It is believed that current humans, Homo-sapiens, have evolved about 200,000 years since emerging. During this period, Homo-sapiens coexisted with Neanderthal man until the Neanderthalers disappeared about 20,000 years ago. Evidence suggests that both types of humans might have had direct contact by sharing the same region during their last 10,000 to 20,000 years. It has also been said that both had similar physical capabilities, except for language capability. Neanderthalers could not speak fluently; that means interpersonal communication was limited.
A big discovery was recently reported (Morwood, M. et al. Nature 1087-1091 (2004); doi: 10.1038/nature02956). Small human bones found on Flores Island in East Indonesia seemed to be the remains of Homo erectus, which emerged about 1 million years ago. Fossil evidence reveals that they were alive at least 12,000 years ago. Local legend relates that modern native people of Flores Island co-habited with those Homo erectus until 200 years ago (Mike Morwood & Penny van Oosterzee; "The Discovery of the Hobbit," A M Heath & Co., Ltd., 2007). These short people, called Hobbits, responded to modern people's language by just repeating their queries while they murmured among themselves. Both human types co-habited peacefully until Hobbits kidnapped and ate a human baby. In response to this cruelty, modern islanders attacked the Hobbits' cave with fire. Hobbits then disappeared from legends.
Many animals die soon after giving birth. If old generations live longer after fertile years, they compete for food with their younger generations, further burdening the species. Modern humans, however, live long after their biological productive years (the thirties) from at least 100 years ago. How does this benefit humans? The Neanderthaler and Hobbit cases hint as to why modern man is different.
Human legends often include saints or sages who offered important messages to keep the young out of trouble. All are well experienced, mature people. They transfer important knowledge to their younger generations based on experience, which is the most important difference between old humans and homo-sapience. Language is also effective in creating hierarchy within human society, which forms groups of professional experts. Through specialized teamwork, the society becomes more efficient. In our modern society, uneducated youth often find it difficult to get a good job. It reminds us of the importance of education.
Around the 14th Century, the intelligentsia in Italy or France started a new cultural revival movement, which was later called the Renaissance. Those citizens had time and money to devote to issues of interest. Aristocrats are among them. In England, many bourgeoisies were born after the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century. The new wave of academic interests in Natural History, Geography, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy were created and pushed forward by people like Newton, Hooke, Darwin, Bragg, Cavendish and Rayleigh. The bourgeoisie continued to provide unique ideas until recently. Many were not professional researchers or financially self supporting people. Even the renowned Newton was not salaried for his research. He was supported by generous people at the beginning and then subsisted on pay as a professor, and later as an officer of mintage. A professor was an educator at that time, not merely a researcher.
It was not until the late 19th Century that the researcher's position became an occupation. Reearchers of the time focused on military research, especially targeting armor or battle ships, whose performance improved significantly over a short period. As the armor's performance was a matter of life and death for the nation, this new strategy was reasonable. In the private sector, Wallace Hume Carothers of Du Pont may be the first professional researcher. He was scouted from Harvard University and invented Nylon, then Synthetic Rubber, which impressed the world with the importance of research and development. That was the 1930s. The following 70 years saw the number of researchers and developers continue to grow, reaching a measurable percentage all those employed in Japan's manufacturing enterprises. That means they total more than 1 million in Japan. As a result, manufacturing companies became more competitive.
Starting in Western countries, worldwide industrialization continued for more than 100 years. As a result, the world economy became global, and social systems came to share the same or very similar concepts. All countries evaluate fairness and equality, with the final business act transacted by money. New knowledge is easily shared by all the people of the world through the Internet. This means that anybody can access new knowledge if it is of personal interest. Nowadays, many people born just after World War II as baby boomers are retiring and many are ready to join society in voluntary activities. To retire in the Japanese language means to leave a fixed occupation. In English, however, retired is jokingly referred to as a tired & tired person. In either case, those people have a lot of time on their hands to pursue varied interests. As retirees have no employment restrictions, they are basically free as a middle class from the time of the Renaissance or the industrial revoltion.
With the help of the Internet, anybody can access the information and join the discussion. Without the help of a background organization, the individual can access information or software. As Homo-sapiens advanced their status by educating the youth using people past their prime, current retirees have the chance to change society with the Internet. The Internet is now a must, even for cooking or planning travel. And now video stories are exchanged throughout the world; and the speed of change accelerates yearly. Many new players are special interest groups of seniors, who used to be regarded as a burden to society. The coming society will be more dependent on information. Although nobody can tell the future, these circumstances are completely new to the human race.