Millennial Behavior

Report from the Futurist



Richard Landes, 49, director of the Center for Millennial Studies and professor of medieval history at Boston University.


“Never underestimate the power of round numbers in the popular imagination. Although the “real” millennium won’t occur until 12-25-2000, the popular, the psychological – and the computer – millennium will happen when we go from 1999 to 2000. The millennium is a time of great social and psychological flexibility. We see violent, paranoid, sectarian behavior in the emergence of cults, in the rise of the American militia movement, and in religious fundamentalism. But we also see genuine hope and creative celebration. The pope is an amazingly savvy millennialist. He was one of the first leaders to plant a banner on the event, declaring the year 2000 a Jubilee Year as early as 1978.”

So What?

“The millennium not only provides a symbolic hook for religious groups but also offers a powerful lever to governments, businesses, and community organizations. Look at the Y2K computer problem: Right now, reactions to the problem range from denial to catastrophic predictions to wild hopes for an 11th-hour fix. Efforts to tackle it have been primarily technical. Yet the solution ultimately calls for cooperation between traditionally competitive sectors of both the economy and the culture. Millennial turning points are opportunities for radical thinking and radical solutions, and we ignore those opportunities at our peril.”

Futurology Decoder Key


“Pay attention to what captures the popular imagination. Take the recent obsession with meteors. The movie Deep Impact, which depicts a catastrophic millennial scenario, was an incredible success. Even the scientific community has been affected. One moment, nobody was talking about meteors, and then, suddenly, they were seen as an immediate threat to the Earth.”

Danyel Barnard recently graduated from Boston University’s college of communication. For more information about the Center for Millennial Studies, visit the Web or email Richard Landes