There is a long running video game series called assassin's creed that uses a concept of accessing genetic memories of an individual. A machine called the animus allows a person to relive the lives of their ancestors as if they were actually there. You would see the past through their eyes and thoughts. The purpose of this was to gain lost knowledge for historical reasons. Only certain people were shown to be capable of using this device.

Suppose humanity as a whole had the ability to access the genetic memories of their ancestors. This ability would be passed down from their mother, and would only contain memories of her direct ancestral line (mother, grandmother, great grandmother, etc). This ability could be used by anyone with a certain amount of training, but some would be more skilled than others. The further back the person lived, the more difficult it would be to access. This has led to the mainstream religion that revolves around honoring ancestors and an adherence to social tradition.

Given these changes to humanity, I would think that inheritance would be matrilineal and society would be broken up into clans. Mothers may be at the center of the household. A culture would develop in which ancestors are venerated and there would be strong emphasis on social tradition. "This has been the way it has always been done" would be common logic. Would this setup hinder progress and innovation in society? Will technological advancement suffer? How would it affect institutions like democracy?

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is speculative and not really answereable/too broad. By a set of varying paramters I can get you virtually any answer. Maybe women are opressed and have to study all their life so their sons can access that knowledge? See, just some social parameter changed your whole set of assumptions. It's the same with asking what would happen. Maybe nothing, maybe anything. $\endgroup$ – DonQuiKong Mar 21 '17 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like 'honoring ancestors' would the the opposite of knowing that your great-grandparents were just as horny and drunken and shallow and flawed as their descendant. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Mar 21 '17 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ WIth the existence of genetic memory, I think we may need to have a very precise definition of "technological advancement." That sort of ability is a real game changer, not just for technology, but for absolutely every single facet of society in its entirety. It may be that the thing you and I call technology simply doesn't exist and something else exists that is almost-but-not-quite-technology. If anything, you might be able to write a whole book series, like Dune (which actually addresses this exact topic) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Mar 21 '17 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ Insufficiently constrained / poorly thought out. VTC $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 21 '17 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ Progress would likely grind to a halt as old ideas and norm can't really die out. the earlier in life the memories become available the less society will be able to change. On the other hand gender equality should be easier since people will remember life from as many males as female ancestors. $\endgroup$ – John Mar 21 '17 at 18:42