This is gonna be one of those theoretical posts I'm sure everyone has grown to love.
I've mentioned before that almost everything revolves around communication. In this universe, nothing is more powerful than communication. It can be said that for each rung up from a basic virus, life's growing complexity, size, and universe-manipulating abilities stem from improved communication.
Humans are the first and thus far only creature to master extending our communicative reach. That is probably our only real advantage. Even as grunting cavemen, our depth and breadth of communication was miles beyond even the smartest chimpanzee. Once we started painting animals with spears through them on our walls, well, we left everything else so far behind it was laughable. Our communication was not only deep and wide: it was permanent.
Our history has been nothing more than a long list of communication advances and their results. That's pushing it, but think. Rome's extraordinary feature was its extraordinary roads and localized management structure. Both are communication-efficators. Genghis Khan's strength was in his speed and unpredictability - both methods of controlling communication. Japan's repeated growth spurts are largely due to the level of cohesion in their populace - again, something based around communication.
Some people talk about a societal "singularity". Nobody is exactly sure what form it will take, but the basic idea is that progress will reach such a peak that, essentially, nobody will even be able to tell what progress is being made. They'll just be walking down the street (or virtual avenue, or space lane) and look over and say, "Holy shit, there's a real android! Why didn't I hear about this, and where can I get one?"
In more familiar terms, the singularity is where communication becomes so easy and fluid that it wraps right back around and becomes hopelessly chaotic.
I've said that a "shadow geography" of self-imposed "willing blindness" will keep societies stable - but that doesn't preclude the singularity! All the singularity needs is that all the smart people interested in a given topic can work together with an extremely low overhead. The day I can work with anyone, anywhere in the world, on anything - that's the day singularity is real.
How far are we from that?
Ask anyone who inhabits a virtual world.