The Mayans Won’t Kill Us, But the Internets Might
I’m knee-deep in the Mayan Apocalypse right now.
Oh yeah: Zombie infestations, long-period comets, massive solar-scale destruction. Frankly, it’s a good diversion from testing laptops.
Apparently, and I did not know this either, the Mayans used something called a Tzolkin Calculator to keep track of their schedules and stay on top of things. “Honey, I’m running late for my meeting with the Ajaw!” “Did you check your Tzolkin Calculator?” “No, but thanks for reminding me!”
The Mayans predicted, as every Wal-Mart clerk knows, the world will end on December 21, or shortly after the last episode of How I Met Your Mother airs on CBS. More specifically, they predicted the planet Nibiru would collide with Earth and bring about a Total Cataclysmic Event.
Except, they didn’t predict any of that. The calendar runs out and then starts over. That’s it. As NASA space scientist and astrobiologist David Morrison pointed out to me earlier today in an interview, the rumor of our impending demise could only have spread in modern times on the Internet.
Why is that? Two words: free access. Anyone can set up a site like DecemberKillAll2012.com and post whatever blather they want. And I’m not against providing a forum for folks to share their disparate views. What I am against is hysteria and fear-mongering. (Also, bad Web site design.) If you say a massive solar storm can kill millions of people, you should probably have some anecdotal evidence. Has a massive solar storm ever killed anyone before? Was that recently? Do you have pictures?
The other thing I am against, while we’re on the subject: scientists who go on tirades about those who are spreading the Mayan Apocalypse rumors. Lighten up a little! We’ll all get back to worrying about climate change soon enough. We all know an asteroid is not going to take out Cleveland. While the chances are slim that a major solar storm will occur on December 21, at least we can all talk about solar storms, and maybe improve the profit margins at Home Depot when a few of us buy back-up generators.
There is a slim chance we could all wake up on the morning of December 22, blink a couple of times as we take our last breath, and stare off into the deep black void of space and realize that the Mayans were onto something. When you start reassuring yourself there is no possible way the Earth could explode, that becomes a fallacy as well. Things do explode occasionally. Few of us can say we understand exactly what is in the molten core of the earth, besides Hell and a guy wearing a red jumpsuit.
I’m more worried about nuclear catastrophe myself. Some slight shift in the radioactive balance of the universe. Maybe a shift in the space-time continuum. Or maybe Rosanne Barr will become successful and break out of the late-night cable television circuit. Who knows?
Something else I am worried about: the Internet. We use it too much. We’re being sucked into a void, one Web server after another. We’re seriously addicted to Pinterest. We need help. Forget celestial objects making a dent in South Dakota. The Internet was supposed to help us send e-mail and check the weather, but enough is enough. We login before work, during work, and after work. We get up in the morning and jump online, then we go online as we fall asleep at night. We surf while we watch TV and while we cook. We play Pandora in the car. We’ve lost balance. The digital realm has started to erode our collective consciousness – we’re being dumbed down.
So here’s an idea: maybe what we should do is, instead of panicking about the collapse of the universe and the end of days, we should all band together on December 21 and declare a no Internet day. Let’s get out and enjoy some sunshine (but not too much) and walk the dog. Leave the laptop lid closed! Put your smartphone on the shelf for the day! Engage in conversation! Take the bus! And if you do, send me an e-mail or Facebook.