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Anticipating the 20th Century’s Endgame: would it bring a social meltdown? Or new support systems that demand trust, open hearts, and new approaches.

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Thinkstock: BrianAJackson

A look at how we regarded complex systems in 1999, just prior to the turn of the millennium.

This article first appeared in the Winter 1999 issue of Spirituality & Health, as "Will the 20th Century’s Endgame bring a social meltdown? Or new support systems that demand trust, open hearts, and new approaches." The year 2000 problem (Y2K) sat in our midst, terrifying some, boring others.  We’ve all heard the basics: For many years, computer programmers saved then-scarce digital storage space by writing code that expressed the date using only the final two digits of the year, as if it would always be “19—.” In the first moments of the year 2000, many computers and embedded microprocessors will read “00” as “1900” — and apparent backwards leap in time that will likely cause system failures. How serious will the disruption be? Wired magazine recently profiled several previously sedate engineers who, after studying Y2K, began stockpiling provisions in underground bunkers in anxious anticipation of the societal meltdown they believe will follow the tick of midnight, 2000. Other technically knowledgeable people remain confident that systems will be debugged in time and that whatev …

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