Remember the Millennium Bug?
During 1999 there were dire warnings that banks would crash, that planes would fall out of the sky, that there would be social collapse, all because the first digit of the year was about to change.
Of course, none of these fears were fulfilled, and none of us really knows whether disaster was avoided by hard work and planning by the back-room boys, or that nothing would have happened anyway.
In any case, during the nine years since then, our faith in the power of technology to solve all impending problems has increased. Most people are completely confident that any disaster will be averted by the clever guys in the back room. Terrorism doesn’t stand a chance against our sophisticated police forces. Meteorological disasters will be foreseen in good time for the authorities to take adequate precautions. Such is our confidence that if the system fails even in a relatively small way – a bank collapses leaving shareholders bereft; a train comes off the rails; we immediately expect an enquiry to find someone to blame and possibly prosecute – and we expect to be compensated.
We have, to a greater or lesser degree, absolved ourselves from responsibility for our own lives.
What a profound shock it was, then, when it was discovered that the Microsoft Zune music player had its own version of the millennium bug, a Leap Year bug! This gadget wouldn’t work on the 366th day of the year!
Now I have never even seen one of these things, but the fact that this problem made international headlines indicates to me that we are relying on others to look after us on an increasingly trivial level.
I was talking to my brother yesterday, and as is often the case when I talk to anyone at all, the subject of climate change and peak oil came up in the conversation. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my brother now accepts that peak oil is imminent – I had previously thought that he agreed with the Prime Minister, that our oil supply would remain ample for our needs until at least 2030.
What I found disconcerting was his certainty that before our diminishing oil supply becomes a crisis, our scientists would find a new source of energy so that our lives will be able to continue as before with no discernable hiatus.
Oh how I wish this was true, but the premise doesn’t stand up even to the most superficial application of logic!
I am afraid that the time is coming for us to start looking after ourselves again. It’s going to be difficult, because the ‘system’ is not geared for it – but over time, I expect we shall manage! I don’t share this sublime faith in our technological age, but I do still have faith in the individuals that make up our race.