That is a really hard question. I would have answered differently a year ago - before I read Ray Kurzweil's book "The Age of Spiritual Machines, when computers exceed human intelligence". Before that, I was thinking in terms of incremental advancement. Now I'm thinking in terms of explosive advancement.
I am the same age as Moore's law (one month older to be precise). When I look back to being a kid in the 60's and 70's (riding around in the back of a really big car with vinyl slippery seats so you slid from one side of the car to the other if you wanted on turns - without seatbelts) to what my kids have today - it is amazing. Almost nothing they use even existed back then. They have USB mini-ipods for music (I was happy to have a walkman finally at the age of 14 - it was the size of a paper back but it was music). I don't think they'll ever buy music in a store in their life. I remember spending Saturday afternoons in the "Play it Again" record store buying used LPs. I actually had an 8-Track recorder (i could make my own 8 tracks from albums, good thing too -- 8-Track was the only source of music in my best friends car, and he had a black TransAm, I had a yellow Chevy Vega -- there was no question what car we were taking). I remember when you could open a car hood and make sense of what was in there. My Toyota Prius has more computing power than my first computer (a Tandy 1000/EX bought in 1987 when I got a job as a programmer). Everything is getting all tied together - my phone "bonds" with my car as I get into it now. I remember car phones, right before cell phones took off due to their shrinking size. So many things have changed at such a rate in our lifetime as never before (not saying anything new or revolutionary there - just a fact).
I wish I could remember the title/author of the book I'm about to describe. I read lots of Science Fiction, so this would have been a book I picked up in an airport just to have something to read. The story started with some people finding an intact space craft embedded in the bottom of a dried out seabed. It was powered by water (hydrogen powered). It was ancient but there were mummified bodies in it, and pictures. They were us as it turns out. The thought was that an advanced civilization can only stay that way with critical mass (lots of people). These people were from such an advanced civilization - crashed here on this planet and the survivors were us. Without the critical mass, they "devolved", lost their technology -- not enough people around to keep it up. We had to build up the critical mass to get back to where we are today.
That made a lot of sense to me, I could believe that in some sense. Without the mass of people we have now, all working simultaneously on the same problems, the level of advancement would be very slow indeed. Throw a million times the people at it and the problem gets solved faster. The problem solving goes faster as well as the ability to communicate and share information grows. Remember when "hurry up, it's a long distance call" meant something? Today I don't care where in the world I am, I've got my phone and just use it. I get my text messages in Oslo Norway as easily as in Leesburg Virginia in the US. It struck me, sitting in a hotel lounge in Geneva, looking around, with my headphones on listening to streaming audio from XM Radio and instant messaging from someone at work (for me it was 6pm, for them it was noon) on a wireless network - it didn't really matter where in the world any of us is, we can instantly communicate - for free basically. That is what is allowing us to incrementally advance, all of this shared common knownledge.
Kurzweil's book however turns that upside down. His premise is that we won't incrementally advance - we'll suddenly evolve ourselves into something else. He doesn't believe in an advanced civilization coming down from above and interacting with us - his thought is the advanced civilization would be unable to recognize us and we them. The melding of mind and machine - the ultimate in virtual reality and no more death (as long as the DBA's we leave behind do proper backups of course and test them out!). It is a scary thought - forget cloning, someone just does a database restore elsewhere and hey, maybe there you are again.
If you have the time, I do recommend the Kurzweil book, it is pretty much a "shake you up" sort of read. I don't buy all of it, but the concepts do make sense and make you think about it differently.
But back to the topic (or not). I'm finding things to become so complex anymore that the next big thing needs to be things that just work most of the time. I think they got it right in my car. It just works. Getting the phone to bond with the car (I still like that euphemism, devices "bonding" with eachother) was the most complex thing I've to deal with. However, it was a little unsettling to get a recall notice for a software upgrade (it was for the navigation system, it's optimization routines for finding the best path needed a little help Sounds familiar doesn't it? :)
Tivo for example, they got it right. I resisted the urge for so long to have Tivo and we got it just recently. I don't know what we did without it before. I watch about 3 shows - Star Trek: Enterprise, 24, and ER (only because that is my wife's favorite show).
With the traveling I do - I almost always missed 24, Enterprise would be hit and miss and ER (well, if I missed that one, that was ok..) Now, they are just sitting there. Pause, fast forward (commercials, hate them) - way cool. And I didn't need an advanced degree in TV to do it. Even my mother in law who lives with us and has her own Tivo "got it".
We need more Tivo's I guess.