Friday, December 25, 2009

Some Patterns in World History and How they can be Used to Predict the Future

I found an interesting philosophy of history site today. Some Patterns in World History and How they can be Used to Predict the Future provides a summary of William McGaughey's Five Epochs of Civilization, which splits history into four epochs each centered on a key communication technology. The fifth epoch is his prediction of the future. The ideas here are worth thinking about.

The site summarizes these epochs as:

Civilization I: This is the earliest form of civilized society beginning in the 4th millennium B.C. with the rise of Mesopotamian and Egyptian city-states and culminating in the four great empires - Roman, Parthian, Kushan, and Han Chinese - of the 2nd and early 3rd centuries A.D. Its age was characterized by by conflict between nomadic and agricultural societies and by wars and political empire-building. The technology of writing (originally, in ideographic form) supported its culture.

Civilization II: This is what civilized societies became after the philosophical and spiritual awakening of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. which was, in turn, related to the invention of alphabetic writing. Although this civilization was begun in a period dominated by political empires, it came into its own after the Huns and other nomads destroyed these empires between the 3rd and 6th centuries A.D. The dominant institution in society became religion. The three world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam - and other religious or philosophical systems such as Hinduism, Judaism, and Confucianism dominated human culture in the first 1,500 years of the Christian era.

Civilization III: This is the civilization of European secular culture which began with the Italian Renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries A.D. and continued through the first two decades of the 20th century A.D. Humanist literature and art as well as empirical science mounted a challenge to philosophically based religions. This civilization was predominantly commercial although secular education also played an important role. Society became organized in European-style nation states. The technology of printing supported its culture.

Civilization IV: This is the culture of news and entertainment that we have come to know in the late 20th century. Advertising drives commerce, and the media in which advertising takes place (especially television) become powerful institutions within society. Various electronic technologies such as the telephone, sound recordings, cinema, radio, and television support this culture which emphasizes the sensuous aspect of human personality.

Civilization V: All we know about this culture is that it is computer-based. Computers, which support two-way communication between man and machine, are quite unlike the technologies of mass communications. However, computer-based systems and applications are developing so rapidly that it is hard to predict what will come next.

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