolution.

Even with the benefit of hundreds of years of hindsight, the mind boggles at the sheer number of inventions produced by this revolution—the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the telegraph, the light bulb, the sewing machine and much more.