Despite bigger and bigger data, the world is a small place and it is full of people. Increasingly networked people. I like Clay Shirky’s thinking in Here Comes Everybody about new ways people online can gather and form loose communities whose effectiveness is multiplied by new found freedoms and capabilities for distributed but coordinated group action. (Twitter doesn’t topple governments, people linked by Twitter do.)
In Cognitive Surplus he writes about the ability to harness huge untapped human potential. For example, the average Westernized civilization’s tuned-out TV time represents a significant amount of lost “cognition”. If it were possible to recover just a small percentage of that wasted human capital in the pursuit of just about anything, tremendous things could happen. Given the emerging abilities of internet societies to both encourage and allow everyone to contribute, we might be at the start of a tremendous acceleration in human achievement (e.g. see how online gamers solve aids protein puzzle).