Advances in technology continue to expand the possible near-future outcomes of the evolution of human society and individuals. The pace of change has been driven by how quickly new technologies are developed and embraced; it has been inexorable and unrelenting. A variation of Moore’s Law can be observed over long periods and in many disparate industries, and in some cases the pace of advance may surpass the pace of computer chip performance improvements. 
In contrast to the pace of change, the resultant social impacts of technological change have been un-even, haphazard and much less predictable. The effects are not driven by any monolithic element of society; national governments, public media outlets, corporations, and numerous sub-cultures have at times affected or initiated social upheavals. We often need to cast a wide net in discerning their root cause.
For the example at hand, I believe several recent social trends and unfolding political events share a common thread; that is, a transformational shift toward a global mindset. The shift is being driven by a generation whose identity has been strongly influenced, if not dominated by a presence in on-line communities. The ascent of Wikileaks and it’s related affairs (Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning) suggests that local or national patriotism is weakening and being supplanted by a much more broadly defined ethic based on transparency and fairness. The definitions of traditional institutions such as marriage, parenthood and family are widening as legal structures try to keep pace with changes in social customs that cut across geographic, ethnic or tribal boundaries. The Arab Spring Uprisings, Occupy Wall Street Movement and, more recently, demonstrations in Turkey and Brazil are all clear examples of the effects of social media in undermining institutions whose legitimacy has typically been based on parochial constituencies.
These trends could lead to a dramatic social inflection point through the embrace of two nascent but complementary technologies that, taken to their logical conclusion, suggest human consciousness can become sharable and will support the advent of a group mind
Augmented Reality (AR) technology blurs the distinction between the physical and virtual worlds. Such gadgets are wearable now and soon will become implantable. They provide real-time information about one’s immediate surroundings. Pedestrians might see menus, inventory and sales information as they pass by restaurants and shops. People who meet in person can each view pop-up displays of the other’s personal information similar to a facebook homepage or twitter feed.
Once the devices become powerul enough, I suspect a growing proportion of early adapters will be unable to function without them. They will boost productivity and eventually be considered mandatory in the workplace for many occupations (surgeons, air traffic controllers, professional athletes, etc). Within a generation of their widespread use, social relationships will not be able to form or function within acceptable norms without them.
The second technology is much less commercially developed, but could become the final catalyst for the paradigm shift toward a group mind. Brain-computer interface (BCI) technology allows for the direct communication of the mind with digital devices. While AR focuses on incoming stimuli, BCI involves outgoing communications and controls. Both the breadth and precision of mental states that can be captured and digitally translated will continue to grow, potentially to the point where one’s conscious thought stream can be transmitted with full fidelity.
It remains an open question whether some or perhaps most of humanity opts into the AR/BCI-facilitated consciousness network, but it’s not inconceivable that the tools to support such an outcome are close at hand.
- Here’s one example: http://www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts/