Make this new year your own

Some dates carry a bit of magic with them. Two thousand and fourteen isn’t one of them.

Some dates carry a bit of magic with them.  Two thousand and fourteen isn’t one of them.

But this might be a good thing.

Some recent dates held potential importance which proved to be completely unsubstantiated. The year 2000 was supposed to be a real mess. Computers everywhere were feared to fail as they tripped over their internal clocks. Banks would crash, computer-controlled missile defence systems would go haywire and spread world-wide nuclear mayhem, and we’d all be in the dark as communication systems stopped working.

As it happened, 2000 absolutely failed to live up to its hype. Most Jan. 1, 2000 headaches were the result of traditional celebratory follies rather than a computer glitch.

Those of you old enough to remember will recall a little movie called ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Released on the cusp of the 1970s, it proposed a then not too distant future with sophisticated space travel, a possible extra-terrestrial explanation for human evolution, and a computer operating system that leapfrogged from subservience to human need to a self-conscious will to survive.

Not quite a horror film, it was a kind of moody foreshadowing of what technology’s future might hold for us.

The real 2001 brought a different kind of terror in the form of attacks on Manhattan, and ushered in a different kind of future, one that very few – if any – anticipated.

So computer science and science fiction have both provided us with some colossal failures of future telling. Myth has also been a disappointment recently.

Not too long ago 2012 came and went with all the excitement of air being let out of a balloon. It was, according to some Mayan-inspired calendar, to be the end of the world.

But we’re still here and 2012 turns out to have been just another calendar year roll-over.

Even though the greatly anticipated turning points of the past two decades or so came and went without any real significance (it turned out, for example, that partying in 1999 was pretty much like partying any other time), it’s interesting to note that the world has changed in ways bringing us a little closer to some of the dystopian possibilities previously anticipated.

Computers may not have overtaken humanity in any literal sense, or gained consciousness, but our own consciousness as human beings has been transformed by technology in the past 14 years.

It’s sometimes hard now, thanks to text messaging, Instagram, Facebook, and so on, to tell if you’re in conversation with the people you’re with or if you’re just an anecdote in the larger digital conversation they’re having with others on their smartphones. Computers may not have developed their own consciousness, but our own consciousness and aspects of human interaction have become something subtly more digital and ethereal than they ever were.

Although 2000 didn’t bring with it any significant hiccups as computers counted past 1999, since then we’ve seen calamity on a scale that would have fit right in with pre-2000 scare scenarios.

The 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima reactor, and the 2001 attack on Manhattan’s twin towers, fit into a picture of the world where the security we in part expected from technology failed us with tragic outcomes which have yet to run their course.

With no excitement surrounding 2014, things are as they should be. One year passes into another and counting past 2013 was no more significant in itself than counting past 1999 was.

This sounds like a bummer and I suppose it is if you’re the type that places significance on dates. But dates aren’t significant, they only mark significant things.

Here’s hoping this start of 2014, and every day counted within, will find you working towards creating your own place in the world and in its surprising history yet to be written.