It's The End Of The World As We Know It
(and I feel fine)

April 18 2000

Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.

            -- GROUCHO MARX

Well, we're still here - the sky isn't flashing "This application has performed an illegal function and will be shut down" so I guess the Universe was Y2K compliant after all. I hope everybody had a great time over the New Year. Please note, however, that this was all just a rehearsal for the Real Millennium next year... Being a pedant has its perks after all. It means you get to celebrate twice.

Get that? The world didn't end. Or maybe we did and we're just in the final milliseconds hallucinating an eternity like the guy at the end of "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge". But as I often point out - if you can't tell the reality from the hallucination, it really doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference. Who cares if it's The Matrix?

I've never understood this idea of fearing the end of the world. I've always thought if I knew the world was coming to an end it'd be just one last chance to party and thumb my nose at the collective entropy of the cosmos before succumbing to the dark.

For our part, the group of people at our The End Of The World As We Know It Party were eagerly awaiting news of the coming apocalypse. When New Zealand rolled over, we checked the BBC World Service. It was silent, but the jubilation soon faded as we realized it was just lousy reception and the good ol' Auntie Beeb came back into signal.

Tokyo was the most eagerly awaited rollover since it was the one country that screwed up over the GPS rollover a few months back. You see, the Japanese are great at adopting and inventing technology, but utter dolts when it comes to maintaining it. We live in a disposable culture, and non moreso than the Japanese. So it was when everyone was upgrading their GPS software and hardware, that the only people in the world to experience any real problems were the Japanese yachts that found themselves miles off course running out of gas. Thankfully there aren't that many privately owned aircraft in Japan. Running out of fuel in the air can be a very annoying experience.

So when Tokyo rolled over, Martin tried calling his Tokyo contacts and the lines were silent. Eager visions of Tokyo in flames ala a bad Godzilla movie (yes, there were good ones) and the next days' headlines reading "NIKKEI INDEX - ZERO" danced in our heads, but after fifteen minutes he got through. Turns out the exchanges were overloaded, as had been previously predicted. How boring.

And then came the moment of truth for Singapore itself. After watching Gurmit Singh gyrate in what had to be the gayest outfit I had ever seen on him (come on - tight T-shirt and jeans, cropped blonde hair, the entire come hither slut look - tell me it wasn't intentional), the Prime Minister came out and ushered in the new year. Thankfully, he didn't say, "Let the party go on," else we might have bombarded our host's 42-inch flat screen with whatever condiments at hand. Champagne was uncorked and distributed and generally much merry was made, coupled with the disappointment that this was now the year 2000 and none of our primary school essay predictions about food pills, rocket packs and antigravity cars had come true. Where's Moonbase Alpha, Mars Colonies, the artificial intelligences, the mined asteroids, warp drive, World government?

And yet - if twenty years ago you'd told people about telephones that could fit in a pocket and yet connect people anywhere on the planet, computers running trillions of calculations a second that can be carried on one's person, the widespread use of the Internet, the social impact of an Information Age, the fall of the Berlin Wall, evidence of Life on Mars, evidence of water on the Moon... well, they'd be pretty skeptical too. We may not have the science fiction world of Hugo Gernsback, but we've got wonders that science fiction never quite considered, or got right. It's a humbling thought, and if that doesn't stir your sense of wonder at the unpredictabilty of history, and makes you bloody curious as to what's around the corner, you might as well be dead.

People bitch about progress, but it's a damn sight better than anything else we used to have.

So the night went along, and the only piece of equipment at the party that seemingly wasn't Y2K compliant was a porcelain dip bowl which fell off a table and smashed itself to pieces. We were subsequently rewarded by the news that the only computer running in the house (the others having been shut down just in case) was showing a Blue Screen of Death, but it functioned normally after a hard reboot. Geeks all, we were happy to note that the computer was indeed running Windows 98.

The party lasted on into the wee hours, although with increased lethargy on the part of the participants. Reports trickled in about New Zealand suffering a water distribution problem, but it wasn't immediately apparent this was due to the Y2K bug. No terrorist bombings, no Tom Clancy plots about releasing biological agents into the atmosphere to eliminate all but a chosen few living in bio-domes hidden away in the Brazilian rainforest. In the end, it was just three or four of us arguing - sorry, discussing - political philosophy albeit drunkenly (which, if one thinks about it, is the only proper way to discuss political philosophy). All in all, a highly enjoyable way to observe the End of the Hype.

Until next year at least.


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