1. About
According to Igor Diakonoff the history of humankind, from prehistoric times to the present day, has proceeded through eight phases (Table 1). A phase is characterised by its own expression of human creativity in technology and ideas. Each part of the world moves through these phases at its own pace according to its ecological resources and contact with neighbours.  A fresh burst of creativity in each phase is expressed in a system of social values and a typical level of military development. 
The common drive is the hope of every family to live in a just and stable society which ensures peaceful reproduction and the social security of all persons, the employed, the unemployed and minorities.  Accordingly, for any part of the world, its progression from Phase 1 to Phase 8 may be described by the growing predominace of doctrines aimed at minimising personal discomfort without resort to any particular religious or philosophical ideology.  This aim does not follow a smooth trajectory. Only in a technological sense is social evolution a form of progress. Humanity develops simultaneously in two contradictory directions.  For example, increasing prosperity, technological competence and mutal tolerance may proceed alongside ethnic cleansing and degradation of the environment. Ethnic, cultural, religious and military technology are all independent powerful influences on the  speed of movement of a society through one phase to another and its particular character at any time.
Table 1 Eight phases of human social development
1 Phase of kinship groupings (Primitive)
2 Phase of communal production (Primitive communal)
3 Phase of class society (Early antiquity)
4 Phase of empires (Imperial antiquity)
5 Phase of unstable power groupings (The Middle Ages)
6 Phase of national self-consciousness (Stable Absolutist Post-Medieval)
7 Phase of applied science (Capitalist)
8 Phase of human rights (Post-Capitalist)
Diakonoff's  definition in brackets
Regarding differential speeds of technological progress, all human populations started out with a basic stone toolkit about 10,000 years ago. In terms of the human toolmakers. the last 10,000 years occupies not more than 1 or 2 percent of the existence of human toolmakers.  Therefore, the difference in technological skills, say between the Europeans and the native Australians at the beginning of the 19th century amounts to a technological lag of only 2 percent.  So-called primitive cultures encounted by explorers from the northern hemisphere owe their technological retardation to unfavourable ecological environments rather than a lack of inventiveness.

Michael Cook: A Brief History of the Human Race, Granta
Igor M Diakonoff: The Paths of History (1999), Cambridge