It sounds ridiculously portentous, but that doesn't mean it's not true. We have reached a vital inflection point for humanity.
Until the 1700's, we arrived at our common reference point by talking to our neighbours. Today, however, the very nature of the way we define community is changing. This is radically changing our views of society.
For most of history it was the person next door who mattered most. For some, this was the neighbouring lord in their mighty castle. Others talked to the merchant in the next village. Most simply spoke to their equivalents in the public bar or marketplace.
Interactions were driven by personal need. Occasionally there'd be a bulletin from above; together with demands for more tax or levying soldiers to fight in a foreign war.
Information wasn't a common resource. Nobody had any (real) idea about what was true or false: reality was dictated by what you could see, or whoever had power.
That changed with the development of mass communications.
This began reading news-sheets in the coffee shops of Europe; was reinforced by the publication of government bulletins; eventually flourishing as newspapers, radio, and finally television extended the reach of the individual.
The critical thing was the model. It was one (one reporter, one media outlet) to many (the audience). That's why it was called the mass media. Reporting became a business and other entrants came into the market, ensuring a healthy degree of competitive rivalry and keeping rivals honest. This model was the foundation stone of modern society, and that's why the High Court once found an "implied" freedom of speech in the constitution.
The very idea of a modern society without an open forum for the exchange of democratic views at its centre was unthinkable.
The biggest change the internet has ushered in isn't anything to do with so-called fake news - it's the power to frame the picture. Today that's under challenge.
One threat is the government's attempt to prosecute whistleblowers. Others have dealt with this at length, and so I won't reiterate their concerns here.
The other danger is the disruption this poses to the media model that enabled our open society to develop the way it has. What makes this change so critical is that it won't - it can't - be fixed by simply introducing a bit of new legislation to stop fake news. What's so disheartening, however, is that no politician even seems to be thinking about how this transformation will alter society.
What's occurring today is by far the biggest challenge to the authority and legitimacy of governments that has ever been seen.
The mass media pushed out stories from one (reporter) to many (the audience). That's not how the internet works. It's a new model, driven by demand (or clicks). It's the audience that determine what they get to see, and how much of it they see. There's nobody peering over shoulders saying, "you really should read that story - it's important".
Instead, on the internet, the sub-editors can be bypassed. Their judgment about what's important, or what people need to know is completely irrelevant because the readers can choose exactly what they want and so they do. What each click does, however, is tear slightly away at the fabric of society.
It's a change that's driven by a pervasive and intimate technology and one we rely on, more and more, every day.
People like to choose their own news. They really don't care if there are more important stories they're missing out on. You've heard about "compassion fatigue", well now there's "news fatigue".
So much information is available on the net, there are so many stories, that it's impossible to be across everything. Instead people go for the easy meat.
In Canberra on Wednesday, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute begins its main, yearly conference. This one examines what war might look like in the coming decade.
Speakers will traverse critical and vital issues, such as the technologies that will shape the future of multi-domain warfare, cyber and space. They're specialists, attempting to grapple with the dramatic way new weapons will transform military possibilities on the battlefield.
Napoleon, however, insisted that in war, "the moral is to the physical as three is to one". He understood the critical role of information and took time to personally dictate the news bulletins for his Grand Army.
He didn't do it for fun. He understood it was an essential way of ensuring his soldiers accepted his particular version of the truth. That was why his army remained together and why it disintegrated when they realised he was lying.
News is the arena where we decide the nature of reality. It's how we anchor ourselves in the world and moor ourselves to certainty. This allows us to navigate our way ahead. Remove this foundation and you destroy society.
There are never (as Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tried to pretend) "alternative facts". Occurrences may be disputed; their effect may be susceptible to different interpretations; what happened, however, is a fact.
A narrative created out of nothing other than spin will, ineluctably, fail. As it falls apart coherence will fracture and trust evaporates. The problem is that the less people trust the news, the less they trust society.
And who will fight for something you don't believe?
Instead of attacking journalism, our politicians need to begin defending it. It may be bumpy along the way; there may be a bit of embarrassment and the occasional scandal, but that's far better than the alternative.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.