Saturday, 6 October 2007

The Return Of The Millenarians

The year 2000 came and went without the end of the world. All of the forecasts of impending global catastrophe, even those of Y2K computer meltdown, proved to be nothing more than unduly pessimistic speculation. As it happens, history has a number of examples of Millenarian movements around the Years 500 AD, 1000 AD, and 1500 AD. If one thing were predictable, it would be that a group of Millenarians would predict the end of the world in the Year 2000.

And so, in the Year 2007, we would have thought that we could lay the Millenarians to rest for another 493 years. We will need to think again. Apparently, there is an ‘ancient Mayan calendar’ that predicts that the world will end on 21st December 2012. This prediction has been taken up by the Millenarians and given an air of respectability. For example, in ‘The Mystery Of 2012’ (see book), a collection of researchers examine the basis of the prediction. It has also spawned a large collection of videos on You Tube (see example) that are, frankly, of little value at all.

In ‘The Chaos Point’, Ervin Laszlo examined how the 2012 prophecy might come about. If it were to be true, what would be the sequence of events that would lead up to it (see entry)? The analysis examined the theme of the potential impact of the Singularity, if that were to occur. It was this analysis that caught my attention as a futurist.

If we lay aside the more extreme of the Millenarian views, ought we not to contemplate the possibility of a major disruptive force in the world? That disruption may not come in 2012. It may be a single event that has already happened (e.g. 9/11). It may be a process that has, by and large, already happened (e.g. the creation of the Internet). Or it may be a process that we are currently experiencing (e.g. the decline of the US). It is at this point that the Millenarians may have a case.

It is comfortable to think that the future will simply be an extension of the past. However, if this is not true today, why should it be true in the future?

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