The Technical Isuues Are Largely Irrelevantgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
I think we miss the larger question when we focus on the technical issues too narrowly, or how long the grid may be down. The question to be posed is what level of disruption can this socio-political entity digest without fracturing? An earthquake-proof building can handle a decent temblor that would flatten a straw hut. To which structure can this society be analogized? Draw your own conclusions based upon the daily headlines where kids shoot each other over sneakers and other kids off their parents and our leaders perfect the art of maintaining power through use of the Goebbellian "Big Lie". This is a society where everything must be litigated because there is absolutely no consensus on fundamental values. It is held together by the thin veneer of a 9000 DJIA, but when that proves to be but masking tape, what is to prevent everybody from feeling justified about asserting their rights at the expense of everyone else. In conclusion, even the most Pollyanna of technical assessments of the situation will have ramifications sufficient in all probability to bring this house of cards to a nasty and ignoble end. "Pride goeth before the fall." Get ready.
-- Mark Meyers (email@example.com), October 23, 1998
Bravo Mark! Human hubris bolstered by the 1950s decade illusion that it was all boom and upward and more forever, without critical understanding of complex systems has led the world to Y2K. Thanks for cutting to the chase.
-- Donna Barthuley (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 23, 1998.
Well Mark, I don't think we are on that much of a thin edge. But it is basically a matter of opinion, and yours is as good as mine. For the sake of my kids and family, and yours, I sure hope we are not that close to chaos.
-- Paul Davis (email@example.com), October 23, 1998.
Paul, we're always that close to chaos. Our ancestors understood this. They understood that life was hard and they survived because they were self sufficient and their expectations weren't high. They were grounded in reality because if they lost touch with it they would slip into the chaos and suffer the consequences.
Some of the things that have changed are we've become complacent, comfortable and too dependent on others to provide for us. Oh, and we're even closure to chaos because of this.
Don't be fooled by our technical gizmos and gadgets. We aren't too big to fail. No empire or individual is ever too big to fail. ________________________________________________________________
-- Michael Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 24, 1998.
I don't think so. Maybe I missed the point (not the first time!).
We invent/develop something. Someone finds a use for it, and someone else finds another. We make a bunch of them for all these uses, and deploy them (sell them). New organizations spring up to take advantage of these new developments, and older organizations change to do things cheaper and more efficiently. Within a remarkably short time, everyone who can use this new development has come to *rely* on it, no fallback position.
This isn't pride, it's the ongoing story of the entire industrial revolution, been happening for a couple hundred years. By taking maximum advantage of all that technology permits, we support a much larger population, a much finer division of labor, and a much more comfortable lifestyle. Of course, this means that minor technological failures cause local but serious problems. Serious, longterm failures necessarily cause dieback.
The cause of such failures is technological, and the solution is technological within narrow limits. The real worry is this epiphenomenal reorganization -- our entire social structure and economy are an epiphenomena of our technology. If the technological breakdown is sufficiently deep and broad, of course we must go through what we could charitable call a 'shakeout period'.
Remember, once cavemen discovered clubs and fire, and put them to use, going back wasn't feasible. The discovery of agriculture rendered the original 'state of nature' impossible without it, except for a small, 'lucky' but starving minority. Technology does that.
-- Flint (email@example.com), October 24, 1998.
But the problem is: that emotionally and cognitively...(from evolution of biological systems perspective) human beings are really NOT out of the cave...Course my mind fly's to Plato's Cave...and how I see daily that most people are still facing the walls of stone,...not even understanding minutely that the fire behind them is casting scary shadows that are but illusions,... let alone, are they daring to venture to the cave mouth to see what is outside. Shadows on the wall are peddled as reality...a collective hunch, a tacit agreement between strangers....
And you point, Donna?...(LOL)...Sorry,...waxing poetic, my point was that from a biological perspective human brains are at BEST only one or two baby steps out of the cave. Mine too.
-- Donna Barthuley (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 24, 1998.
I'll give a recent example of the point I am trying to make and why the question whether the power grid "goes down for 60 days" is irrelevant: Hurricane George was about to hit my town of New Orleans 3 weeks ago. At the last minute 10,000 people were permitted to use the Superdome on an emergency basis. It was not set up to be a shelter. Nevertheless, people demanded food. Free concession stand hot dogs were'nt good enough. The hurricane turned away and they proceeded to evacuate the superdome and took half of the furniture with them, allthe while laughing as the TV cameras rolled. Please understand. They didn't feel that they had anything to be embarassed about. THEY WERE JUSTIFIED in stealing in their own minds. When civil authority breaks down in y2k, do you think they will entertain similar sentiments about your property? That is the difference between today and the ability of this society to endure a Great Depression 60 yeara ago.
-- Mark Meyers (email@example.com), October 24, 1998.
I would agree that technical debating over some latest scheme to encode a 4 digit date using 2 characters would, at this late date, be absolutely ludicrous (though it still is being done!). On the other hand, you better believe that the technical question of how long the power grid might be down is relevant. If it is down for a few days, we can probably muddle through. Down for a month, then indeed we are back in the caves.
-- Jack (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 24, 1998.
Jack, of course it "matters". Permit me a little bit of literary license. The point is perspective. Why focus intently on the power grid when 2 weeks of missed government checks will render Wall Street and the rest of manhattan a cinder pile. The human factor in a society this brittle is such that what once could be tolerated may now prove to be cataclysmic.
-- Mark Meyers (email@example.com), October 24, 1998.
The point that I am trying to make is that, deep philosophical thoughts aside, there are definite IF..THEN..ELSE type Y2K scenarios that you can pretty much state, for most of which the IF.. parts are purely technical. If there is anything that can be done at this late date to ensure electricity in 2000 (recalling that at this time there is not one single solitary electric utility that is Y2K compliant), obviously that is where our "focus" should be.
-- Jack (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 26, 1998.