Bruce Webster challenges Infomagic : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This was made available by Roleigh Martin: Response to Infomagic Part II

Webster closes his comments with

"In short, unsubstantiated assertions, unproven authority, math chains based on data pulled out of thin air, analogies from deer populations and Roman forts, and STATEMENTS IN CAPITALS do not a valid or sound argument make. Infomagic's posting adds no light, only heat, to the Y2K issue, and serves no one--except, possibly, her/himself. ..bruce.."

I don't know enough to critique either one of these guys.


-- Tom Carey (, December 03, 1998


Tom, I see a couple of problems in the frist 'graph and I will work on it. I'm not familiar w/ Martin's IT background but it looks like he might be a PC familiar person more than a large frame person, from the first glance.


-- Chuck a night driver (, December 03, 1998.

errrr read "Webster" wherever RM was in the above!!!



-- Chuck a night driver (, December 03, 1998.

I think that Bruce Webster is dead wrong on the ability of companies to fix-on-failure as it were -- e.g., in the improbable case of dealing solely with Y2K fix "residue". This is because the standard tool used to fix-on-failure is to ask: "What changed last?". For Y2K remediated code, the answer is largely going to be: "Everything!"

The rest of Webster's response (other than questioning the credibility of Infomagic) is more or less of the form: "Infomagic has not established that...". And he is right. Only problem is, considering what is at stake, I feel the "burden of proof" should be directed the other way -- i.e., "Bruce Webster has not 'un-established' that...". This is not a high school debating class, folks. If someone brings up some reasonable scenarios of what could happen, I think they should be evaluated seriously as to how probable they are, not dismissed because they cannot be absolutely proven.

-- Jack (, December 03, 1998.

Your comment is so logical to me Jack, and that is the essence of what's so scary about this whole y2k issue. The fact that it all comes down to no-one has or can disprove scenarios like Infomagic's with at least as logical an arguement backed by at least some facts.

-- Chris (, December 03, 1998.

Hence one of our favorite sayings around here:

Hope for the best...(you know the rest)

-- Uncle Deedah (, December 03, 1998.

I think I pretty much, though I don't totally, agree with bruce webster's perspective. When I read Infomagic II, I was bothered by the logic, and felt that he wasn't taking human energy and ingenuity into account. Things never seem to work out the way the numbers say. And human beings aren't deer. Actually, to tell the truth, when I read it I thought it was kinda dumb.


There's a big mystery as to Infomagic's identity, yet on Cory's page IM gives an e-mail address of -

Going to gets you -


"Linux to NT Source to, we are your CDROM and programming source!"

11950 N. Highway 89 Flagstaff AZ 86004 1-800-800-6613 (520) 526-9565

The president is a guy named Joel Goldberger. I tried calling, asked for the Y2K guy, was put on hold for 2 minutes, and told that the line was busy, would I like to leave a message. I'm really not interested enough to follow up...

-- pshannon (, December 03, 1998.

When Y2K catches us, I am sure that there will indeed be great examples of "human energy and ingenuity", as well as all kinds of acts of courage, decency, etc. But there has never been anything like Y2K -- potentially multiple, simultaneous failures of our life- sustaining infrastructure. I think that counting on "the human factor" to come through is not prudent, because unfortunately we have virtually eliminated the human factor and turned it to flawed machines. "Bad Computer Code Does Not Care"

-- Jack (, December 03, 1998.

Infomagic is just the moniker given this individual by Cory Hamasaki based on the e-mail address His actual connection to that company is unknown. If they are an ISP (in addition to their Linux stuff) then he may as well be called "CompuServe" or "Prodigy" as Infomagic.

Bruce Webster's citation of failed predictions by the likes of Erlich gave me pause. But what still keeps me fearing that the Infomagic scenario could be actualized is the relative suddenness of the changes/breakdowns we're talking about. Population growth is, after all, a relatively gradual thing and so the ecological system has time to compensate in all sorts of ways. Even Webster's WWII analogy breaks down at this same point; hostilities ramped up over a decade, flared for a few years and then ceased. That's where Infomagic's use of the Kaibab Plateau analogy is particularly disturbing because it shows how a rapid discontinuity (in population in this case) throws the system wildly out of balance, where the same level of discontinuity in population spread over a couple of years would not have had such stark results (especially in terms of weakening even the strong initial survivors). I think it's Uncle Deedah who says that a 4-5 could easily tip the system into an 8-9. I agree, if the 4-5 hits globally and quickly enough.

Any embedded systems control engineer (of which I am one) will tell you that even complex systems compensate well to gradual discontinuities but can oscillate wildly due to rapid ones. The key to damping system response is to slow the discontinuity. Damping the Y2K response requires making contingency plans now, the majority of individuals worldwide making personal and corporate preparations now. That's clearly not happening so it seems to me that Infomagic's scenario is still fully plausible. Brrrrrrr.

-- Franklin Journier (, December 03, 1998.

Yes jack, we have virtually eliminated the human factor in THIS particular configuration of civilization. And though I'm an 8, expect to grow beans and eat maggots in the suburbs and believe there will most likely be about a billion extra deaths globally in the next few years, I still also believe that the NEXT configuration of civilization will happen, and it will happen relatively soon, and it will happen because of human energy and ingenuity.

My point was that I didn't and don't take infomagic, or anyone else for that matter all that seriously. Nobody knows what's going to happen and, as always, it's going to turn out in a way that NOBODY ever imagined.

Remember, Leo and his generation (Leo, you're 18, right?) are going to be the one's to get us all through this and they'll inherit what's left. And although I think he can be a tad goofy at times (the goofiness of sheer unadulterated youth) I tend to trust Leo's energy and ingenuity...

-- pshannon (, December 03, 1998.

I have posted a response to wbster's nonsense in CSY2K. Search for 'Bruce Webster'

-- Paul Milne (, December 03, 1998.

ps wrote, "I'm an 8, expect to grow beans and eat maggots..."

cool, If I travel back east to the burbs should I bring my own maggots or will you share? I wonder what they'd taste like if we toast them like marshmellows.

Bottom line on Infomagic's take is it's one persons perspective open to any other subjective opinion. The future is open and absolutely unpredictable and no one knows exactly how things will play. I wonder what an expert in Chaos Theory would say about y2k.

Anyone can disagree and poke subjective holes in Infomagic's or any other theory because NOTHING like this has EVER happened before. Of course the Roman Empire analogy isn't perfect but if anyone thinks that a dynasty can last forever as a constant without any change just doesn't "get it" when it comes to history.

We've already changed in this country since it's formation.

China has the largest WWII military in the world and the U.S. has the most technological. China has millions of people in their armed services and our military is in decline. Infomagic doesn't even take into account all the possible scenarios that might occur from military conflict due to y2k failures.

If you don't think the world is changing then what gives you pause? If you expect the world to be the same place it is on December 3 of 1998 then what news do you have that this is true? What assurances do you have that forces beyond our control will all go our way?

Right or wrong Infomagic heightens awareness of the possibilities. There are an endless number of possibilities of how y2k may play out. No one knows exactly how or what will happen, including Bruce Webster.


-- Michael Taylor (, December 03, 1998.

pshannon, yes, I'm 18 by about 5 weeks ;)


If it was up to my generation, as in the boneheads I knew in high-school and so on, to rebuild the world.. I'd say we'd be lucky to get agricultural greenie Maoism. I'm an intelligent minority. I could name maybe a dozen people (out of 200+) who think as I do, a majority who simply don't care about anything beyond getting jobs and ensuring an okay future (note that I said "okay", not "good" or "great"), and several dozen green lefties who want to destroy the economy.

Don't think that I'm a typical member of my generation, I'm not.

(btw, the reason I am sometimes "goofy" here is because I generally work 10-14 hours a day most days -yes, I consider this work, it's quite a loose definition- and have virtually no human contact and little relaxation outside of Friday nights and Saturdays.)

And, just so I can contribute something to this thread that is NOT about myself: I think that the possiblity of military unrest owing to y2k could be very, very serious. I have a friend who likes that kind of theoretical military thing, projecting various scenarios; I might email him and get him to play around with this concept a bit. He's intelligent and realistic- I'll put his replies up here. They should be worth reading.


-- Leo (, December 03, 1998.

Hey Leo,

Knowing there is at least a "minority" of 18 year olds out there like you is actually still very comforting.

You're an old soul if ever I read one...

That would be exceptional if you can get your friend to play around with the military scenarios. If you can, see what he has to say about "other" groups.

Oh, and tomorrow is Friday so the weekend is here. Go out and have some serious fun.

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

-- Michael Taylor (, December 04, 1998.

Paul -- could you provide a link to your response to Bruce Webster? AltaVista's UseNet search doesn't seem to know about it.

-- Tom Carey (, December 04, 1998.

The supposed inability to fix-on-failure might come about if people were to experience total paralysis when a failure came about; however, 6000 years of human experience would indicate a negation of such a scenario. We are not cave-men. People by and large tend to move quickly to fix major problems when they occur. This seems to be a variable that Y2K pessimists seem to overlook with alarming regularity.

For Infomagic to say that a failure of a small percentage of our computers will cause TEOTWAWKI is nothing short of a cowardly "roll-over-and-die" attitude. The very fact that Infomagic will not reveal his/her true identity is a telling factor. It's easy to sit on the sidelines, in anonymity, and put forth unsubstantiated opinions that serve no purpose but to upset the apple cart. Mr. Hamasaki carries a certain amount of responsibility here too.

-- John howard (Greenville, NC) (, December 08, 1998.

John --

That's what these guys leave out. See my posts of 5 and 7 December on the thread Newswire's Y2k Domino Engine.

Another thing is that some people get overly fond of their own understanding of the situation, and seem to take other views as personal challenges.

But I don't agree that staying anonymous necessarily indicates faulty reasoning or a hidden agenda. I can think of very good reasons for a qualified professional to withhold his or her identity in this situation, filled with the risk of major financial liabilities. Whistle-blowers often come to grief. Likewise, posting in one's real name guarantees neither the absence of ulterior motives or the validity of the argument.

-- Tom Carey (, December 08, 1998.

John, I don't know if you are familiar with how "production support" IT teams work say in a typical mainframe shop. At the best of times many old systems are held together with duck tape, wishful thinking, constant patching and a few expert programmers. Usually those who are middle-aged, been passed over for promotion, disliked by management, seen as being wedded to COBOL are chosen. They are usually the best, but often the most cantakerous, I digress. At the end of each year (calendar or financial) there are always problems with yearly runs that often take weeks to solve. There are invariably problems with any large batch cobol run, the largest ones occur at EOY. Couple these usual problems with additional y2k ones in 2000 and this situation may result in systems becoming hopelessly entangled in errors. It may take months to get EOY runs through, this may prevent day to day work on the system (eg putting up new records/ amendments) whilst the problems are being sorted out. A time goes by schedules will become farther and farther behind, for instance you're still trying to get the January bills out and its time for the February run, in the meantime the Dec 99 run is still outstanding. You have many days worth of database updates outstanding that cannot be posted until the EOY run is through. The accountants may also be waiting for the financial figures from the EOY run. Customers will not pay until they receive bills,If billing runs are delayed cash flow will begin to dry up. After 3 or 4 months of computer run delay I can foresee a situation where a company may have to shut up shop.

-- Richard Dale (, December 08, 1998.

BTW who is Bruce Webster, a media or IT guy?

-- Richard Dale (, December 08, 1998.

I have posted a response to wbster's nonsense in CSY2K. Search for 'Bruce Webster' --Answered by Paul Milne ( on December 03, 1998.

Paul -- could you provide a link to your response to Bruce Webster? AltaVista's UseNet search doesn't seem to know about it. --Answered by Tom Carey ( on December 04, 1998.

Bruce Webster: Just Another Typical Pollyanna About To Assume Room temperature.

Better late than never...

-- Max Dixon (Ogden, Utah USA) (, December 08, 1998.

Max- Thanks for providing that long sought-for link!


You still don't understand why fix-on-failure is a complete myth for Y2K. The foundation of software fix-on-failure is to look at things that have changed versus things that have not changed, thus allowing you to immediately eliminate most of the variables. With Y2K, this will be virtually impossible, because virtually everything will have potentially changed -- thats what Y2K remediation does, on all your code, on all your systems, across all your networks. (And thats assuming, of course, that everyone has done their job and we are now in a Y2K compliant universe! If not, then one has to additionally worry about non-Y2K compliant data corrupting Y2K compliant systems.)

Maybe the best way that I can get this across is to recall (hazyily...) that old fable about the leprechaun that was forced by a bandit to reveal where he had a pot of gold hidden, which was buried by a tree in a forest. The bandit tied a yellow ribbon around the tree so that he could tell it apart from the others, then had the leprechaun promise not to remove it. (And leprechauns always keep their word.) However, when the bandit returned, he found that the leprechaun (without breaking his promise) had tied a yellow ribbon around every single tree in the forest, thus making it impossible to find the tree with the buried gold!

That is what Y2K fix-on-failure is going to be all about. And that is why it is a myth.

-- Jack (, December 08, 1998.

I found it real interesting following the long-sought after link to the cs-y2k forum. The back-and-forth arguing on that forum is at about the same level as we have on this forum. (Who is Infomagic? Why won't he identify himself? He can't prove his arguments, why should we believe him? Etc.)

But I did find the following post of great value (as I am a sucker for analogies).

I'm mildly surprised by Bruce's ignorance.  Oh, well.  Yes, this
moronic assertion, that y2k failures will be like IT failures that
occur all the time anyway -- reminds me of a genetics class I took,
which went into how our DNA is constantly getting damaged by cosmic
rays, toxins we ingest etc etc, and how the DNA constantly repairs
itself.  Normally.

But there are times when the damage is so severe, so ubiquitous, that the damages are too much for the repair mechanisms -- they are overwhelmed. A tumor begins to grow, and in certain cases, the person is dead in six weeks.

*This* is y2k. It is not 'normal, everyday software glitches.' It is the overwhelming, cascading collapse. It is the point-of-no-return trauma condition. The billions of little straws that will not only break the camel's back, but demolish the camel's carcass, as well.

I do not *know* if this is how y2k will be, but the evidence seems to very strongly suggest that this *is* how y2k will be. It seems self-evident, but I suppose Bruce and his learned colleagues could be correct. I'm just a dumb preacher. What do *I* know?

Rev Tim Burke

-- Jack (, December 08, 1998.

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