Today I'm going to examine three different epochs with my general knowledge (far from complete) and try and highlight some of the major differences between them.
Roughly six thousand years ago, "western civilization" (roughly from the Euphretes to the Atlantic coast, and a totally symbolic and meaningless definition, but we'll use it for convenience) was in the midst of the bronze age. Now, although the elements they possessed showed great variety with the geography of that particular culture, bronze age cities all seemed to possess similiar elements; They all seem to have a "God House" as a central hub of activity for that particular city, usually having a great symbol or statue of that particular God or Goddess. Almost everyone carried an idol, usually with a large open mouth. They were huge fans of hyperbole (The cities of Sumer have at least five self titled "Kings of the Universe" and the trend lasted for millenia, and the historic accounts from the period describe people living for tens of thousands of years, and single kings killing armies of thousands with their bare hands, etc.) Mentally, the mind is arranged in such a way that is called by some the Bicameral Mind which more or less implies that everyone was Schizophrenic, so they were visually and mentally "hallucinating" (for the record, you're hallucinating right now) voices and images, and lacked an identity as defined as ours. The idea is essentially that humans in bronze age cultures experienced the Gods in reality as a result of functions in the right side of the brain. According to Julian, this functioned as their decision making process. It is also believed that the people of these cultures believed that their world was paradise, and heaven was literally right next door to them (usually placed on top of a mountain or thought of interchangably with the sky) and their chief purpose was the service of the gods, preparing sacrifices, doing their will, and so forth.
This mental state supposedly began to break down with the advent of writing, which is also credited with a technological boost over the peroid after it appears. Writing was first seriously utilized by the First Babylonian empire (not to be confused with the much later Babylonian empire that is mentioned in the old testament) under the King Hammurabi. This technological boost results in a few neat and new things, such as chariots and horseback riding, and iron. Iron appears roughly 1500 BC, credited to the Hittites, who quickly put together a massive empire. Also around this period of time, the island of Gnossis erupts/explodes, bringing an end to Minoan culture, dramatically changing the climate, displacing millions. Around this time, the first and very short lived monotheist god appears in Egypt under the reign of Phaeroh Nephretiti (one of the few female Phaeros.)
This "iron age" world is dramatically different from bronze age culture. It is here that the first literal and historical records of betrayal commited by humans appear (which is really weird when you start to think about it.) It is during this period a new form of thought (or rather, several) is developing. The first and probably most important is that paradise has now been thought of as lost. No longer do Gods and Men walk toghether, we now walk the earth as punishment for some abhorrent sin. The Gods are now lofty beings that must accessed through mediums and oracles. In one culture particularly, an idea that instead of many Gods running the universe in it's different part, there instead could be one God responsible for the whole thing. This idea later gets merged with a seperate idea that humans could freely choose their Gods, an idea originated in Greece and made possible for all by the Iron age megaculture, Rome. Rome was the so called "height" of iron age culture, encompassing the mediterrainian sea and having influences all the way back to the Euphretes. There is a record of a Buddhist Monk visiting Athens around 150 BC or so. The idea that one could willing choose to worship a God or not matured into Christianity and later Islam, where one could accept Jesus and be saved or not be saved, although the concept later became symbolic with the fall of Rome and the gradual conversion of Europe and Africa to either/or, when majorities swung in either direction.
The key thing was that the literature and records went from the perspective a culture walking hand in hand with the gods and living in paradise to the perspective of having had lost paradise and drifting further away from it, thus the meaning of life was to reach that paradise, and numerous methods appeared to fufill that mental goal. Paradise/Heaven was now this aloof place one needed to reach through one's life actions, God was an aloof being who was listening (hopefully) but wouldn't neccesarilly talk back, but one could interpret his will in life phenomina. This was the era where humans were in control, God was merely watching over them. This mindset was a very successful one, because it's still around today in rather large numbers. But this is no longer the iron age.
The late iron age heralded the rise of industrialization. Large workforces did simple jobs in succession to produce products en mass. The thousand year old nobility, ordained by God who was watching over us and the power holders since the fall of Rome, were suddenly rivaled by a new class, the bourgois/wealthy entrepeneurs. An "industrialized" version of the societal model appeared in Adam Smith's concept of capitalism, where the "invisible hand" of God guides the markets in a manner that promotes overall wealth. This modified feudal system begins to replace the older system in the 1700s. This newer system revives the older concept of freedom to choose, and the idea that God does not or never did exist can begin to be stated by the mid 1800s without certain death.
Now, we're still technically in this world, but we seem to be on the tail end of it. Most of western society operates on steel (made of iron and nitrogen, among other things). Christianity and Islam still account for the vast majority of the world's population, with newer religions such as Wicca, Mormonisn, Aethiesm, Neopaganism, Darwinism etc. making up the minority. But this is a minority that is beginning to hold a lot of sway in global politics and, perhaps moreso, technology. At this point in history, a professor in Britain has successfully connected his nervous system to the internet. Whereas children a thousand years grew up on stories and playing in the fields, today children grow up piloting digital bodies throughout virtual fantasy worlds. Where a thousand years ago the best one could hope for was a year or so to cross Europe, today we can do it in weeks. While first charcoal production was needed en mass to produce the stock needed for a market, then factories and now the Rapid Prototyper, a device under development that can reproduce an item in actual space from a mathematical formula. Our model of the universe covers trillions of trillions of miles. And the dominant idea among the power elite is that we are moving towards paradise. No longer have we been lost, we're coming towards it. Dozens of books have been published claiming that immortality is just around the corner, that disease will someday be a memory. It's all boulderdash, but it's a good motivator. The point is that we are on the verge of a very significant mind change than what you or I are used to.
If we are able to connect our nervous systems to the internet, and mentally "surf it" or push a button to activate an electrode to stimulate instant happiness, if a person can control a machine seperate from their body as if it were attached to them, if a person can mentally "email" someone, this is essentially telepathy.
Imagine a world totally oriented towards this. Humans are connected to the internet at the youngest age possible. Video games are now played with the mind, perhaps the individual is able to download a game into his brain and play it in a field or perhaps areas are set up for children to play properly; the game itself is experienced in reality, as if it actually happens. Everything is connected to the internet, people can activate devices with a thought. From the outside perspective it would appear that everyone is a jedi or some sort of scifi superbeing, conjuring objects around them as if with their mind, just as the Aztecs thought Cortez and the Horse he rode were the messengers of the god Quetzalcoatl. I envision a world where machine and human live in unison, with machine providing and controlling, more likely. Wars would likely decist since such a culture could probably exist across an entire globe, probably replaced by some other fucked up form of population control. Maybe this will be the culture that finally places humans in space permenantly.
This future appears technologically possible from the technology under development today. The real question is what kind of mentality would operate in this enviroment? Surely with technology covering so many life functions, functions in the brain would cease, freeing up energy for development elsewhere?
Okay, I'm done for now.