Intel is going to be shipping chips with thousands of cores in the near future. You can now purchase a graphics card that performs a teraflop (1 trillion calculations per second) for your PC. Today's breakthrough is tomorrow banal trinket or play thing.
The singularity which is kind of a rapture for geeks is approaching. The ebb and flow of politics and economics are going to become more driven by technology than we have ever imagined.
I used to work in an institute designed to discover applied science for 100 years in the future. I toiled away as Chief analyst for 70 PHd's working to create the technologies in nanoscience, bioscience, artificial intelligence, energy and materials science that would shape the future. We had 2 noble laureates and Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT media lab on our board. It was a powerful learning experience about science and applied research with fascinating and brilliant people.
What does all this technology mean?
In my mind, the book that highlights what the technical progress will become most effectively is the singularity by Ray Kurzweil. Trained as an anthropologist, I can guarantee that how these technologies are applied and used is impossible to predict, but the sheer power and magnitude of change will be overwhelming and culturally transforming. The singularity is Utopian, I constantly remind people we are only apes with opposable thumbs and the gift of language. To fully appreciate this read The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond author of Guns, Germs and Steel.
The great science fiction writer William Gibson once said the future is already here, it just arrives in different places at different times. If you have ever experienced telepresence in a halo room or felt in awe watching the graphics in the latest video game or some new technical breakthrough, expect to have the sensation more often as the future starts showing up in more places in your life.
Change is one thing that seems universally loathed by all cultures and people in general. We are creatures of habit and social caste, the rate of change which is now taking place will drive many further into thier core ethnocentric beliefs. I anticipate the pursuit of greater ethnocentric ideals within many cultures as the pace of change accelerates. This is not necessarily a good thing. This could mean greater chances for misunderstanding and conflict among self identified groups. Let's hope the anxiety induced by rapid change is overcome by a sense a shared humanity. The record among groups of third chimpanzee's for this is not great.