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Ten years ago today, I was sitting in the house of a friend’s grandparents, drinking champagne that I didn’t really like, and watching some celebrity or other count down the minutes and seconds to the year 2000. We stood on the cusp of the third millennium, wondering what the future would hold for us personally, and us as a society, as a species. I was 14 years of age, and I was putting up with second-best as my parents hadn’t let me go to the town centre to celebrate. As fireworks burst around us, the four of us formed a tiny drunken conga line in the street.
Times have changed.
The Noughties, the decade with the most ridiculous name, are over. This ten-year slice of the future has brought us little in the way of flying cars and jetpacks, but in other ways, it has wrought immense change. Back then, I rocked a PC with a 333 MHz processor, and connected to the internet at 56.6 glorious kilobits per second. Now my cellphone has twice the processor and 30 times the bandwidth. Back then, search engines were in their infancy and social networks barely dreamed of; the internet was something we logged on to in the evenings for a few hours. Now we have push e-mail, Twitter and Facebook on five-minute refreshes, in our pockets every waking hour.
We have high-res photos of Mars, from robots that are also on Twitter. We have sequenced the human genome, and now anyone can send off a swab of saliva and know all kinds of things their genetic code has in store for them. We have commercial spaceflight, and videos from those flights broadcast to every corner of the globe, not via centralised broadcast television but by YouTube and its kin, which are forever changing the balance between creation and consumption.
I no longer see that friend, or his grandparents. I’m still not fond of champagne. In the intervening years I’ve had my fair share of New Years’ parties, but now I sit at home at midnight with a family of my own. The TV’s not on; we have the internet for that now. I’ll count down the seconds myself (from a desktop clock synchronised within milliseconds to an atomic clock somewhere out there in the world), and I’ll raise a glass of whisky not champagne, and hope the next decade brings as much hectic and unstoppable change as the one that dies tonight.
Happy new year.