virus: Eschatological memes & the year 2000

Don Bell (
Mon, 30 Jun 1997 22:49:48 -0700

Yesterday my 9 year-old son made a comment that the world would end
in the year 2000. The remark was in the context of a discussion in
which I had mentioned that he would be 13 in the year 2000. I
was curious as to the source of his remark, but he was unable to
remember where he might have heard of such a notion, and claimed that
he had made it up.

Last-days or end-of-the-world memes surface again and again in our
culture, usually associated with (re)intepretations of the New Testament
book of Revelations... Signs of impending doom or the anti-christ have
been 'recognized' often in the last 19 centuries. I don't think that
it has been important that the 'end' be associated with the turn of
a century or millenium, but certainly there will be meme hosts that
attribute a special significance to the year 1999 or 2000 in particular
because of perceived numerological characteristics of the number(s).

Whether associated with doom or not, most of the folks that share our
calender will look forward to the year 2000 as having some sort of
special significance. I don't recall history books remembering the year
1000 as a particularly important milestone in cultural evolution.

Of course, the year 2000 could become historically significant (in the
sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy) if enough cultural attention is
focused on that particular year in scheduling important events. (I
don't believe this will be the case..., but I'm thinking of events
such as a manned mission to Mars, or finding a cure for cancer or aids.)

I'm curious as to whether anyone has explored this subject from the
memetic perspective?

Don Bell