This occurs when one forgets that units and numbering systems are just a means to measure a value, and certain values and quantities become more significant than others simply because of the particular numbers and units which represent them.

The classic recent manifestation of this tendancy was the decision to mark the millennium as being particularily significant. Why celebrate 2000 years? Why not mark 2003 years or 1993 years? The answer is that the value 2000 is imparted with an artificial importance, because in the decimal numbering system it is the first year AD with a two as its fourth-least significant digit. If we used a different numbering system, the 2000th year would be just another unremarkable one.

The same holds true for our habit of describing eras as the sixties or eighties. We now expect that a consistent ten year long movement in the arts and culture is inaugurated in every year ending in a zero. When we refer to the sixties, most of the styles and attitudes evoked are from the very late part of that decade and the early part of the next. The greater part of the sixties saw no one dropping out, living in comunes or wearing flares, yet because the term is bandied around so lightly, these years are glossed over.

In short, the 10 years from 1960 to 1969 are no more culturally homogeneous and worthy of a name than the years 1967 to 1976. Even this statement assumes that 10 is a good number of years to consider in a batch.

This malady can have serious implications in the financial markets too. Everyone panicked when the Euro reached dollar parity, when it wasn't significantly worse off than it had been in the previous few days at just above dollar parity.

Other values imparted with artificial significance are six feet, one million pounds/dollars and 21 years.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.