Novelty Theory and the Singularity of Dec. 21, 2012
Technology, population, speed of travel, food and materials production, communications capabilities, computing power, the decrease in computer size, amount of information known to humanity, and a gamut of other things, are all increasing at an accelerating rate. That is, they are increasing, and the rate at which they are increasing is increasing.
Some mathematicians plotted the asymptotic graphs of all of humanity's technological developments and projected them out to the point where they all, relatively simultaneously, hit infinity. The day that they arrived at is December 21st, 2012. One projected date of "The Singularity." That's the day that some say is when everything as we know it will...change. Drastically.
Now I realize that this is a mathematical model, and that things never seem to happen on time, but as a good thumbnail reference point, it makes a convenient time to aim for. There are other models, other calculations, and other dates. The idea is more important than the specific date, IMO.
Essentially, if we take a look at some of the really species-changing events in our history, we see 3 really MAJOR developments that changed the entire course of human history. 1) The Agricultural Revolution. 2) The Industrial Revolution. 3) The Information Revolution.
30,000 years ago, we learned how to farm. 350 years ago, we learned how to mass-produce machines. About 50 years ago, we learned how to build computers. As you can see, the _rate_ of change is increasing, as is the ability afforded by the change. With computers, we have the ability to build more efficient things, fly planes and spaceships, educate more people, etc. Each of these enabling technologies will build further development, and at a faster rate.
According to the mathematical model, we should see approximately 61 more of these species-changing developments before 12/21/2012! All of the same magnitude as the three noted above! Again, it's only a model, but they predict 18 of those changes on the last day, and 13 of _those_ to happen in the last FRACTION OF A SECOND, as things accelerate towards that infinity point.
Near as I can figure, that's going to have to do with massive amounts of overlapping and interlocking technologies. For example: Nano-technology producing microscopic computers (that are millions of times faster and more powerful than the supercomputers of today) which sit inside of your cells getting rid of disease and making sure you have a proper nutritional balance, so that you can live longer. And nano-machines that make just about anything and can do it for free by re-arranging the atoms from waste products elsewhere. Or space technologies, which enable further population growth, and zero-gravity research, and practically unlimited energy and material resources from space. These may eventually lead to things like fusion power, faster than light travel, and/or teleportation technologies. While these are currently beyond the scope of our present tech, they may come about someday, and each new technology provides a stepping-stone for future development. There's no doubt that any of the above-named developments would change the course of our evolution drastically. Much as did the Agriculture, Industry, and Computer Ages.