|The first bit of dumb luck came disguised as a public embarassment for the European Center for Defence Against Disease. On July 23, schoolchildren in Algeria claimed that a respiratory epidemic was spreading across the Mediterranean. The claim was based on clever analysis of antibody data from the mass-transit systems of Algeria and Naples…|
So begins Rainbow’s End, by VernorVinge, “A novel with one foot in the future.”
The first chapter of the book, which is about the central problem that frames the remainder of the book, seamlessly intertwines:
This is only the beginning. The book is loaded with ideas.
The entire text of the book is now available online, for free: http://vrinimi.org/
The book assumes the SoftSingularity? scenario. That is: Technology is developing at accelerated rates, but not so accelerated that human beings can’t co-develop in time.
Some of the technologies and issues of the 2020’s:
This is just a small sampling of the ideas; there are far more.
The book delves deeply into the interactions between the technologies; it is NOT guilty of the single advancement problem. “Oh, look, we have spaceships,” but people do intelligence ye olde fashioned way. C3PO and R2D2 can’t communicate by wireless. 
The book hinges on both the undeniable, powerful, and crucial strengths, and the weaknesses, and pettiness, of ThePublicWeb.
It also has a lot to say about age; The interactions between younger & older. Talent, and mentorship. As we develop into the future, the intellectual advantage of being older declines.
Everybody is on the same page, regardless of age; Something I personally have learned and confirmed, as a programmer. Even deep wisdom is communicable and communicated, a la the DesignPatterns? movement, and wealth of publications on various general systems theories.
And yet, there are things that can only be known, and only be had, through age. History and path dependency are forces of their own.
The book has a lot to say about intelligence, as well. The AutomaticTranslationFiction shows up in the story as JITT, or just-in-time-training, which is illegal, but also, …
The book is just full of ideas. It’s idea-dense. They’re just spilling out, all over the place.
This is, undoubtedly, a reference book, until at least 2010. Science fiction authors who need to write about the 2020’s will, for a time, be writing straight into VernorVinge’s concept of the 2020s. It’s simply too well put together, and too well articulated, to be ignored. It will take a lot of effort for someone to deviate, and make a convincing story. It can plausibly be done, but it’ll require a lot of intelligence to do, and VernorVinge has a very elite pool of analysts, industry sensors.