The most obvious thing to say is that we're heading for an identity crisis. For one thing, there is still no consensus on what we should call the years 2000-2009. The noughties? The ohs? The aughties? The zeros? The oh-ohs? The nulls? The nothings?
But an identity crisis would suggest that the first half of the decade has been uneventful and this has clearly not been the case: we've had September 11, the Iraq War, the Asian tsunami. More trivially, there's been the bizarre rise of Paris Hilton, the bizarre collapse of Britney Spears, the explosion in reality television.
Of course, no age can truly know itself: it is unlikely that many people in 1965 would have guessed that the decade would be remembered for "peace and love". Similarly, few people in 1985 would have realised that the decade would be remembered for bouffant hair and mobile phones the size of house bricks.
But they could have tried to guess - which is what the FTasked some of Britain's most famous names to do in relation to the noughties. Almost everyone mentioned September 11th and Iraq. Doubtless, the Asian Tsunami would have featured equally prominently, had not more of the interviews been conducted before it occured. But otherwise answers varied hugely.
This is how they each completed the sentence: the noughties will be remembered for...
Director of the Institute for Philanthropy:
"...the increasingly self-interested atitude of the richest nation in the world (the United States). The "ME" condition in relation to nations. Its refusal to sign up to global treaties to protect the environment, such as Kyoto; treaties to support the rule of law universally through the International Criminal Court and other legal treaties; the invasion of Iraq; the imprisonment of suspected terrorists outside any legal jurisdiction in Guantanemo Bay.
But the other significant event of the last decade is the development of information technology which has been lead by the United States. The internet and email, has moved communication with almost incomprehensible speed and transformed data collection. I hope it is the latter that will be remembered and not the former.
" ... the cult of verisimilitude. You can see this in the theatre, with the success of documentary plays like Stuff Happens, in the cinema, where documentary features have become big box office, in the literary arena, where non-fiction has largely eclipsed fiction, and, of course, on television, with the success of "reality" formats such as I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here. Even cartoons have to be more "real" in the Noughties - hence the success of Pixar.
A more alarmist way of putting this is to say that we are turning away from fiction - people no longer seem willing to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained. Something has to have the appearance of being "real" in order to have any dramatic value. I don't think this is a permanent shift, though. I'm currently reading The Plot Against America, Philip Roth's fictional account of the Nazification of America, and that's a far, far more powerful indictment of George W Bush's administration than Fahrenheit 911. In a few years time, I'm sure the public at large will rediscover the power of metaphor."
Producer of The Office:
"... being the decade when I started getting my calls returned."
" ... the summer of 2003, with its record-breaking heat and top temperature of 38.1 C, in Gravesend, Kent."
Writer and founder of the worldwide Join Me movement:
" ... governmental betrayal and reality TV. What do I hope they'll be remembered for? The end of governmental betrayal. And the end of reality TV."
"...war and disaster. So far we haven't had an exceptionally good run, and with the tsunami it's just so prominent in your mind. But there are a lot of great things, too. Contemporary art and photography are certainly exceeding my expectations. Out of disaster comes great inspiration. It's such a traumatic time that people throw themselves into their work and come up with something creative. Our philosophy here has been to create a nest for our clients, especially since 9/11. The more we go to war, the more people die, the more tragedy there is, the more people are going to want to create a place they call home, and that goes way back to a time when home was always the most important thing.
Society girl, single girl and fashionista:
"... September 11. I live in New York and, even more than the day that it happened, people realise that it really did change the world. In a fun, trashy sense, Paris Hilton may be one of the girls of the decade. It's unbelievable what she's managed to do. She and the girls like her are an amazingly relaxing diversion from the serious things of the decade."
Entrepreneur and owner of Soho House:
"... being the decade when the customer took control. People now have a much clearer idea of what they want - in terms of service and food quality.
The standard of restaurants has risen right across the board. Restaurants like Nobu, Zuma, Hakkasan, Yauatcha and Chutney Mary's has meant that people's perception of 'an Indian' or 'a Chinese' has been transformed. The Gourmet Burger and Hamburger Union have also taken the whole concept of grabbing a burger to a new level."
FT Fast Lane columnist:
" ... being hesitant, nanniedand lacking confidence."
" ... hate."
" ... the end of England."
" ... September 11."
EU Trade Commissioner:
" ... being a decade of New Labour government, elected as New Labour and governing as New Labour. I hope it will also be remembered for an EU that delivers growth and jobs in Europe and justice and security in the world."
"... being the decade when Labour won a third successive election victory for the first time."
Film and theatre director:
"...ought to be remembered for scientific progress and enlightenment, but instead will be remembered for the failure to predict natural and human disasters and for the flight from reason and mutual understanding. We've seen the expansion of fundamental religion, of bigotry, intolerance - Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Sikh - a toxic brew of outraged belligerence and pious self-righteousness, which has spread its foul vapour into every corner of our lives. How is it that these faiths if they're inspired by spiritual rather than tribal impulses are so feeble that they can't put up with any challenge or mockery or insult?"
Housemaster at Druries, Harrow:
"... being the time when there was a growing belief that England could be a force on the world sporting stage. We no longer have a sense of gloom as we watch England teams/individuals compete. Also, the decade will be marked by the growing influence of the mobile phone and the wretched text message facility. Youngsters now have to have their mobile surgically removed from their hands when they go to bed at night."
Writer and broadcaster:
"...increasing authoritarianism and a growing sense that the West can impose its will in a variety of ways on the rest of the world."
" ... being not so much a brave new world as a return to the dark ages, with religious war and plague. This will be the decade when people start to realise that our political, economic, religious and social institutions are unravelling.
My hopes? Peace in the Middle East, a cure for cancer - and a glossy magazine editor winning the largest ever Lottery prize."
"...probably as a decade of war and genocide."
" ... bling, Strictly Come Dancing and the war in Iraq. But, in historic terms, the noughties will perhaps be remebered for the end of the Chu rch of England as a credible, accepted, recognised and valued institution (quite something after four hundred plus years of ascendancy), and the rising industrial and commercial influence of the far east. But what do I know? I hope the decade will be remembered for something that hasn't come along yet..."
Professor Lord Robert Winston
Fertility expert and TV presenter:
"... the time we got resolution in Northern Ireland, hopefully. When you have Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley talking to one another, others such as the Israelis and Palestinians may come to feel that they have more to gain than to lose by going the same way.
After September 11th, conflict has dominated the decade so far - unjustly I feel. The threat of terror gives politicians an excuse to use legislation that would otherwise be considered illiberal - the George Bush phenomenon. So it could be the decade of conflict, or the decade of the resolution of conflict. I hope very much that it's the decade of the resolution of conflict.
FT fashion editor:
"...the move away from overt sexuality, both in fashion and in fashion advertising, towards a literally more buttoned-up approach. Instead of letting it all hang out, we're merely hinting; rebelling by keeping everything under fur wrap and cashmere key."
Bishop of London:
"... the threat posed by extreme individuals armed with the lethal knowledge of 20th century discoveries in the field of mass destruction. It may also appear as a time of doubt about the sustainability of the Western project of growth without limit, with no end in view beyond the process itself. Religious convictions and institutions are beginning to be increasingly significant, globally, for good and very often for ill, but I hope the decade will also witness the hopeful beginning of that growth of understanding and practical co-operation between the world faiths which is such a vital part of our new world order.
Poet and author:
" ... the decade when we finally started to take the warnings of global warming seriously. It's either that or more rearranging of deck chairs on the unsinkable ship, destined as Hardy put it to lie silently "in a solitude of the sea/Deep from human vanity,/And the pride of life that planned her."
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment & Transport:
"... being the decade when one of the greatest natural disasters of all time occurred. I hope it will also be remembered for this disaster bringing people together in a remarkable way and for waking people up to the extent to which we're exposed to natural disasters."
Editor of the Ecologist:
"... forming an uncomfortable bridge between the madness of the last century and something very different. As with recent decades, the world will become more vulnerable. Pressures on vital resources such as water and oil will escalate dramatically. But the difference now is that we recognise the fact and yearn for solutions. Environmental realities are being internalised into mainstream thinking. But mainstream politics has failed to arrive at a solution. Dissatisfaction will therefore grow until a new politics emerges. We will see the beginning of that movement this decade."
Dr Raj Persaud
Psychiatrist and author:
"... the power of America - given the alarmingly widening gap between it and the rest of the world - and what the rest of us did about it. It will therefore also be remembered for the blithe failure of Europe to unite properly until too late, because Europeans also won't have anticipated the massive transformation in geopolitical balance of power that will dominate the years 2011-2020: the arrival of two new superpowers, China and India. It could therefore be the very final decade when Europe is of any consequence in world affairs - an end to a domination of the planet which has lasted half a millennium.
"What I hope the noughties will be remembered for instead are advances in brain and mind research which may finally change our tendency to view people as the source of problems, into seeing them instead as solutions, and the most valuable resource on the planet."
" ... being an age of anxiety; not just the so-called war on terror, but a rising tide of worry about global warming and the politics that flow from it. But that's just the start. After the pure science discoveries of the past century, we are living through an extraordinary flourishing in applied science, above all in genetics. We are only just beginning to grapple with the implications of this. In the democracies, we are woefully ignorant and ill-prepared for the political and ethical dilemmas breaking on our heads. Traditionalism and carbon-addiction are both under threat.
"... being fundamentalist-phobic. Not just Islam-aphobia, but a basic allergy to all men with beards. Such males always seem to be right wing, obsessively religious and keen to suppress women, freedom and all things fun and frivolous. So, beard-aphobia rules.
Meanwhile, big cities have turned into giant Missing Persons Bureaus, with everyone trying to Find Themselves. Kaballah for a quick bit of Karma Maintenance, or getting fluff out of your philosophical navel by feng-shui-ing your aura. As the new frontier seems to be Inward Bound, it has produced a swarm of pseudo swarmis and garrulous gurus. Madonna and co are promoting the idea that beauty comes from within but I think they mean from within a jar of anti ageing cream.
Cosmetic surgery is also what this decade will be remembered for. Botox, collagen, breast enhancements. Of this last list, botox has made the biggest impact on the average woman suffering from facial prejudice. Women inject the botulism bacteria into their facial muscles to freeze frown lines. This is what Saddam Hussein used to kill Kurds. When I mentioned this to a beauty therapist she replied, horrifically, "At least they would have looked lovely". Which ties up the two strands of this decade of dread, quite nicely.
"... terrorism and digital revolution, both giving rise to depression and a sense of inadequacy. Or perhaps for the phenomenal financial success, achieved over the second five years, of Andrew Martin."
How will we remember the Noughties?
By Marina Mcintyre, Sathnam Sanghera and John-Paul Flintoff
FT January 7 2005