As far as experiments to lure readers away from the endlessly distracting present and toward literal old news go, a new project from The Atlantic is premised on an interesting conceit. The Atlantic’s Life Timeline appeals to the inherent vanity in us all by creating a personalized timeline of the national and international history that has accompanied our own personal, lived history.
Pop in your birth month, day and year into the landing page and you will learn details like the pop-culture and political events that occurred upon your arrival into the world and as you entered adulthood, hollywood depictions of teenagers from the time you first became one, what event occurred at your life’s current halfway point and possibly a prediction about the future world you will inhabit. Ours was terrifying:
“By the time you turn 37, scientists estimate it will no longer be possible to keep global temperatures from rising at least 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Almost all of the milestone events, as The Atlantic describes them, link to a relevant article from publication’s archive, where there is 160 years worth of writing to work with. At the end of the list is a shareable card summarizing the milestones. Two video spots about Origins, launch sponsor National Geographic’s upcoming TV series, break up the items on the list. Ads for Origins also appear on the article pages the timeline links to.
“You can think of it as a rearview mirror for your life, allowing you to view the milestones that dot your journey to this moment, stretching back until just before you were born,” writes TheAtlantic.com deputy editor Matt Thompson in a post about the project. “Just like history, each Life Timeline comprises many different types of events—delightful moments and tragic ones, world-changing milestones and moments merely worthy of note, some you probably remember, some you might have forgotten, and a few you might not have known about at all.”
The items in the timeline are not necessarily those that may be part of your own personal memory bank, since many are based on particular mathematical slices of your time on earth.
You can check it out for yourself here.