Infomagic's TEOTWAWKI : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Can anyone refute the arguments Infomagic makes here? From my point of view, the arguments are objective, irrefutable maths.

Comments? Arguments? Agreement? Flames?

-- Leo (, November 28, 1998


Was anyone around here about six months ago when I tried, in my own inadequate way to say something like this. I sent a similar post to csy2k, to the Ishmael dicussion forum, to my environmental list and to a few casual lists as well. Perhaps due to my terse and contumelious style, or my lack of technical background, or my inability to contribute more than 500 words per post; perhaps I was 180+ days too early---whatever the reason, I was universally hooted down, denigrated, ridiculed and castigated by Pollyanna denial-heads, who are today pricing generators and laying in nitrogen-packed grain.

Infomagic has offered sound, well-presented reasoning for a scenario that I consider only the beginning.

As an inadequate web-researcher, I have been unable to spend the time necessary to gather sufficient evidence to buttress my "poisonfire" scenario. And, do to technical difficulties, I no longer have access to the site where this term was coined and exlained. Briefly, this presents the possibility of civil disorganisation sufficient to lose control of nuclear and/or toxic materials currently in storage or in production. The Hanford nuclear facility on the Columbia river, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear plants on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and the plethora of chemical manufacturers in the Mississippi River watershed are but few of the thousands of "poisonfire" sites throughout the world whose integrity could conceivably be jeopardized by a devolutionary spiral such as described by Infomagic.

Some nuclear elements and many more chemical toxicants are light enough to enter the hydrological cycle through evaporation and precipitation, thus "leap-frogging" their way around the planet. Others, many more, are heavy enough to sink into the groundwater and estuaries, to lie there for countless millennia irradiating and poisoning life, perhaps down to the very bacteria on which life on Earth is based.

My eighty year-old mother "got it" right away when I first explained it to her about two years ago. Her response was, "I'm glad I'm old. I feel sorry for you kids." I'm old enough to have done what I've wanted with my life. Curiosity is the only reason I have for wanting to see what happens. I feel sorry for you kids.


"Of course, I could be wrong. It might be worse." --- Infomagic

-- Hallyx (, November 28, 1998.

The Infomagic line that really jumps out:

At the very minimum this [synchronized attempt to repair systems] will lead to an economic disaster, JUST FROM THE ACT OF FIXING THE SYSTEMS THEMSELVES.

I'd never really considered this before, but from my own experiences in system maintenance, this is not all that far from the realm of possibility, especially considering the scale of the effort.

The deciding factors are:

How quickly and to what level will any maintenance bugs manifest?
How serious are those manifestations?
How quickly can the causes can be determined and repaired?
Will the forced repairs actually improve the system or make it worse?

-- Nathan (, November 28, 1998.

Hallyx - somebody was asking questions along your "poisonfire" thread only recently, can't remember where I saw it, maybe this Forum?

Anyhoo it's a very real possibility that these contaminants / nerve agents / weapons of mass destruction could leak out. For example I understand that many of these establishments run on some sort of electrically powered air fitration system that prevents air-born leakages (negative room pressure?). Yes, they have UPS systems and backup generators but what happens when the generators cut out?

This whole weapons/nuclear scenario is "not good".

-- Andy (, November 28, 1998.

There are several disconnects in Infomagic's piece. Jumps of thought or logic that are not backed up with supporting data. Anytime you say "this will lead to...." without saying WHY it will lead 'to....' it's a disconnect.

What's my take on his thoughts? My stomache is in knots and I am reduced to "Please God, let him be wrong". Every point he makes is valid and frightening. He has thought about things that I am SCARED to think about. Are his 'predictions' possible? Yup, I have no doubts at all. It scares the living $#@% out of me.

-- Art Welling (, November 28, 1998.

Art - the two pieces I have read by INFOMAGIC *are* cogent and persuasive. I think that it's inevitable that when trying to formulate your thoughts on such a minbendingly complex subject, these "disconnects" as you call them may surface (we all do it to certain degrees.) That does not negate the underlying message, however.

Fact is, the underlying experience, logic and research are there for all to see. The only reason I'm not equally scared $&^#less is because I've been coming to the same conclusion myself - that, plus my own spiritual beliefs. And the realisation that I have a head start and can get my arse into gear.

*IF* it's all a damp squib, I will be partying throughout the spring of '00! In the meantime I'm not going to let it get me down.

More to follow.

-- Andy (, November 28, 1998.

This piece was a rebuttal to INFOMAGIC's part II scenario from csy2k:-

from Brad Sherman:-

[Skipping Mr. Infomagic's turgid and faux-mathematical meanderings, which conveniently left out the fact that some 30% of major projects are abandoned, and yet the organizations manage to survive, and that nearly 100% of systems --critical or not--, fail at some time or other and organizations manage to survive, and the fact that it cannot even be shown that the massive investments in information technology have had a net positive effect on productivity, (see the best possible light shed on this at]

>Assessment -- Day 400 --

Cory, for some time you stated that day 500 was a critical date, and I would have to say that I think that that date has been met. Koskinen was appointed before day 500, the NERC report came out around day 500, every major media type is doing Y2k stories, some power plants are already operating with clocks set to times after Y2k, major banks have done a preliminary EDI test, congress is holding hearings, Y2k awareness has reached the point to where comic strips and comedians consider it fodder for jokes, it's hard to find a major corporation that does not have a Y2k plan of some sort. All utilities have Y2k pages (perhaps puffery, but they're there). The CIO of Los Angeles is claiming 85% remediation now, Horn thinks that 2/3 of all critical Gov't systems will be remediated by March, etc. I'm sure that you will counter that it's still not enough, but considering how little was apparently going on in the first quarter 1998, a little objectivity will show that there is a whole lot of activity.


-- Andy (, November 28, 1998.

And (to my mind - excellent) a counter-rebuttal from Tom Benjamin:-

Bradley K. Sherman wrote in message ...

>[Skipping Mr. Infomagic's turgid and faux-mathematical meanderings, >which conveniently left out the fact that some 30% of major projects >are abandoned, and yet the organizations manage to survive, and that

The objections you have to Mr. Infomagic's mathematical meanderings don't fly. His hopelessness relative to the crash mirrors mine for exactly the same reasons. We ain't gonna get anywhere near perfection and perfection (or as perfect as human programmers can be) probably isn't good enough. This is a genetic defect. Disaster at some level is guaranteed.

This major project is not a new initiative extending a reliable computer system. It is an essential repair that cannot be abandoned or the computer system will become unreliable. That companies choose to abandon 30% of major projects -- for any number of reasons -- is absolutely irrelevant. No matter how you look at the IT metrics, we need a miracle and even then many, many computer systems will become unreliable.

>nearly 100% of systems --critical or not--, fail at some time or other >and organizations manage to survive

Another absolutely irrelevant point. Y2K failures are in addition to these failures. We will get all of the normal failures plus Y2K failures. Plus, Y2K failures are far more difficult to resolve than routine systems failures. Plus, Y2K failures accelerate as the date moves closer.

>and the fact that it cannot >even be shown that the massive investments in information technology >have had a net positive effect on productivity, (see the best possible >light shed on this at]

Three for three for irrelevance. It doesn't matter whether computers made us more productive or not. I think they did, but it doesn't matter. Computers changed the way business was conducted for better or for worse. They changed the way we organized businesses and the way we conducted business. We changed the way work is organized and the skillset of the labour force. We cannot undo these changes overnight.

We are not suddenly going to be able to come up a way to process a Medicare payment or an unemployment insurance claim without computers even if we could do it with the same number of people. Who knows how to process a UI cheque without a computer?

Infomagic "conveniently" left out your "facts" because they have absolutely no bearing on his argument.


Any thoughts on these?

Regards, Andy

-- Andy (, November 28, 1998.

Andy, BKS is and always has been a Pollyanna. His response isn't surprising.

Hallyx, it's good to hear from you my friend!

I'm becoming more and more amazed at how many people were becoming concerned about the planet and it's situation long before y2k was on their radar screen. People just knew that there was an impending situation that would simply change life as we know it.

I've become more convinced that destiny is predetermined and it exists no matter what our attempts to alter it. If we are here and we "get it" then there is a reason for this fact. What we do with the knowledge is the key to the future.

The dealer is showing 5 and I have 11. Should I Double Down and take my chances? You only live once, right?

Mike =============================================================

-- Michael Taylor (, November 28, 1998.

"You only live once, right?"

No. :o)

I'm with you on the predestination...

But, BKS is usefull as a catalyst for discussion!!


Anyone have any more information on this "poisonfire" scenario. Think I may have read about it on Y2Kalert or something - they were trying to get "insiders" to spill the beans annonymously...

-- Andy (, November 28, 1998.

Good man, Andrew. You posted both of the csy2k responses to Infomagic's scenario germane to this discussion.

It may be important to those who do not frequent the newsgroup (and why not?) that Bradley Sherman, aka. bks, is a notorious Pollyanna and borderline troll who is suffered reluctantly among the cognicente because he does, at times, put some effort into his responses. He also keeps the Doomers honest.

Tom Benjamin, author of "Tom's Take" parts 1&2, has a reputation for clear thinking, effective writing and manning a defensible position. His website is rather interesting as well.


"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." --- W. Edwards Deming

-- Hallyx (, November 28, 1998.

Michael said, "I'm becoming more and more amazed at how many people were becoming concerned about the planet and it's situation long before y2k was on their radar screen. People just knew that there was an impending situation that would simply change life as we know it."

I am one of those. I began to prepare last January and did not find out about Y2K until about April. I have been extremely interested in economics for a long time. The thing that amazes me, is that most people can't see that the global economic "slide" will COMBINE with Y2K to create a VERY bad situation. An example, my dad understands the economic impact very well, he thinks we will go back to "horse and buggy" days. But, he doesn't think Y2K is that big of a deal. (Go figure!) Then, there are people who can grasp Y2K, but don't take into account what the failing global economies will do as well. The two really WILL go hand in hand.

-- Gayla Dunbar (, November 28, 1998.

Mike, I believe that there is no such thing as destiny. We control our own lives, our own history and our own future.

Most people just don't want to. They want to watch TV and go out on Saturday nights to get drunk and find some slut. They do 35 hours a week of half-hearted work in which they think 20% of their jobs and 80% of who is #$#$ing who on what soap.

The rest of us -and I don't think there's a single person here who fits into the first category- can change things. We're the smart people. The ones with the brains to look further ahead than to the next paycheque; the people who see there's more to life than the instant gratification of sex, drugs and cheap TV.

I refuse to accept that the notion of "destiny" is any more than lazy fatalism.


-- Leo (, November 28, 1998.

Didn't Infomagic predict a couple of months ago that the Dow would fall 2000-3000 points by the end of November, and reaffirm that prediction at the beginning of this month?

It'll have to be a hell of a Monday :)

-- Ned (, November 28, 1998.

Yes he did Ned, trouble is King Canute aka Alan Greenspan and his "team" have been manipulating the markets with interest rate cuts, LTCM and Bank of America bailouts with our money, and other nefarious activities related to Japan being still alive and kicking (just). Had he not have intervened it would have crashed months ago IMHO.

It's not a case of IF but WHEN - personally I hope it remains stable 'till I can cash out my 401K in January!

-- Andy (, November 28, 1998.

I agree Andy. A far as the LTCM, the derivative positions still have not been completely unwound! And there are other hedge funds with massive positions. Looks like the short of the century if you have the stomach. BTW, the posters at kitco have a special name for the market manipulators: the Plunge Protection Team (PPT).

-- Rob MIchaels (, November 28, 1998.

What about the fact that on the home page it says not to take yourself too seriously and that if you don't have a sense of humor not to read on? Doesn't that discredit some of what is being said?

-- madeline (, November 28, 1998.

Thanks Rob - PPT, I knew that, tip of my tongue, must link PPT to powerpoint so I'll remember. Do they all wear condoms?

"What about the fact that on the home page it says not to take yourself too seriously and that if you don't have a sense of humor not to read on? Doesn't that discredit some of what is being said? "

Madeline - nah, not really, to accept the fact of Y2K, by definition you have to have a sense of humour:-)

If you *do* want a good laff check out the william case jr. posts followed by the Is Infomagic really ed yourdon post:-)

Cheers, Andy

-- Andy (, November 28, 1998.

Infomagic said, "At first, the poor deers just lost weight..."

I promise, I WASN'T his English teacher!

Don't tell him I pointed this out!!! :-)

-- Gayla Dunbar (, November 28, 1998.

LEO Per your request:::


Infomagic's numbers are not refutable as they are minimum optimistic estimates and assumptions. Can't argue with assumptions, and the math is pretty safe and sound from my dated but varied experience. However, we can (and in fact must) critically examine where he takes the numbers. The arguments on carrying capacity do NOT, a priori direct the conclusion of return to the 1300's or earlier. The carrying capacity of the earth is a bit better than that, ASSUMING access to some kind of energy harnessing/power generation.

I had a discussion with my better half and I pointed out that if you give me running water and a bit of a valley (not necessarily very big, just want an 8' dam) I can power our needs, (by water wheel spinning an hors du combat 10KW genset) drive a water pump (your choice of water ram, or electric), and run a mill (your choice of grain, saw, or manufacturing) all off of an 8' overshot water wheel.

I am by no means an engineer, but I understand how things work, and would probably take a bit of time to get the gearing, and the clutching right, but the lights do not need to go out.

I am also not the only person who can qualify as a man by Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love" standards. (Don't follow the cite? Leaf through the book and as LL is about to take his beloved into the wilds the quote is in there or thereabouts. The other required quote is also there in the list of what survived the first 4 days. Start with the original packing list and read the update!) There are a lot of us out here, many of us preping, and the required construction can be community or personally built with an eye toward increasing the size of the settlement as the opportunity arises.

The fact that some of us can keep the lights on, and can do some rough engineering should serve to guarantee that we can keep an understanding of the technology running until the rest of the settlements can develop. Particularly if each of us that can files for future use a copy of an Encyclopedia, circa 1950 -1960 and another one circa 1995, all on PAPER. As well as Jerrry Pournelles list in "Lucifers Hammer" (See the list that goes into the septic tank!) I much more see islands of light and knowledge, much like the monasteries of the middle ages, with communications (spark gap transmitters, and Xtal radios will be MUCH better than Gutenberg's press, though, we'll still need someone who remembers the formulas of ink, smokeless powder, etc.) making our rise much faster than 5 - 10 generations.

I say this because, in most of the technological colleges and universities, there are nuclear reactors generating some power. Many of these same institutions have large portions of themselves effectively off-grid for heating or power (generated by methane production, wood pulp from a neighboring sawmill (I KNOW, the mill will NOT be up, but the methane will be, etc.) , or other alternative energy sources.

As a case in point, Clarkson University, in the VERY cold Northeast, has (or at least HAD) a VERY cozy relationship with both NYPAS (or PASNY whichever) and Niagara Mohawk Power Co., as far as the use of local lands and some of the smaller generation stations and projects in the area. It has something to do with training more Power Jocks than a lot of other schools. CCT (OOPS, "CU") also worked with the gas company in terms of distribution, etc. I am fairly sure the lights will be on in Potsdam, NY; and Im equally sure that the available "carrying capacity" will support both Clarkson, and Potsdam State (probably as a very downsized, unified entity) which will be able to drive back some of the night, with not only technical trainees (as it were) but with cultural and softer, more civilized pursuits, due to the presence of Potsdam States Arts and Music program which happens to include Crane School of Music/Conservatory.

In my travels about this country, I have seen many similar situations in which the college or university, with only a small amount of "toughening" or "re-engineering" will be able to drive back a lot of the shadows. Those institutions which have hitched themselves to a city (Carnegie in Pittsburgh, MIT in Boston, some of the West Coast institutions may have a bit more to do than the more isolated schools, but I still see them as modern day (sorry about that Chief) monasteries dedicated to the protection of, and increase of the Light of Knowledge that the Church protected in the 13 and 1400s. And, yes, these monasteries will show the same open mindedness as the original model, unfortunately, because they will be populated by entities which breath Oxygen, bleed red and continue the species by heterosexual (of 2) coitus. (People for those not into obfuscation!;-))

In summation of the prediction, the drop from 1999 to 1?00 does not need to be what Infomagic sees. Assuming that the hordes do NOT manage to eradicate the islands of light (and there will be many, either one house generators, one settlement generators, or hydroelectric-powered towns, cities, or counties; the drop will be back to a more manual, equine, canine powered world. Im NOT saying the ride down will not be exhilarating, nor fun. It WILL be VERY BUMPY and VERY PAINFUL, as we lose a LOT of the nonproductive elements in our country. However, it need not progress to the point of total, anarchistic, Luddite nirvana .


A very good question, Alice.

First, secure a secure place.

Second, secure Food, Water, Heat and Light.

Third, build the dam and the raceway.

Fourth, while you have the machinery, rough out the wheel, the clutch system, and the transmission of power system

Fifth, Decide on saw, grain, or manufacturing and rough in those machines.


Seven, Learn enough about animal husbandry (in the BRAODEST sense of the term) to support the family.

Eighth Learn enough farming to be able to USE the legacy seeds and see to it that there is seed for 2004.

Tenth, Delegate these things to several others so that you can concentrate on the important things, which are adding to your settlement, making your peace with whatever you believe presides over our world (God, Jehova, Shiva et al, Gaia, the sprites and nymphs, the five powers (E, A,F,W,S), Odin and Co., the World Worm, WHATEVER) as you will need this.

Chuck, a night driver who hates the Dark, tries to walk in the Light, and refuses to see the Dark triumph simply because no one defended the Light. POTS

-- Chuck a night driver (, November 29, 1998.

Chuck- what you said makes a lot of sense. Just one thing:

Keeping the light alive will be a bitch at first. I predict 90% of the population will die. They will not die easily. They will starve, and there will be a LOT of violence, probably starting midway through the first week, escalating to utter hell by the end of January, and staying lethal for the next few months, with mobs of people (not marauders, just starving people with guns who will do anything to acquire food) go around. Eventually these guys will either settle down (unlikely) or die when they either run out of places to raid or scavenge, or die by violence when they run into a sufficiently tough nut. After that, I see 3 kinds of people alive: -The prepared, the survivalists. -The tough "mad max" jerks who travel around looting -A handful of scavengers who can survive independently in the woods or elsewhere.

The "mad max" jerks would be the main threat to civilisation rebuilding. If they did not exist, if it were safe to travel anywhere you wanted in the US, then you would be able to rebuild society quite easily. All you'd need are enough knowledge surviving. Since most of the y2k preparers and therefore the survivors are technologically-minded people, then that shouldn't be too hard. With the raiders, however, it's a lot harder. With them, travel and communication will be a complete bitch. With them, even basic agriculture will require some kind of perimiter defence. Without them, you could simply take over a patch of unused land and build a house and set up a farm. With them, if you did that then you'd need to put the house in a defensible location and have enough ammo.

However: The raiders will probably not be massive mobs, at least not after the first 180 days. Big mobs couldn't survive. The biggest of the groups would probably number less than a hundred, and the average size I predict will be about 20-30 (this seems to be the size of the group humans will form into naturally. It'd also be enough to overwhelm a smaller group with force, but not too much to drain their supplies instantly.) I also don't think these groups would be all that organised. With that in mind, I believe that if you could organise a defence unit of a hundred or so people, with discipline and order (and a source of supplies, such as donations or a tax from local farms), you could wipe out any individual raider group, and do that enough times to wipe out a LOT of them and make a quite large area secure. If that happened, what's to stop civilisation returning to that area (power, manufacturing, all the rest of it) and that area expanding outwards? If I lived near such an area, I would move there -or actively pay a small tax in order to finance their expansion into the district where I lived.

That's why I believe it'll be a much shorter matter of time (until a competent leader emerges who can make an area safe and establish the start of civilisation in that area, plus the dozen years it would take until the whole country was secure and improving) until the lights come on again. They may only be gaslight, but people would be working hard to bring power plants and manufacturing back online.

Although whether it'll be another 2 or 3 generations before we recover to the level of the 90s, is another story.

-- Leo (, November 29, 1998.

Chuck, Leo: Good posts. We need to remember the importance of the knowledge and skills which form the basis for the ' islands of light' and our current civilization when contemplating infomagic's words. We don't have to invent a lightbulb or a computer, etc... the knowledge won't disappear. Some will know, others will learn. It isn't square 1 in that respect. Thanks for reminding me.

-- Rob Michaels (, November 29, 1998.

Assessment -- Infomagic --




Sorry for the length, others have asked, so I've taken the opportunity to do a quick analysis. PJA

" the failure of even a small number of our computer systems, combined with fundamental problems already existing in the global economy, will lead to the total collapse of civilization as we know it."

great lead-in; can he follow-up?

" collapse is probable even in an unreasonably optimistic best case scenario in which all of the systems are fixed before 2000. "

quite a rejoinder...

" recovery in our lifetimes is an extremely unlikely outcome. We must prepare for a dark period of several generations during which much of our technology and knowledge will be lost and after which there may be a slow recovery by our descendants."

this guy knows how to get ones attention!

" Such preparations are the subject matter of this series of articles."

seems to me like he has given his motive, here.

" However, we must also prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that the outcome of this situation might well be the total extinction of the entire human race. "

some extant scenarios [ nuclear war, ,etc] justify this view

"It really could be worse than I am predicting and I really am being optimistic. "

[I think so too!]

" I am not fixated on the success or failure of individual systems. I have the capacity to see the larger picture and I am far more concerned with the total failure of Charlotte's Web itself -- that system-of-systems which forms the backbone of modern civilization. "

now we begin to see from whence he takes a view of the larger picture to understand what he's trying to say; and what lies ahead for all of us.

" the disaster scenario requires the failure of only a relatively small percentage of our systems (let's say 20%) while the "bump in the road" scenario requires virtually perfect correction of almost all affected systems, all on time and all on budget. "

logical point - score 1

"For the bulls to be right, we must somehow magically move from a historical on-time project success rate of less than 15% to a success rate for Y2K projects of at least 90 - 95%. Such a position is clearly irrational. "

logical point - score 2

"assume that all affected systems will indeed be fixed before they start to fail. Unfortunately, this would not solve the problem or prevent the disaster. "

tell us more...

" after any major maintenence change to a system (which Y2K most certainly is) there is always a residual rate of failure as a result of the changes themselves, even when the changes are properly "tested".


"The failures manifest themselves when the system is placed back into the real world of "production", as opposed to the artificial world of "testing". They happen because maintenence programmers customarily test only the immediate effects of their changes. There is neither the time nor the money nor often even the ability to test the entire consequences of a particular change to a system. The residual failures typically arise elsewhere in the system, at some point unrelated to the change itself and completely unanticipated by the programmer. "

logical point - score 3 ; verifiable from other industrial diciplines

"This last is why residual failures are so hard to identify and correct. Often, we can't even tell for certain whether a particular failure really is the result of a recent system change or not. In turn, this is why a good system administrator would never return two or more systems to "production" at the same time. Not only is the risk of failure almost doubled, but there is also a small chance of both systems failing simultaneously."

valid/ agreed

" For Y2K, the problem is greatly compounded by the fact that, essentially, we will be placing all of our corrected systems back into "production" at roughly the same time. "

the first rule of problem-solving is to never make more than one change at a time to a sytem, again, valid point - score 4

"The actual rate of residual failure depends on a number of factors, but mostly on the size of the system and the scope of the changes."

logical - score 5

" A large business with 100 or more systems would have a 99% chance of a failure (1-(1-.05)**100 = 0.994). This is EVEN IF ALL OF THE SYSTEMS ARE FIXED!"

reasonable - understanding that "a 99% chance of a failure" does not mean that "a failure is mandated to occur"

"Of course, many of these failures will be relatively easy to fix, but others will require an effort beyond the capabilities of the business and they will not be fixed before the business itself fails (this is particularly true for small and medium businesses using packaged software)."

consistent with historical reality

" In addition, the great majority of these failures will have at least some domino effect on related customers and vendors."

great point, gets picked up in more detail later...

" To make it even worse, virtually everybody will be facing these problems at about the same time,"

OK - given

" leading to a chaos in which actually fixing the problems becomes almost impossible."

reasonable ; not unthinkable

" At the very minimum this will lead to an economic disaster, "

a few citations of progressive detail have been omitted, i.e. as businesses fail they lay off workers who have no income, who, thus, cannot spend, which drives the economy into stagnation or "disaster"...; but the logic is valid and the conclusion is reasonable; one does need to define "economic disaster" a bit more in detail, however.

"JUST FROM THE ACT OF FIXING THE SYSTEMS THEMSELVES, without even taking into account the effect of the unfixed systems, of embedded systems or of an already declining global economy. "

logical; given

"In reality, of course, the situation is much worse than this, and the residual failure rate will be much, much higher."

recent data from numerous sources would seem to bear out this point

" Just how much worse is anybody's guess since we have, as yet, insufficient historical data of actual Y2K failures. "

fair point; he's being honest

thus: a conclusion:

" a "bump in the road" is not even on the scale of possibility. As we have seen above, the best case end of the scale really begins with a global economic disaster and even then assumes that all systems are fixed on time and that there are no outside factors such as a global recession."

if this is true, then the following conclusion is also

" Clearly this, too, is an untenable position. "


"So, in a realistic best case, how much worse than an "economic disaster" is it going to get? Let's use the same formula but this time with a guesstimate of the rate of critical failures (those likely to lead to a failure of the business itself). As an expert, I personally think that the overall, critical failure rate will be between 10 and 20% but, again, let's be overly optimistic and say that only 1% will fail critically and terminally for the business. Even this means that 5% of small, 22% of medium and 63% of big businesses will, inevitably, cease to exist as a direct result of Y2K system failures."

very important point and must be understood very clearly to make much sense of any other conclusions; this guy seems to know his stuff very well and is trying to impart to us more than some of us want to know; i.e. each one of us is probably, in some way, connected to one or more of those "small, medium or large" businesses that is bound to fail

" Interestingly, these numbers accurately reflect our intuitive grasp of the increasing dependance on information technology as businesses grow larger."

borne out by experience

"But the exact numbers don't really matter because this is only the first level of failure. "


"The second stage of failure is the "domino effect", the interrelationships between vendors and their customers. Roughly speaking, each of the big three auto manufacturers has about 50,000 vendors of whom about 10,000 are "critical" to production."

I can only asume this 'critical' ratio is accurate, since I have no independent numbers of my own.

" On the basis of the above, at only a 1% critical failure rate, at least 500 of the critical vendors (5%) will go out of business, forcing the production line to a halt."

quite probably true; verifiable from numerous sources regarding "just-in -time" inventorying

"If that happens for any extended period of time then most of the other 49,500 vendors are basically out of business."

fair point; reasonable

" Not that it matters. On the basis of the above, two of the big three (63%) will themselves go out of business because of their own Y2K failures, taking most of their vendors with them."

again, resonable conclusion based uopn the previous premises

" Not that it really matters. 50% of the big three's customers are employed by small businesses, of which 5% will immediately go out of business. Unfortunately, the other 50% of their customers are employed by medium and large businesses of whom, optimistically, (63-22)/2+22 or 42% will also go out of business, removing their former employees from the auto market. Those who still have jobs will also be much less likely to buy and, with this immediate and increasing drop in sales, all of the big three will effectively go out of business -- together with most of their vendors. The same thing will happen in every other segment of the economy as well. "

very important conclusion; very reasonable to conclude

"Even with unrealistically optimistic numbers, and without taking either embedded systems or the already poor global economy into account, I think this proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Charlotte's Web will indeed completely collapse, just as I predicted in the previous article. Unfortunately, that is still only the second level of failure. "

well, he's done it!! great job, so far

"The third level of failure is something I call a devolutionary spiral -- the unwinding of everything we have built over the last 2,000 years of civilization. It is a continuing, self perpetuating, reduction in global population, economic activity and technical capability. It has many of the characteristics of a deflationary spiral in economics; of the entropy of a closed thermodynamic system; and of the sudden jump to a lower energy level which we see in the decay of many nuclear-physical systems. Historically, it is much like the fall of the Roman Empire, which collapsed under it's own weight far more than from outside factors, and from which "recovery" took over 1,000 years. I don't yet know how to measure the spiral, scientifically, but I do know how to describe it. "

key word here is " everything"; reasonable people may disagree with the ramifications to the nth degree, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

"The key is something called "carrying capacity", a term from the biological sciences. It defines the maximum population of a given species which a particular habitat can support under a specified set of circumstances. If the maximum population is exceeded, or if the capacity itself is reduced, the inevitable result is always a reduction in the population to a level far lower than the simple difference in population numbers would suggest."

so far so good

" It took decades to recover to normal levels (and then only with the resumption of controlled hunting). "

again, so far, so good

" we, ourselves, are really not that different from the Kaibab deer herd. We live in a complex, computer dependent, world with a carrying capacity of about 6 billion souls. "

fewer would complain about this assertion, I think, if he had added that those 6 billion souls are being fed by a highly complex, computer dependant, fertilizer producing chemical industry and agribusiness industry. This is not to say that this earth might not be able to carry more, but without the current situation, this carrying capacity would be significantly less than it is.

"Take away some of the computer capacity, as little as 10%, and we lose a significant portion of the carrying capacity. "

valid conclusion

"Because of the domino effect, if we lose just 10% of our businesses (and even the government expects more) this could easily translate into a loss of one third of the carrying capacity and, thus, 2 billion dead. "

one might argue with the concluded number, but I'll give him +/- 50% either side

"But that's just the beginning of the devolutionary spiral. ... we human beings are to a large extent responsible for creating our own carrying capacity. Without our complex society there is no way this earth could support or carry 6 billion people."

valid - see the above

" But, conversely, without 6 billion people there is no way we could create such a complex society in the first place. "

interesting point; very prescient; this guy can think!

"When we lose a significant percentage of the population, which we certainly will,"

again, he has left out some intermediate steps of logic - i.e. when y2k effects are felt, food production will decrease, therefor some will die; we need to define "significant percentage"

" we will also lose an important part of our ability to maintain civilization itself."

controversial point; - not to put too fine a twist on this, but some might say " if you die, who cares, [civilization lives on]; if I die, the civilization dies with me!'' Not the case. If, however, we talk about diversity and richness of the multicultural world that we call civilization, then his point is valid.

"As a result, we will lose even more of the carrying capacity and even more of the population. Once the spiral starts it feeds on itself and it cannot be stopped by anything we do. It will stop, all by itself, but only when a new equilibrium is reached with a much lower carrying capacity and a much smaller population, with far less economic activity and more limited technology. "

this is where the "points of light" concept enters; there will probably always be places where 'civilization' remains, but there will probably be more numerous locations where barbarism is the rule

"It doesn't matter whether you believe me. It doesn't even matter if I am right. Because you are not the only one reading this article. Through the magic of the internet there are thousands, perhaps millions, who are also reading and who do believe. There are millions of others who have found similar opinions elsewhere and who also firmly believe it's really coming, really soon, to a town near them. They believe it is serious enough that they have already decided to withdraw their money from their banks and mutual funds. When that happens en masse, some time next year, our entire economy will collapse. In a sense, the end has already begun and the spiral has already started to unwind. "

well, he has done it again!

"There is nothing wrong with their decision, even though it will indeed trigger the very collapse they are trying to protect themselves against. The point is that Y2K is real, the global recession is real. Roosevelt was wrong. We really do have something more to fear than fear itself. It makes sense to prepare. It is sheer folly to ignore Y2K and those who do so will be numbered among the dead. "

"The sensible question is not whether to prepare but how to prepare and for what. The remaining articles in this series will cover the how, for the moment I am concerned with the what. I have painted a pretty bleak picture of the total collapse of civilisation itself and the death of billions. Using highly optimistic numbers, I think I have shown that this is not just possible but probable. It makes the most sense to prepare for this worst case scenario. If you prepare for anything less, and I am right, you will not be prepared at all and you, too, will be numbered among the dead. "

"To drive this point home, I would like you to consider the closest historical precedent I can think of. The Roman Empire also collapsed in upon itself, in much the same way that I am predicting. As it collapsed, the carrying capacity of the empire was reduced and the population did indeed spiral downwards, reaching a low point several hundred years later around 1350. Most of their technology was also lost and their roads, aquaducts, cities and monuments soon fell into disrepair because none of the survivors understood the Roman technology. Even if they had, there weren't enough people nor enough economic activity to justify let alone institute the repairs. Consider this also. After a 1,000 years there were indeed survivors. They just weren't Romans. "

I spent 8 hours yesterday re-studying the rise and fall of Rome from various scholars viewpoints; conclusion: as similar as our situation is at this moment, to theirs was then, - they didn't have y2k, we do!

" I wonder what little boy will look for us, if we don't prepare."

I have to conclude that Infomagic is a sane, rational, well-read, hgihly involved, and very concerned individual, one whom most of us would probably enjoy meeting, if we had the chance.

I await his next pronouncements, anxiously.

Perry Arnett

-- Perry Arnett (, November 29, 1998.

This whole weapons/nuclear scenario is "not good". -- Andy

Yep. Its not. Never has been. Sure hope one too simple solution is to just turn the darned things off for Y2K.

Computers changed the way business was conducted for better or for worse. They changed the way we organized businesses and the way we conducted business. We changed the way work is organized and the skillset of the labour force. We cannot undo these changes overnight. -- Andy

Hummm. By my calculations we have, for the most part, about one year to fix what we need to fix. And if not fixable, we will have to get used to changing, wont we?

We are not suddenly going to be able to come up a way to process a Medicare payment or an unemployment insurance claim without computers even if we could do it with the same number of people. -- Andy

Not suddenly. But looks like we will be forced to come up with a different way.

If we are here and we "get it" then there is a reason for this fact. What we do with the knowledge is the key to the future. -- Mike

Good point, Mike.

Some of the West Coast institutions may have a bit more to do than the more isolated schools, but I still see them as modern day (sorry about that Chief) monasteries dedicated to the protection of, and increase of the Light of Knowledge... -- Chuck

Out here in Silicon Valley, Stanford University has a very bright student body. In fact, the bright ones are scattered all over the Valley, and California, and so on. Gosh, they might just be everywhere around the globe and will be called upon by their communities and calling upon other bright ones within their communities. Might just be some hope out there after all.

Keeping the light alive will be a bitch at first. -- Leo

Humm. Seems to me it shines almost every day. Leo, youve been watching too many mad movies. You sound like youre just drooling to play at Y2K war, death and famine. Provided, of course, that you win a top position in the Brave New darkened World. Come on Leo, use that brain the creation gifted you with and try to find a better, brighter way!

"The second stage of failure is the "domino effect", the interrelationships between vendors and their customers. -- Perry

Another stage of relative success is the domino effect, the interrelationships between people and their communities preparing. We have, depending upon where you live, one more year, at the very least, with the electricity still on. How will we use that advance knowledge, the internet, and the newsmedia to everyones benefit?

"But that's just the beginning of the devolutionary spiral. ... we human beings are to a large extent responsible for creating our own carrying capacity. Without our complex society there is no way this earth could support or carry 6 billion people." -- Perry

Yes. We humans are responsible. The question/problem to solve over the next year, is How do we all create a way, on this earth, to support 6 billion people without our complex society?

"It doesn't matter whether you believe me. It doesn't even matter if I am right. Because you are not the only one reading this article. Through the magic of the internet there are thousands, perhaps millions, who are also reading and who do believe. There are millions of others who have found similar opinions elsewhere and who also firmly believe it's really coming, really soon, to a town near them. They believe it is serious enough that they have already decided to withdraw their money from their banks and mutual funds. When that happens en masse, some time next year, our entire economy will collapse. In a sense, the end has already begun and the spiral has already started to unwind. " -- Infomagic

Yes. Through the magic of the internet there are thousands, perhaps millions, who are also reading and who do believe we can create another way to solve our common problems. And that does NOT mean fixing what cannot be fixed. In another sense, the beginning has already started and it is up to all of us, the U.S. and other nations included, to chart a new course, an upward spiral. Remember DNA? There is always opportunity for a counter-spiral.

I am reminded of these words:


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you NOT to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesnt serve the world.

Theres nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people wont feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

Its not just in some of us; its in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-- 1994 Inaugural Speech, Nelson Mandela

Now, is the time to choose what you will be responsible for creating out of Y2K.


-- Diane J. Squire (, November 29, 1998.

You notice this thread got over 25 anwers in less than 30 hours - shows what level of interest things have gotten to about "what will happen", and based on that 'how will society behave"?

The two big unknowns involved in this whole game.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, November 30, 1998.

While discussing preparations the other day, I told my husband I'd give my kingdom for a reliable crystal ball. Any body have one?

-- Tricia the Canuck (, November 30, 1998.

Diane, I tend to look at things from a practical point of view. That means that when we talk about barbarism and chaps in y2k, I ask "how exactly will that chaos work- what form will it take? The comment that I made that you (understandably, I agree, given the way I phrased it) attacked did NOT come from some movie (I've only seen one of the Mad Max movies incidentally, and didn't really like it). It comes from history and logic.

There are 250 million people in the US.

Maybe 10% of these (including we survivalists) would be self-sufficient. That means that 90% will not be. 90% of 250 million is 225 million. (10% is a figure I use very optimistically; I think only about 2% of Americans are involved in primary agriculture nowadays.)

When the machine stops and the lights go out, government will not last long. 225 million people (and this is the *conservative* figure) will realise that there are not enough resources to support all of them. Thanks to the 2nd Amendment, the apparatus for killing is very easy to come by.

A large amount of those 225 million people will die to starvation or disease (caused by lack of medicine, lack of proper sewage disposal, or lack of food). A lot of people would not passively give in to that kind of death and try to get what they need to survive off those who have it. Therefore violence.

This will be big in the first half year or so, "at first." This is because there will be a lot of people around. After that time, it will subside simply because many, many people will have died. The resources will have evened out a bit, and the, er, "predators" won't be so numerous.

Look at Europe during the Dark Ages, after the Roman Empire collapsed. The Empire did not go down nicely. A lot of people died. Bands of thugs such as I expect, existed and were a serious nuisance. Such bands also existed in France after their defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, and in Russia during the Civil War. From the evidence I have, such bands always tend to form when a large empire/culture collapses, from those displaced by the collapse. The further the fall, the more displaced. y2k is going to be one *hell* of a fall.

More personally, I have to respond to your comment that I'm "just drooling to play at Y2K war, death and famine." I see where you get that impression, from the fact that I am predicting fighting, death, and famine. However, I do *not* want y2k to happen. On one level I think it may be ultimately beneficial to our society, which is a little screwed. But I have a lot to gain from the screwed-ness of our society. I expect to get into Harvard next year. I have a career planned where I expect to make seven figures before I turn thirty- possibly quite a bit before. I'd rather be leading a civil order patrol than scrabbling in thorny bushes for berries. But I would much rather be sitting in a $2mil penthouse overlooking Sydney Harbour, with a flashy car and all those other nice accessories of modern-world success. Much rather.


-- Leo (, November 30, 1998.

Unfortunately, trish, the batteries are shot in mine and I haven't seen any of their type on sale..........


I'm goign to sound like Diane here for bit and then like......(Arlin I think but, well, short term mem What? .........

In your everyday preparations, please consider the actual goals for preparations. While some (Disk Table of Contents, Hardliner, etc) may comment that the ultimate reason for the preparations is your own personal survival, this is an extremely short-sided and counter- species and counter personal survival opinion. The ultimate reason for the preparations is to help build the ark that makes sure that INFOMAGIC is not accurate, that we do not devolve into Neo-Luddite Anarchy, and that the knowledge, engineering, medicine, sciences, etc survive the torches, nooses, guilotines, etc outlives us so that our children and their children do not curse our memories for bringing them into such a world. (such curses were normal in the 1300's and 1400's in the general population).

How can we do this?


Every septic tank in the US should have a small library of the esential books for engineered living. Zip-loc or vac-seal at least 10 books and hide them somewhere that you, and your associates know about, septic tanks are good for this!9 See Lucifer's Hammer- Pournelle, Niven.

Take as much knowledge into the 21st Century as you can.

Remember, our society can be rebuilt, the blueprints are all there, we just have to be sure that they survive and that our descendants can read the d**n prints!


ps VTOC Some of us actually know what this stands for!

-- Chuck a night driver (, November 30, 1998.

Volume Table Of Contents - sorry - I've been brainwhacked since I was 19, also these bleedin' acronyms haunt me in my sleep :-)))

How about.......

EOD (quite appropriate, no???)

IPL (again, appropriate)

EOF (!)

etc. etc.

Cheers, Andy

-- Andy (, November 30, 1998.

Leo (nov 28), how dare you criticise "..the instant gratification of sex, drugs and cheap tv." It's all very well for you to sit there in your Mossman mansion with your fancy store-bought tv, but for some of us cheap is all there is. As for sex and drugs, you're just doing it the wrong way or doing the wrong ones, respectively, (or alternately.)

(Please allow me to be silly on this list, it distracts my mind from the high probability that I don't/won't have the means to save my sorry arse. Why did I take up learning, against my parents' wishes that I take up avarice? If only I'd listened....)

-- humpty dumpty (, November 30, 1998.

I know of two well-written books which explore the societal results of a collapse.

John Christopher, No Blade Of Grass. A virus fatal to all grasses escapes a biowarfare lab. In two years or so no more grain of any kind is growing anywhere in the world. The scenario is worked out in England, through the experiences of several intelligent people. An atmosphere of general good will and cooperation under stress is not assumed. A genuine TEOTWAWKI story.

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle For Leibowitz. A worldwide nuclear war is assumed in our recent future. In this scenario, the survivors react violently against all technology, slaughter every scientist they find, burn every book they see, and destroy whatever is left of the technological infrastructure. As the novel opens all this is history, 3,000 years in the past. A few scattered monasteries have tried to protect the few remaining books. The story follows one of these. What develops is grimmer yet.

Near the end the abbot is given a great line: Vexilla regis inferni prodeunt [The banners of the kings of hell come forth].

This is a mordant reflection on Vexilla Regis Prodeunt, a famous hymn in Roman Catholic tradition, dating from 569 A.D. Its first four lines are

Vexilla regis prodeunt, Fulget crucis mysterium, Qua vita mortem pertulit Et morta vitam protulit.
translated as
Abroad the royal banners fly And bear the gleaming Cross on high- That Cross whereon Life suffered death And gave us life with dying breath.

The rhymer here changed the sense somewhat -- prodeunt is closer to "come forth."

When the old abbot says to himself, "The banners of the kings of hell come forth," he has in mind the triumphal procession celebrated by the original hymn, long in the past..

-- Tom Carey (, December 01, 1998.

Chuck, I don't think that your ideas on preserving books is crackpotty at all. (I am reminded of that old movie, The Time Machine, where in the history of how that future world came about was contained in old, brittle books and "the golden rings", which gave an oral history.) Indeed, maybe this would be a way to emphasize how serious Y2K is, to ask that we try to preserve a record for future ages.

-- Jack (, December 01, 1998.

"A golden ring holding oral histories" = CD-ROM's?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, December 01, 1998.

As in the movie, The Time Machine, recall, there is always a future. What do we make of it now?

Robert, CD's ... the new Cave Documentation? Cave Discoveries?

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 01, 1998.

"(Please allow me to be silly on this list, it distracts my mind from the high probability that I don't/won't have the means to save my sorry arse. Why did I take up learning, against my parents' wishes that I take up avarice? If only I'd listened....) " -Humpty Dumpty

This reminds me of the yearning I have to shelter a strong, smart and knowledgable man with his basic library in our Y2K retreat...

I don't see my husband posting on this forum, and that makes me feel very insecure. It's ironic how I've felt very secure with his ability to provide more than I ever expected for me and my kids before I became Y2K aware. His "unintellectual" personality, refusal to read anything but the paper annoyed me, but I saw it as a sacrifice I had to make in my mariage, compromising and getting along, counting his many good sides and putting up with the less good or difference in opinions. Now I feel the roles have reversed, and the responsibility to "provide" and "keep safe" the family has fallen onto my shoulders alone, because my husband is a "non-get-it" although not in total denial, but goes along with me to "keep the peace".

Perhaps a vagabond will knock at my door in 2001, and turn out to be a Humpty Dumpty type who just couldn't afford to prepare. If he carries a book or 2 in his bag, I'll let him in.

-- chris (, December 01, 1998.

Diane, I'm in complete agreement. We may have different opinions on how bad the fall will be, but there IS a future. There will -there *has* to be forward momentum. We will eventually get back to this Golden Age, but whether that will take 20 years or 2000 (or more?) depends on what we do.

We can change the future. I'm naive enough to believe that one person can change it; where would Europe be now if Napoleon hadn't existed? Or Hitler? Or what would have happened if Caesar had never been born and Rome had stayed a Republic? But on a less naive basis, people can preserve culture, promote it, keep it alive. Keep the fires burning in the hope that someday enough fuel will spread to ignite the enormous, all-of-the-middle-east's-oil-wells-burning type blaze that we have now.

By the way, I think HG Wells is the greatest sci-fi writer ever (sorry, Heinliners..he's good, though) and his books "The War of the Worlds" and "The War in the Air"- which was written in 1903, before the first successful powered flight, but predicts strategic bombing, tactical bombing, fighter interception, the end of the world, and a lot of other stuff- are compulsory reading for everyone. You can find both on the Gutenberg Archives, although I forget the actual URL.

Note: The War In The Air is mainly about an air war, but the last third or so of it describes TEOTWAWKI early 1900s style.


-- Leo (, December 01, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ