In writing Mindjammer, I wanted a universe where I had enough time to play with to assume that all these brain-screwing inventions had happened - but not so much as to render the human race completely intelligible to those of us alive today. If you sit quietly and think about it, homo sapiens in, say, 100 years time is going to be far, far more different from us now than good old hom sap was 100 years ago. We're going to engineer and augment ourselves to the max, increasing our diversity, capabilities, and even raw intelligence to the extent that we're rapidly going to become another species. A species which modern day humanity will struggle to comprehend.
Or not. In Mindjammer, "something happened" to cause Earth's civilization to stagnate. It got a helluva long way, sure: there are geneered hominids, an interstellar Mindscape linking people's brains together, slower-than-light space colonies, artificial intelligence, and the whole far-future shebang. But, for some reason, things stagnated. Earth's civilization - the First Commonality - decided enough was enough. It banned religion, dissent, politics, even news, and put a lid on technical and social innovation for thousands of years.
Until two hundred years ago. At that some, presumably, "something else happened", and suddenly humankind had faster-than-light travel. Suddenly, history began its inexorable march again - progress, change, disruption.
That's the melting pot; that's the laboratory, the mish-mash melee of conflicting forces which I'm using for my experiments in what-if, where humankind meets the challenge of becoming Something Other, and - what? Is found wanting, and fails? Or succeeds, and moves beyond whatever humanity has been before?
Like I say, I think we're going to be faced with these issues way before the year 17,000 AD. But Mindjammer is a place to game out possible outcomes of this greatest of challenges.
I'm up for going post. Anyone else? :D