In layman's terms, we refer to nanotechnology as being the field of science and research that involves tinkering with things as small as 1 billionth the size of 1 meter (1 meter = 1*10^-9 nanometers). This is engineering at the atomic and molecular scale. It's hard to visualize this, but you should be getting goosebumps.
Once we reach a tipping point in applied nanotechnology, to the point where your average joe can pick up a nanoelectric device as they would now an iPhone, this world will look a whole lot different. Touring the new nanotech research labs in UC Santa Barbara, I was mesmerized and humbled as to what's being worked on, and at the scale that is being worked on. 10,000 transistors capable of fitting into a SINGLE FLY hair? Nanograss capable of harvesting sun's energy? Buildings completely encapsulated by nanosolar cells to harvest solar energy? Needless to say, this doesn't mean we needn't watch our carbon footprint and pollute carelessly, yet it goes to show that it's becoming extremely challenging to predict the future reasonably. As Kurzweil argues, the rate of change of technology growth is increasing; technology builds upon itself. The result is an exponential curve.
I implore you to take all future predictions [by political pundits, news 'analysts', etc..] with a massive grain of salt. Not every author is an expert, and not all experts write bestsellers. Support your representatives and presidential candidates who are not afraid to take generous steps to support scientific research to the best of their capabilities. Most breakthroughs happen by accident, but it's up to us to foster that kind of environment where these noble accidents can take place. This quote fits nicely within this context: "undergrads think they know everything, graduates know they know nothing and phds know everyone else knows nothing." Let's not believe everything we think.