Well I was going to wait to do this but seeing as we've suddenly become more focused on technologies and such, I think it may be time for me to roll out my official concept for societal evolution.
First off: This system should be applicable to all current concepts on society/technology, it's simply a way to organize it. If I'm wrong, tell me. I don't have a lot of work done on this system so it won't be hard to change, and I don't get offended easily so don't worry (if you would worry that is).
Second: I feel it necessary to properly define the term society for this game: A group of organisms that have common contact with each other, share a general philosophy, and are formed under the same body of government.
This explanation may be a bit messy, every aspect of it is affected by the others so things may not make too much sense at first.
Basically this system is like a code of laws, an explanation of how things will work in society stage. Well here's the system:
I figure there are four key aspects to a societies evolution: Its culture, its knowledge of science, its needs, and its technology. Everything like defense from enemies, agriculture, and government aren't factors of their own, but the actually can be classified under any one of the above factors, so don't blow a gasket over that those things will work the same. (defense is classified as a social need, can be assessed with culturally, can be examined scientifically, and can be resolved by technology.)
Each aspect of this system will govern and be governed by each other aspect. The main driving force will be Social Needs however.
Societal needs (I may also call it social needs):
Societal needs work simply in a concept stand point, they are basically things a culture needs or wants. The first societal needs will be simple things like: the need to not die to hungry predators, and the need to eat. Social needs are resolved by development in technology. Which means that the social needs create a sudden development in a field of Science. After a tech is developed and applied, the need is resolved.
Eventually things will get more complex such as: "We need a way to keep our neighboring tribe from killing us", or "we need to find a way to be more efficient in our crop fields." They still follow the basic "eat and not be eaten" necessities. Instead, the social need is directed more at the technology that this society already has. if they don't improve their fields or defense, then they will starve and be killed just as they would by predators. Of course if a complex social need isn't met, then a society will revert to a more primitive state.
There may be more than one social need at once for a society depending on its size, technological level, and culture.
Societal needs can be resolved by technologies, triggers the development, and may be recognized/created by culture.
Sciences (this is referred to as research in Alaska's technology Q/A thread):
Sciences are simply fields of research needed to create a certain Tech Object (referred to as Invention in Alaska's QA). Now keep in mind the term "science" is a very crude term, a science in this system could be anything from Farming, to an actual "science" like biology.
The recognition of a social need will trigger a certain science to be researched. So if your society needs to figure out how to safely cross a river, then you would have a group of primitive "engineers" looking for an answer.
Science is influenced by the development of tech. and other sciences, and may be restricted, or encouraged by culture.
If the society that wants to cross the river doesn't know about wood and rope working, and even if they did, don't have boats, then the primitive "engineers" won't develop a bridge. Or if the engineers' society worships the water and considers a bridge to be heretical (for some odd reason, remember it's an example) then the engineers won't develop the tech either.
Sciences may also influence culture, a quick example: Galileo was excommunicated, but I believe later on the catholic church ended up agreeing with his work.
Tech objects, function parts, all of that fun stuff are in this category.
Tech can resolve societal needs , is created through the development of sciences, and, like science, may be restricted or endorsed by culture. Technology may also help the development of sciences (not going to give an example for that one, but *coughHubblespacetelescope/endcough*.)
There's not much needed to be added to that, but if anyone is confused, do ask.
Culture includes anything pertaining to ideals, religion, philosophy or anything of that sort.
It Governs what sciences and techs are considered heretical, and in certain cases defines societal needs. It can be changed by societal needs (if your society has a small population they won't be sacrificing alot of people) and by sciences/tech.
Culture is first based off of your species mentality.
This system should allow for societies to develop uniquely, if societal evolution is driven by a large range of needs, technologies and cultures, there shouldn't be any two alien races that are the same. Keep in mind I only posted very brief explanation of how this should work simply to leave room for all of the details that we'll be able to fill in later.
Don't worry too much about this right now, focus on the OE and what not, lets get this game going
Edit: a crude crude crude visualization: