Friday, January 3, 2014

What If the 21st Century Begins in 2014?

 
 As if you didn’t already have enough to be nervous about, here’s something creepy to ponder as the new year opens. 

This what-if isn’t technological, social, political or even science-fictional. Rather, it’s a bit of wholly unscientific, superstitious pattern-recognition. The last two centuries (and possibly more) didn’t “start” at their official point, the turning of a calendar from 00 to 01. That wasn’t when they began in essence, nor when they first bent the arc of history. 

No. Each century effectively began in its 14th year. 

Think about it. The first decade of the 20th century was filled with hope and a kind of can-do optimism that was never seen again -- not after the horrific events of 1914 shattered any vision that a new and better age would arrive without pain. Yet until almost the start of World War I, 19th-century progress seemed unstoppable and ever-accelerating. 

Consider the world of 1913, when regular middle-class folks in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and so on were acquiring unexpected wonders: clothes-washing machines, gas stoves, gas and then electric lighting, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, vaccinations, telephones, radios, motor cars. Stepping outside you would see and hear human beings flying through the sky -- with a looming confidence that soon you would get a chance to join them. 

Science was pouring forth what seemed unalloyed goodness. New dyes and industrial textile methods doubled a working family’s access to fresh and beautiful clothes. Cheap iron bedsteads kept cheap spring mattresses clean, making sleep both healthier and far more comfortable. Nations were banning child labor and providing free schooling. Astronomers discovered what galaxies were. Physicists were pushing their pure and harmless science to fantastic frontiers. And the Haber-Bosch process brought cheap fertilizers that tripled crops, as chemistry proved itself to be everybody’s friend.

For the rest of the story: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-31/what-if-the-21st-century-begins-in-2014-.html

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