Imagine that in 1880, Europe and the Americas had been brought into contact with another continent on which civilization had already advanced to the point at which we are now in 2009.
Let's call this new continent Futureland, and place it in the middle of the Pacific where the Polynesian Islands are. They speak a non-Indo-European language. They're highly secular, but have in their background an essentially animistic religion ala Shinto. The Futurelanders are friendly and open, eager to sell Americans and Europeans high tech products and to build factories in Europe and America. They also happily sell the "old world" modern farming equipment, superior strains of crops, and advise them on more efficient farming practices -- resulting in a rapid increase of agricultural output which requires far fewer farmers than contemporary 1880s practices. They're also quite willing to allow Europeans and Americans to travel to Futureland to attend university, and indeed settle there.
What happens to "old world" language, culture, political institutions, religion and economy? Would such a situation be at all desireable for Americans and Europeans, and if so in what sense?
Would such an encounter be significantly different if it were between Futureland and an "old world" circa 1800 or circa 1650? Or 1950?
Perhaps we are all being punked
41 minutes ago