As I am working through the equipment and gear articles in the wiki I keep stumbling into the Technological epoch articles. These were a major piece of contributions by Maksim so I'm very reluctant to simply redo the whole thing.
On the other hand I find the divisions to be completely arbitrary, driven by an artifact of the T5 rules rather than inherent in the evolution of the technology itself.
I was wandering around the Freelance Traveller site and stumbled across an article by Ken Pick titled Analysis of Tech Levels. I found this analysis to be very enlightening. It answers the questions about dividing societies by their technologies. And it allows (me at least) to fit further ideas of where the technology stagnates or advances. Following the ideas of the article, I built the following Epoch chart.
- 0-3 - Pre-industrial
- 4-7 - Industrial
- 8-11 - Information
- 12-15 - Interstellar Civilization
- 16-19 - Matter
- 20-23 - Galactic Civilization
- 24+ - Accelerating Tech Levels to Transcendence
The new editions are the "Matter Epoch", where the final mysteries of matter and quantum mechanics are finally understood. Antimatter power systems, Disintegration weapons, energy screens, matter transport, Megascale projects on a planetary scale. Dyson Swarms, effective nano-technology, and the like.
Following the description in T5 Book 2, p.235, Tech Levels 21 and beyond are the accelerating tech levels, where each advancement piles on the last at a hyper accelerated pace until either the civilization achieved Transcendence or collapses back to an earlier epoch. The Galactic Civilization epoch is an unstable one. In theory, like the Interstellar Civilization before it, the invention of the Hop, Skip, and Leap drives give then access to the whole Galaxy. But you can't uncover some secrets of the universe and not others.