Why were civilizations in the Old World (Europe, Middle East, and Asia) seemingly so much farther along technologically when they first met?
Sorry white supremacists; white people aren't better because we were the more technologically advanced of the two, it's a case of right time right place. But why were we 'more advanced'? First lets look at the available tools each had. Eurasia was abundant in hard metal ores, timber, large domesticatable animals, namely the horse; cereal grains, and most importantly other people. The Americas had a lot of soft metals like gold, the only domesticatable plant being corn, no animals like horses or cattle, and many natural geographic obstacles like mountains and jungles. Eurasia had the right ingredients for the Agricultural Revolution, which led to population growth, cities, and the birth of the city-state. Combine that with pack animals; and you've got yourself a transcontinental trade network such as the Silk Road. When people are able to interact with each other, you get cultural and technological diffusion, so ideas and inventions are able to be passed around and improved upon. Their American counterparts however didn't have a game changing Agricultural Revolution or pack animals, so no continental trade routes or widespread diffusion occurred. No bronze, iron or steel? No large scale warfare, and therefore no huge multicultural empires. No steel or timber? No Industrial Revolution. No European imperialism. White mans' so called superiority was just a lucky (or not so lucky) fluke.
How did we get to where we are today?
When you look around the world today sometimes you have to wonder 'how did it become that way?' The answer is almost always history. Why are the Israeli's and the Palestinians fighting over a small sliver of desert? History will tell us that the Israeli's believe it is the Promised Land that was given to them and only them by the will of God. The Palestinians have been living in that area for generations and don't recognize their ordained right. Why do we have the middle class? Interestingly the middle class is the byproduct of the Black Plague. Disease doesn't discriminate and the rich were dying at the same rate as the poor, but there are far more peasants than lords. Farms and lordly estates feel into disrepair as old family names and lineages scrambled to find an heir. Peasants were less abundant, and therefore more valuable. These circumstances let the peasant farmers demand a higher premium for their labors, allowing them to buy those abandoned farms, and have their own source of income. As you can see, history isn't just about memorizing boring names and dates, it's about asking the question why, and having the determination to find the answer.
What makes us human?
Many people like to think that there's this huge void that separates us from our more wild counterparts; that we're in a class of our own; or that we are the best. but ask them to list the things that are uniquely human, and things get fuzzy. Tools? Apes use those too. Culture? Chimpanzees have culture as well. Language and names? dolphins have those too. As you can see the line we have arbitrarily created blurs when trying to define humanity. What uniquely human characteristics can you come up with?