Some day a few thousand years from now, anthropologists from another solar system will sift through the fading digital traces of once-urgent chain e-mails (PASS THIS ON!!! YOU'LL NEVER EAT CHICKEN AGAIN!!!) and form a pretty good picture of the strange culture that dominated Earth around the turn of the third millennium. They'll discover that we were deeply suspicious of one another (check for slashers under your car), that we had mixed feelings about our food (especially KFC), and that we were suckers for tales of tykes with brain tumors. But what will they make of Y2K? Will they understand that this legend of legends captured our imagination because it so perfectly encapsulated everything we had reason to fear? That it felt, circa 1999, as if we had lost our grip on the world, as if everything we did somehow depended on a giant, and not necessarily benevolent, machine brain? And that we kind of wanted to see the tech whizzes taken down a notch? Then again, maybe those far-off scholars will just nod sagely: Yup, they'll say. They saw it coming all right--they just had the date wrong.


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