Part of my “Article of the Month” series in 2000
“It’s called the ‘changeover.’ The movie goes on. Nobody in the audience has any idea.”(describing a projectionist’s task of switching reels in the middle of a movie)
— Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
Well it appears, for the time being anyway, that we have survived the pre-millennial changeover. Bare in mind that the rollover date from 1999 to 2000, while grand and epochal and all of that, isn’t the true indicator of the 21st century. Not until this time next year on the eve of 2001 will we truly celebrate the new millennium. Since the Julian calendar began officially on 1 A.D., we’ve got another year to wait.
Still, since the world’s computing infrastructure hinged on the significance of 1999 becoming either 1900 or 2000, society stubbornly became enthralled with Y2K as being their next millennium.
That virtually nothing came about from the infamous date rollover was a shock. I expected at least some half-hearted looting, maybe a few computers crashing, if not the Four Horsemen themselves with pestilence in tow.
I’m truly surprised and even a little impressed with the state of affairs.
Y2K was looking to be the biggest self-fulfilled prophecy ever. By spreading all that panic about airliners splashing down and stoplights flashing erratically on January 1st, I was fairly certain some amount of mayhem would ensue. Enough people frantically withdrawing cash at the last minute would seemingly instigate an economic recession. But such was not the case.
It’s quite interesting to me that the only significant social havoc was not widespread panic or wholesale rioting, but the infiltration of chic buzzwords. Phrases like “Compliance” and “Embedded chips” were tossed around in everyday conversation. Commoners began blaming day-to-day mishaps on “Y2K,” making it the digital equivalent of “El Nino.”
Y2K however was a storm that dissipated at sea.
In the race to make our toasters Compliant, it seems that the true digital weathermen worked behind the scene to solve the problem. The winners in this are the world banks, the financial marketplaces, and the governments that were able to keep crucial systems running.
My faith in the System is partly restored. At least for this millennium. Yet, we’ll never truly know how much damage the Y2K bug could have caused. There were huge sectors of the business place and government that never got their systems up to par. Did we get lucky?
The better question is what the next millenium holds for the human race. I don’t know about you, but I’m not building my bunker next time around. If we could only figure out how to bury our hatchets.