Alternate history buffs, take note.
Was the industrial revolution a highly unlikely event all along, or had it become “industrial revolution time”?
The same thing can be asked of events in the history of life on Earth. Life itself seems to have arisen as soon as conditions on the planet weren’t absolutely lethal, but a number of steps seem to have been very unlikely. It took hundreds of millions of years to get to multicellular organisms, for example — or did multicellularity arise when it did because conditions were finally right?