Will Y2K Discussions Cause Panic?

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Ed Yourdon published an excellent piece today entitled "Will Y2K Discussions Cause Panic?" See:


For the record, I agree with Ed that panic sooner rather than later would be best.


-- Arnie Rimmer (arnie_rimmer@usa.net), November 11, 1998


Ooops, let me make it a hot-link:

http://www.yourdo n.com/articles/y2kpanic.html

-- Arnie Rimmer (arnie_rimmer@usa.net), November 11, 1998.

i agree. the "y2k crystal ball" article is even better.

-- Jocelyne Slough (jonslough@tln.net), November 11, 1998.

Oh, Arnie...such a good question...and such an important aspect of this whole issue.

I was practically booted off of the nytimes forum for suggesting that I had very little confidence that the power grid would stay up as it is now configured. In arguing with another poster about it, I said that I wouldn't be surprised if there were major problems for a year. After that, one of the "optimistic" posters asked me if I was crazy, and was I trying to start a panic? and from that point on everything I posted was vilified and twisted and I became the poster-child of the "doom and gloom" mindset on that forum. (it was largely techs who were just too wrapped up in the details to see "the bigger picture") Oh, and most of what I posted was actually pretty mild compared to some of the stuff I see here.

In personal encounters regarding Y2K, I get mostly ho-hum kinds of responses, people just don't want to hear about it. (except for a small circle who are willing to look at the implications, and prepare) To quote a co-worker - "I just want to live my life. I have no time to worry about stupid things like that." That is an actual verbatim quote. And after a reasonable introduction and conversation about the issue.

Anybody familiar with G.I. Gurdjieff? He was a "mystic" and "psychologist" and "teacher of dances" early in this century. Fascinating character. "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson" was his masterpiece. His whole thing was that most people spend the bulk of their lives walking around in a "dream state." That we are not truly "awake" except for brief flashes, or if you work at "being awake."

Anyway, watching the way most people react to the Y2K issue and watching the way the world is reacting just confirms for me that he was pretty much on the mark. It's bizzare! I mean, this problem could easily have been solved, but the decisionmakers were asleep. It's gotten to a point where we need to think about contingencies, but people are asleep. We need to make the general public aware, but the media is asleep. The little that does make it out there, people sleep through. You could climb up on the roof and yell "Prepare, you idiots!" and people would laugh at you before they went back to sleep.

So, I vascillate. Do I want try to inform others? and if I do, should I care whether or not they panic? and if they do panic, is that necessarily a bad thing? So far just about everbody who I've talked to about this (including all you good people on this forum) who "get it" and are prepared to prepare have experienced some degree of "panic" or anxiety.

Or - do I just keep my mouth shut and do what I need to do? By the time the general population gets around to the panic stage (autumn '99?) I'll be as ready as I can be (along with 6-10 loved ones and a few neighbors in the suburbs). If there are people who are aware of this issue who want me to keep my mouth shut, so as not to cause "a panic" (that other forum) or people who I care about who just think it's a drag (co-worker) who am I to keep pushing them?

Frankly, Arnie, I agree with you that a good degree of panic right about now might actually stave off larger scale last minute panic a year from now. But Arnie, do they really want to wake up before the alarm clock goes off? It's so snug and comfortable in that dream state...

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), November 11, 1998.

In a sense, I hope so. But it won't happen until very late in the game. PS is correct in her sleep analogy.

-- R. D..Herring (drherr@erols.com), November 11, 1998.


***Anybody familiar with G.I. Gurdjieff? He was a "mystic" and "psychologist" and "teacher of dances" early in this century. Fascinating character. "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson" was his masterpiece. His whole thing was that most people spend the bulk of their lives walking around in a "dream state." That we are not truly "awake" except for brief flashes, or if you work at "being awake." ***

Yes, yes, yes. Just last night on PBS, first part of two-part biography on Frank Lloyd Wright, mentioned that one of his wives was a devotee of Gurdjieff...perked up my ears big time, as it is sorta of how I see/saw so much of what passes for consciousness on Planet Earth. I spent many years asleep...or perhaps rather was awake as a child and then with the incessant lull of the ever-present loudspeakers joined the sleepers. Been in my own waking process for over 10 years now...It is my goal to be as exquisitely awake as my central nervous system can handle for the rest of my life.

For a fun look at "not seeing" and denial go rent the classic John Carpenter film "They Live". Very dark, tongue in cheek....

I advise all the awake and awakening to find others in the same process...in the face of large numbers of people in denial it is critical for the maintenance of sanity.

-- Donna Barthuley (moment@pacbell.net), November 11, 1998.


My ears perked up at that moment also! Looking forward to part two tonight. Where DID Wright get all those wacky notions on how to live a life, anyway?

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), November 11, 1998.

Hi Donna,

Met GIG (in the literary sense) some 30 odd years ago when I was trying to account for the different ways people respond to experience. Seems to me he was talking about some reality beyond what was normally experienced. His ways of achieving that seemed to leave plenty of room for slippage between what was actually going on and what the 'teacher' was telling about it. With that caveat in mind some fascinating ideas and concepts for people who are prepared to be their own teacher.

My own understanding of human learning is that each person is their own teacher, in fact it cannot be any other way. The world's people should sack their current teachers and got on with the job of taking control of their own lives never mind authorities and opinion leaders and so: be your own person.

One thing characterises the postings in the BB, they are the contributions of people who are either already their own person or rapidly becoming so.

"course the downside is y'can't blame anybody else if y'get it wrong'"

Panic first, NOW, get a grip next, plan for later, biggest challenge for any human.

Watership Down metaphorically explores some similar themes.

-- Bob Barbour (r.barbour@waikato.ac.nz), November 11, 1998.

This sci-fi novel is a wonderful expression of denying what you see--

Wave Without a Shore, by C. J. Cherryh

O.p., but available in several used bookstores on-line.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), November 11, 1998.

Pshannon quoted a co-worker as saying "I just want to live my life. I have no time to worry about stupid things like that."

I've come across several similar statements from people around me. I'm starting to believe that the problem of mass awareness is not getting the info to people, a lot has already been done and polls show that over 85% of people have heard and/or read about it. I believe that among people, there are the survivor/leader types and there's the sheeps, who prefer putting their heads in the sand and let the leader types worry and make things all better for them. It's tempting to do even for me. Getting the whole scoop on Y2K is time consuming, one needs to spend hours on the net (heck, one must OWN a puter and being connected first), since we only get glibs from what and when the media wants to inform us. Many books are available on y2k, but when was last time you saw Average Joe read such information books? Preparations are costly and time consuming too. A person needs inner motivation to not only survive, but thrive during Y2K problems to take such actions. Those who aren't thus motivated, will be content to take things as they come, and handouts from government/family/friends/neighbors. They'll muddle through, they think. That's partly because they don't understand the threats to their lives from infrastructure failures. They don't understand because they're not motivated to learn. Vicious circle.

Nothing short of an order from the president to all american families to prepare would do, IMO. I'm not worried about a panic any time soon. The panics will start when the power actually goes off, and the food in stores are depleted. The banks failing, stock market crashing, that won't even motivate people to stockpile food/water. Only bank runs.

All my opinion ofcourse, but based on my background knowledge in psychology and social sciences.

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), November 11, 1998.

I heard an off-hand comment "I don't want to live in the fear mode"...I suggested to this person that she wasn't in the fear mode, she was in the denial mode. The fear mode means preparing oneself and ones family. After this mode has run it's course, you can look forward to the acceptance mode, and get back to living (not looking thru rose colored glasses, though). I personally am looking forward to graduating from the acceptance mode to something new and different. Shall we create a new mode ourselves? How about the distraction mode. Concentrate on anything else but what's ahead...sounds like the denial mode all over again, ey?

-- (mass@delusions.com), November 11, 1998.

True panic occurs when one has no time or ability to think through a problem and make good decisions. What some of us call our initial 'panic' about Y2K is not really the same thing. We realized we had time to prepare, and settled down. Discussions of Y2K now will cause no more panic than storm warnings or earthquake preparedness. Last minute declarations of coming failures will create real panic. Trouble is, (as many here have said) most people won't "get it" until the last minute, now matter what is said while there's still time to prepare.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), November 12, 1998.

What one can do is send an E-mail of everyones responses on this forum's What SHOULD The Press Do Thread to contacts at their local media.

I just sent it off to contacts at San Franciscos KRON Channel 4 TV and several technology staff writers at the San Jose Mercury News.

Everyone here has great ideas!!! As a group, we just might all make a difference, together.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), November 12, 1998.

I have to agree with Chris, et al., that people won't panic until something concrete happens that affects their lives. My supervisor at work was initially concerned when I brought in some y2k information. She talked to her investment broker (!) and decided to believe him when he said it wouldn't be that big a deal, they're working on it. When I pointed out that he might have a vested interest in saying just that, she said he should know!! She was surprised to find out a few weeks ago that I am still stockpiling food and am concerned about heating and electricity. I recommended to her that she look on the internet to see what the experts are saying and she replied that she's already talked to an expert who seems to think that all will be well. She's not the only one to give me this type of response. Fortunately, my sister got it right away and has been a major impetus to my own preparations. One of my brothers, on the other hand, thinks that not only am I nuts to prepare, I am apt to cause a panic... I keep praying.

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), November 12, 1998.

"One of my brothers, on the other hand, thinks that not only am I nuts to prepare, I am apt to cause a panic... "

Tricia, that's so sad.....and I've heard it so many times. It scares me, because the person who thinks that way is already placing the blame for any possible disaster. We hear that the banking system will be just fine unless we take our money out. We are told that the food supply will be great, unless we stock up. When we have food panics and bank runs, anyone with food or money will be hated. We will have caused the problem.

I think that this is why some people think Y2K discussions will cause panic. But, come on folks, how many 3 day sessions (ala Focus on the Family) can we have with a panel of experts who recommend preparation........but where no one listens?

Tricia, good luck with your brother.

-- rocky (rknolls@hotmail.com), November 12, 1998.

So far, the answer seems to be, "Actually, no, these discussions will NOT cause panic." The reason being, as many have noted above, that it's so difficult, often impossible, to get most people to take it seriously.

In Social psychology of y2k: Trying to understand the denial Doug Carmichael has some insightful things to say about this. It's people instinctively clinging to the world they know; it's people refusing to recognize they've bought into a colossal blunder.

IMO the more dedicated a person is to existing social structures (in all aspects) the more likely that person is to avoid noticing this.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), November 12, 1998.

Which, Tom, is why the national media - so willfully dedicated to Clinton - Gore, who have gotton into this by not doing anything for 6 years, are deliberately ignoring this issue. Worse, their prejudices and active hatred against those who are not tied to the current "social disorder" - mean they (the natinal media) will continue to ignore Y2K, and play up the "kooky survivalist" aspect.

Because that is the message they so desparately want to believe - and that is the belief system (religion ?) of those who they want to impress.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), November 12, 1998.

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