I've gotten a lot of response to my "We've got less than 12 years left... ;^) " line in my .sig, and I've not really been doing it justice in the quick replies I've been giving, so here's a more detailed explanation:
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.
[An interesting aside: I've heard that the ancient Mayan calendar was calculated forward but ends on...you guessed it: Dec. 21st, 2012. I've also heard that the scientists aren't quite sure _why_ that is... :-) ]
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.
For more info, check out Terence McKenna's stuff about "Timewave Zero", and the Extropians. They've both got info/theories about it. Also, The Foresight Institute has more info about nanotechnology than you can shake an atomic force microscope at. :-)
Please Note: Terence passed away recently. On April 3rd, 2000. He will be sorely missed. More informaion is available here. Fare well, Terence! May your future journeys bring you new adventures untold...
Last modified: Thursday, 21-Jun-2001 02:54:05 PDT