If one were called on to identify the hall-mark of the years which followed the Black Death after 1385, it would be that of a neurotic and all-pervading gloom. The European of this period lived in constant anticipation of disaster (and) perhaps the factor which contributed most towards his demoralization was his almost total ignorance of the workings of his world.
From the tiny patch of fitful light which played within the circle of their comprehension our forefathers stared aghast into the darkness. Strange shapes were moving, but what they were they did not know and hardly dared to speculate; strange sounds were heard but who could say from where they came? Everything was mysterious, everything potentially dangerous; to stay still might be perilous, to move fatal. [Hoskins, The Making of the English Landscape, p117] (Hello World: p138)
This year's Reith lectures are by Lord Broers and address The Future of Technology. They begin with an analysis which reminds me a great deal of the description above. You can listen, print, and download the lectures as pdfs. Lecture 1: Technology will determine the future of the human race.