2012-12-27 / Viewpoint

So the world ended...again

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

One things you learn as you grow older is every few years someone comes along with a new theory or prediction on the end of the world and inevitably enough people prescribe to that idea it takes on a life of its own.

Case in point —the recent Mayan doomsday prophecy. For the past year there has been constant talk about how the end of the world would come when the Mayan calendar runs out on Dec. 21.

Didn’t anyone ever just stop and think maybe the Mayans just decided to stop making calendars when they finished with 2012? I mean, can you imagine how hard it must have been to make those stone tablets?

Over the years I can remember other ‘end of the world’ predictions that came and went.

Some were religious — God would unleash his wrath on us all with fire and brimstone or another great flood.

Others were “scientific” in nature — like the planets would align and the gravitational forces would tear the Earth apart like an old episode of Star Trek (”Scotty, I need al power to the forward deflector shield or we’re all dead.”)

Others, like this one, were supposed to be some kind of prophecy, which made them much more dark an ominous for some reason. The Nostradamus predictions were always my favorite — written in such a way they can be interpreted and reinterpreted over and over to apply to so many different people, places and events.

My personal favorite was the Y2K scenario. I was working at a metro Detroit daily newspaper on New Year’s Eve in 1999 and for several years leading up to this night we’d all been convinced by the media that at the stroke of midnight Jan. 1, 2000, everything remotely connected to a computer was going to either die or turn on us. When the lights stayed on after midnight and the predicted failures of the power grid, the banking system and other computer-controlled necessities in our lives were averted, it seemed to me like we’d all been bamboozled.

Did we, as a global society, spend billions upon billions of dollars over the years leading up to Y2K upgrading our computers and software to avert a potential crisis which never really existed?

A lot of people made a lot of money in those years and the tech boom was basically over after 2000 got here. Software companies and dot.coms failed left and right after the Y2K threat had ended and we never saw even one major failure — one glitch where someone missed something and a vital computer thought it was Jan. 1, 1900. Either the Y2K fixes were very efficient — or it was all very convenient.

With this doomsday event, there were no computers run amok to worry about, or devastating natural disasters, no nuclear war and were didn’t even have to send Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to stop a wayward asteroid from hitting the Earth again.

The only clear victim of this end of the world failure are all the cable channels who will now have to find something else to run endless programming about. The Mayans will slip back into obscurity now and we’ll get more TV shows about gator hunting, moonshiners and doomsday preppers who think a zombie apocalypse is coming (I kid you not, NatGeo has such a series now).

Well, if the Mayans and computers didn’t get us, zombies are a sure way to spell doom for humanity. Stay tuned.

ggould@mihomepaper.com

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