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
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
In short, the 10 years from 1960 to 1969 are no more culturally homogeneous and worthy of
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.