"Tom's Take" - warning, this is very very long if you haven't seen it beforegreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Three long posts (sorry) and then Im going to go back to lurking for a while. For what its worth, this is my take on the whole sorry affair.
People in denial are defending their position in the same way the Dream Team defended O.J. Simpson. The big picture is being ignored while we argue over the minutiae of DNA evidence. Bait and switch. Demand an impossible burden of proof. The fact that no one can predict the exact size and shape of the disaster is twisted to suggest that the chances of a blip in the road are just as likely as the Milne scenario. Just like Mark Fuhrman planting the glove became just as likely as a murdering Simpson. Split hairs. Blow slivers of good news into "If it does not fit, you must acquit."
Paul Milne posted the "Pollyanna Progression" yesterday, but it is more than that for me.
1. We will fix all the systems
2. We will fix most of the systems
3. We will fix all the Mission Critical Systems
4. We will fix most of the Mission Critical Systems
5. All of the Mission Critical systems can not be fixed.
6. There will be some mission Critical systems failures
7. We will use paper and pencils to work around what was formally called 'Mission Critical' and now is recognized to not only be not mission critical, but we never needed then in the first place.
This has been exactly the track the media has followed since I began monitoring it closely about a year ago. Phase one was just ending. Number seven was a non-starter for me from the very beginning so all chance of convincing me of an optimistic scenario is gone even though I am, at heart, an optimistic guy. The progression alone is as convincing to me as the trail of blood from Bundy to Rockingham.
My happyface went for good when the December 31st, 1998, drop dead date mysteriously disappeared. The happyface was replaced by a paranoid suspicion that I was not being told the truth on the issue. In the end, I have decided paranoia is healthy. I disagree with Milnes take on the reasons for this disaster, and I have too much faith in humans to buy into the mutant cannibal routine except in isolated areas. But on the systemic issue and the lying he is absolutely right on. I do not think I am being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
If the propaganda machine keeps churning out the happyface messages, some people will be in denial until the end. At risk of DD invoking Godwins Law (Correct reference? Id love to have that one explained) I still think the best denial analogy is the Germans near the end of WWII. The Russians had surrounded Berlin and a substantial portion of the population still believed they would be saved by a silver bullet, er, a secret weapon.
Borrowing one Mr. Secors techniques, I am consigning all of the Don Scotts and the Bradley Shermans to the killfile. Im not going to read or respond to any more of their posts.
Plonk! There is also a group of optimists who are not in denial, in my opinion. Moshe Shulman recognizes that the problem is very serious, but his views are coloured by the conviction that the only acceptable course of action is to keep filling sandbags. If the ship is going down, he is going to bail until the very last second and then go down with the ship. A positive viewpoint is essential to fast bailing, so Moshe Shulman is positive.
I can understand -- even admire -- the position. Im all for bailing to the end as well and emotionally I am with him. But my rational side says that the centre cannot hold. DeJager seems to be heading for this position, too, but it is increasingly untenable for him and for everyone else.
Milne reserves his most scathing flames for this group and I wish he would stop that because Davy Crockett at the Alamo is not an unsympathetic character for me. I also want him to stop because I get tired of looking through the flames and the drivel to find the gems like the "Pollyanna Progression". If someone took on the task of reposting the really good stuff under the title "A Paul Milne Gem", I think the lurkers regularly provide standing ovations.
But Milne has no choice about these attacks given the niche he has carved out for himself in this group. Davy Crockett is the most credible alternative position, and that means Milne is coming over the wall like a wave at them. (I, of course, have slipped on the nuns habit, and escaped out a secret door. I think the words "coward" and "deserter" are going to flung fairly often in the coming months, and it does strike a nerve. It will be flung *because* it strikes a nerve.)
The clueless and the Davy Crocketts are in one corner. Everyone else has some vision of TEOTWAWKI. The Milne variation is truly a doomsday scenario but TEOTWAWKI is not a precise term. For the Nintendo generation, a severe depression is TEOTWAWKI. That is my absolutely best case scenario: severe depression. We get that if we get truly heroic work from Davy Crockett, a brilliant "workaround" response from managers and workers everywhere, and an enormous dollop of luck.
The computers -- fabulously reliable as they have been and as essential as they have become -- are suddenly going to become unreliable. They are broken, date certain. The code is being fixed, but not nearly as quickly as the days are melting away. (Note to Cory if you are still around in this post -- the switch to hours is awfully depressing.) Failures will cascade through the economy.
Ill go with Yardenis numbers (with the obvious correction) but only because I am an optimist at heart. We are looking at a 70% chance of complete collapse. A startover. Not the end of the human race. Not the Road Warrior. But death, desperation, destruction, disease.
The whole thing absolutely stuns me. More..
I find it far easier to assess what is happening now, and even to imagine what is going to happen after the fall, than to try to predict what is going to happen in the next 16 months. Obviously readers will understand a much bigger grain of salt is required from this point on.
(The clueless denial heads do not have to point out to me that this is speculation, and I do not know anything for sure. For the most part, I appreciated the mail I received in response to the first message. To the others please don't bother.)
Right now I believe that there is rampant and unwarranted optimism among management types. Most are not really lying, but they are not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, either. They believe that they will make it, despite the briefings from the geeks. To be completely honest means admitting they have screwed up on an unimaginable scale. That is difficult to admit even to themselves. So Happy face rules.
The Navy is going to pretend that it is okay for the Global Positioning System to be merely Y2K tolerant for as long as they possibly can. Right now the happy face is probably nearly honest in most cases. If they cross their fingers and really really hope, maybe they will make it, no matter what the geeks in the basement say.
At a certain point, however, the happy face is a lie. A deliberate falsehood. A cover-up. Perhaps that point has already passed. At a certain point, a CIA report lands on the Presidents desk. "It is over," the report says. "The power grid, and the telecommunications, and transportation and the banking -- the whole works is f*cked, and in our opinion you are the last President of the United States because the United States as a political institution is history."
What does the President do? The first thing he will do is recite the seven words George Carlin used to say couldnt be said on television "S**t, f**k, p**s, c**t, motherf**ker, w*ore, t*ts." After that, a delaying action. When there are no good options or answers, the response is always delay. Maybe the shoemakers elves will come in during the night and make it all go away.
It is too late for everyone to stockpile. As long as the report is closely held, and the public is largely unaware, an impossible decision does not have to be made. As soon as the President -- even a Bill Clinton -- comes clean, and shares that report, it is over. (By the way, I think this Monica Lewinsky thing is laughable. The only thing Clinton will be remembered for is that Y2K happened on his watch.)
Every rational person would simultaneously try to prepare and a system that is kept together on faith alone would collapse. So Clinton will delay, because he does not have any good option. I think the President of General Motors has (or will) also read a report like that about his company. So will a lot of other company presidents. At that point an optimistic position becomes so outrageous on the facts that it is a lie.
Still the delays and the lies will continue for as long as possible because anyone who admits the truth is not out of business in sixteen months. They are out of business right now. So the whole issue is handed off to the lawyers and the flacks to spin doctor. The liars can even justify the lie to themselves. "We are just like Davy Crockett," they will say to themselves.
"We will go down fighting, giving our all. We have to be positive for the troops."
"Whats that?" ask the pseudo Davys, "Im cashing my options and stocking up on a few items? Some planning is prudent for everyone, because we just dont know." I have sympathy for Davy Crockett at the geek level, the level where the sandbags are actually being filled. I have no sympathy for Davy Crockett sitting in the Oval office or in boardrooms across corporate America. Joe Public does not have a clue what is going to hit him yet, and that is a terrible thing and it is entirely the fault of high level types pretending to be Davy Crockett.
But Joe Public cannot be shut out of this issue for long. Awareness is gradually sinking in. A good friend works in a chocolate shop where the cash registers keep inexplicably crashing for about an hour. They call the service techie, but by the time he gets back to them, the system is back up. "Mmmph. Isnt that weird," says the techie. "Oh well it is back now." It turns out a certain bank card with a "00" expiry date crashes this particular cash register. The techie knows, and so does my friend.
So do others, at least in their hearts. I paid for groceries with a bank card the other day and the system took an inordinately long time to approve the payment. The cashier complained about it aloud. The person behind me in line said "Wait until the year 2000. This will seem great." We all laughed nervously. Joe Public at some level deep in his heart already knows.
The stock market will figure it out first. Well see a crash in the next few months, even though the reasons given for it may only touch on Y2K. Other things like the Asian meltdown and the situation in Russia can and will be blamed. Glitches will intensify after 1999/01/01, and the media will finally focus on the problem.
The story becomes bigger than O.J. Simpson, and Monica Lewinsky put together. The Don Scotts and the Davy Crocketts versus the Paul Milnes on Larry King Live every night. Congressional hearings. The debate carried on in this newsgroup spills onto the boob tube and into coffee shops and barber shops across the land. The whole nine yards. What then? By the Spring of 1999, the year 2000 looks shockingly close. What then?
The President of the United States is at the crossroads. Delay has become impossible. The best response -- if a crash is inevitable -- is to come clean even though it means the crash happens early. In the spring instead of the winter. It is not much comfort but a lot fewer will die. I am a cynical fellow so I think the most likely response is Davy Crockett. It is too late to come clean without precipitating the crash, and it will require too much courage to pull the pin early.
So we will probably see Davy Crockett from our leaders. Clinton will play Winston Churchill. "We will fight them on the beaches.." Much will be made of ludicrously inadequate contingency planning. Clueless denial-heads will draw comfort from all of this, and squawk even louder.
But a new and important faction will emerge, a group I will call the fatalists.
I know a 76 year old gentleman who is very smart. He is Y2K aware. He expects a Milne scenario. Even though he has money, he has decided to ignore the issue. He knows it is coming. He is choosing to give up rather than face a fate worse than death. "Have you read a novel called On the Beach?" he asked me. "It was a bestseller written by Nevil Shute a long time ago. It is about a group of the last people on earth living in Australia after a nuclear war. The radiation is coming for them and they know it. What could they do? They prepared to meet their maker. That is how I am going to get ready for Y2K. I am 76 years old."
If there are enough denial heads, and Davy Crocketts, and fatalists, we may hold it together until 2000/01/01, and we will all find out what really happens. All of the arguments will be settled. I live on the West Coast, so I will be able to watch the impact circumnavigate the globe. (Will this mean watching a blackout march inexorably around the world towards me? Will we get news or silence?)
But we probably will not hold it together even with Davy swinging old Betsy to the very end. There is too much information getting out to too many of us. We do not have enough trust in our leadership to believe Davy Crockett or Winston Churchill. So rational Joe Public wakes up in the spring of 1999. Suddenly next winter doesn't seem that far away.
Joe gets more than a little concerned. He decides to wander down to the store and pick up a propane heater. Hell use the VISA, and hope the charge squeezes through. And, hey, why doesn't he pick up a few sacks of rice while hes at it? Beat the rush and all that. This is not panic to Joe. This is rational behavior.
It is so rational that everywhere Joe goes, he meets other people trying to buy the same things and clutching the same pieces of plastic. Joe starts to walk more quickly from store to store, and he even finds himself breaking into a jog down the aisles. Faster and faster.. Some places stop accepting plastic! ATM machines empty.. When the public wakes up and behaves rationally, what then?
Crash Whether the computers failing could cause a collapse becomes a moot point. A rational panic. The invisible hand of Adam Smith pulls the pin on the problem nine months early. This is the best thing if the crash is inevitable.
The only bad part about taking it down early if our fate is already sealed? We never do find out what would have really happened to Davy Crockett. In a thousand years historians are still arguing about the same old, same old. (Descendant of Shulman: "We would have made it. It would have been close, and there would have been failures, but it would have been our finest hour." Descendent of Milne: "LOL LOL LOL Butthead!")
I repeat what I said from the outset of this post. I find it far easier to assess what is happening now and to imagine what is going to happen after the fall than to predict what is going to happen in the next 16 months. Nobody really knows. This is Tom's take. Speculation. But for me this scenario plays, and I cannot imagine any other reasonable unfolding of events. It plays all too well for me.
The whole thing absolutely stuns me. More..
The Fall It turns out there are two more posts to finish my story, rather than one. Fair warning: This one is the really bad one. It includes the depression scenario and at least a few too many words about the actual collapse, and aftermath. My final (and I mean it this time) post will be about survival and recovery, and it is a happier story, one that does not fit at all well with this one. Two posts, and this one is very difficult. It was very hard for me to write.
People have written and asked me if they could share these posts with friends. I do not mind. Share with your friends. Remind them that this is just what I think. It is Toms take, his terrors, his scenario. I have seen the blood trail from Bundy to Rockingham, and this is my natural progression. These scenarios play for me, and they are about the only ones that do.
Those who are still with me will recall that I am using the Adjusted Yardeni scale. We have a 70% chance that it all collapses, and a 30% chance of a severe depression. As his number goes up, mine will too. It is just a number and doesnt really mean anything, but if there is a 30% chance that we will escape with depression, we need a set of circumstance that results in damages held to that.
Here is my most reasonable one: First, there have to be enough denial-heads and Davy Crocketts, and Fatalists to delay the crash until 2000/01/01. Davy Crockett will be making this point ever more forcefully in the days and months to come. The only chance we have to avoid total TEOWAWKI is if the programmers get an opportunity to avoid it. Time is their greatest enemy, and pessimism about the outcome may steal time from them.
The Fatalists are an important group because there will be no rational panic from them. They want to delay the crash for as long as possible. If this group is large enough, everyone preparing has more time (thats good) but it also means the crash will occur in winter. This will make survival more difficult in the Northern Hemisphere.
Second, the financial markets have to hold. The other key sectors have to provide at least intermittent service. Power this week, but not next. A couple of days later the phones are down. Food gets really short, but the trucks arrive in time. Rationing. The phones come back but only long distance or only local. The power is on for a couple of days but then goes off again as somebody juggles some juice to an area suffering through a particularly cold snap. Your employer goes under. Deflation. Everybody has impossible debts but everybody (including the banks) ignores them. Most people are wiped out financially. Cash is king. Barter for a while.
But people still believe in the future, and we hang in there. Violence is contained mostly because people get tired of making it worse by shooting at each other. A lot of Fatalists give up even though the worst does not happen. The infrastructure trembles, and our confidence takes a real wallop but it all holds with leadership, heroic effort, sacrifice, faith, luck, determination, baling wire, and chewing gum.
Over a period of a few months, a kind of stability emerges. Shortages become less noticeable. The infrastructure becomes more reliable. A few long miles down the pike we are a smaller, younger population, and much poorer. Joe Public is a skinny Ralph Kramden, living a life style Americans enjoyed in about 1950, but harder because everyone has to hustle and scramble all the time to maintain it. There are few luxuries, real hunger, and almost no leisure.
But stability leads to a recovery with the economy getting a positive jolt from every restoration project. We fall so far, so fast it takes a long time to get back to even, although recovery begins almost immediately. Ten years of baby steps to get back to 1998? Perhaps longer. We are changed forever by it, of course, but we will get used to it. People prove to be amazingly resourceful and we dig out from under a Sarajevo here, and a siege of Leningrad there.
Even though it will take a long time to come back, things will be getting better through most of it, once we achieve stability, and recovery starts. A future. Hope. These things will make a big difference. So will the little things. A hot bath is wonderful because the power was on today. Our definition of good luck is changed permanently.
Thats my good news scenario, which truth to tell, is not that much better than sunny side of the worst case. It is hard to imagine our generation accepting this without losing confidence completely but officially it is still possible for me while I wait for Yardeni to push his forecast up. The better bet is far worse.
Everything may snap to a halt, or it may be a grind down over a period of a few weeks, perhaps even months. Grind is more likely the earlier the collapse begins. Bank runs can be stemmed. Joe Public can be reassured. Limits can be placed on withdrawals. A payroll or two can be missed without everyone walking off the job. Utilities can be nationalized and propped up with promises that everyone pretends to believe for a while because everyone finally understands the implications.
But once it begins, though, it will gather speed and the result is inevitable. Paul Milnes signature "If You Live Within 5 miles of a 7-11, youre toast" isnt quite right, but the drift is certainly correct. The sunny side of disaster will be in the rural areas. Like the real estate business, the most important factor in the Y2K game is location, location, location.
Most of us live in a city and the cities are not viable without the global economy. The global economy is about to die, and national and state economies are lines on a map. A viable local economy, thats the ticket. Proximity to a 7-11 is irrelevant. If the economy is viable we will build it. That is what I would look for: A viable local economy. An area that can support the population without outside help, somehow some way. There must be a food base.
A more rural suburb near the ocean may be okay. That viable local economy does not have to exist, but you have to be able to imagine it. The resources have to be there: arable land, water, or the forest or ocean, for hunting, fishing, agriculture, hunting and gathering. A local economy. If it is there -- potentially -- the population will find it. If you can see it, imagine it, then you are probably in as good a place as any. Stockpile for the short run. Prepare to fit into the viable local economy.
I do not think that the main problem elsewhere will be security, not even in the suburbs. Anyplace where the local economy is not viable. Armed parties searching house to house for the food that has been squirreled away is not in the cards. This is not just faith in humanity talking. Road Warrior just isnt a practical solution, not even for the savages among us.
There will be an initial blowout, because there always is, but one that is contained to certain areas. It will run out of steam pretty quickly because rioting is very fatiguing. It will slowly peter out with exhaustion. Road Warrior requires leadership and organization, and even among the criminal element, people will be stunned and confused. By the time raiding parties can be properly organized the food will be gone in most of the homes. Robbing somebody who has nothing is not a good way to make a living. Finding the squirrels with a stockpile will be like searching for a needle in a haystack. The return on investment wont be worth it. Road Warrior is not economically viable. It is a movie.
Transportation will be snarled, roads blocked by thousands of cars. Suddenly a place that has always seemed close -- say, a suburb occupied by the mythical typical American -- will be very far away, particularly for anyone short of food or water. So the problem is not security, not in the suburbs, not unless friends and family and neighbours turn against each other.
But even those of us who expect a fall will be stunned at the change. No power, no phone, no broadcast. Perhaps the most confusing thing is the silence. We are bombarded by our daily dose of information. News. Talking heads. Newspapers. Radio. TV. The silence will be deafening and confusing when the global economy dies. The rumour mill will run wild. Two digits for a date. A cosmic joke.
Friends and family and neighbours will emerge from their homes and congregate to discuss the latest. Some will confidently predict that the problems will be brief, and the Fatalists will not call them on it. This illusion will shatter soon enough. The bank president is dipping a bucket into the swimming pool to get water, so he sure isnt down at the office fixing anything.
Nobody knows what to do. The telephone company executive is every bit as dazed as the computer geek and the lawyer and the office worker and the school teacher. Nothing is working, nobody is fixing it, and nobody knows what to do. The lawyer is burning his Y2K litigation files in his fireplace trying to keep warm. The only people who can be possibly be fixing the problem are you and your friends and acquaintances and neighbours, and they are all in your boat.
The problem very quickly becomes meeting the basic needs of life -- food, water, and warm shelter. Those who can, begin to flood out of the city. The earliest and the most resourceful make it, but after a few fender benders, and all the roads become jammed parking lots. Violence in the parking lots and on the roads? No doubt. But friends and families and neighbours will not turn on each other.
People will mostly cooperate because violence will not solve the problem. Cooperation, because it is comforting. Unfortunately, cooperation cannot substitute for food, water and warm shelter. I think most people will very quickly become Fatalists. Nevil Shute and "On the Beach." No options but to prepare to meet their maker. The strongest and most resourceful will set out on foot. This is dangerous because you have to carry food and water and that is asking for trouble. Some will make it.
Death from dehydration, starvation, exposure, and suicide. No body disposal. Disease. More death. The smell. Grief. Terror. Heroes performing tirelessly and heroically and hopelessly until the end. Hanging together before hanging separately. People slip away from friends, and go home to face Y2K alone in bed.
Tragedy on an unimaginable scale. Survivors from the non-viable areas will those who stockpile enough food for the winter and then some, preferably in groups of family, friend, and community. Small groups pooling resources are much wealthier than most individuals. Cory Hamasaki is your neighbour. Plan to burrow for months while you try not to go crazy. Walk together towards the nearest viable economy in the spring. If it happens in the spring, burrow for a few weeks, and then -- carrying as much as you can -- walk towards the nearest viable local economy. The trek is more dangerous in the second case, but you will be stronger.
More will make it. My heart is breaking. I pause at this point because my tale has reached the fork in the road. So far my views have pretty much echoed those of Paul Milne, resident Millennium Survivalist Nutcase. He probably muttered "Butthead" under his breath about the Adjusted Yardeni Scale, but I am sufficiently terrified for him to pretty much leave alone. He sees Road Warrior. I dont. Thats really the only difference.
Milne and I walking the same road may not come as a surprise to him, but Ill tell you it shocks me the H-E-double toothpicks out of me and everybody who knows me. I would wager that the only thing Paul Milne and I have in common is our opinion about the extent of the coming disaster.
Survivalist? Me? Ive never held a gun in my life. I am not well equipped for this. From this point on, my views and Pauls begin to separate. His path is right for him, perhaps, but me? A survivalist? Self sufficient? Me? Get real. Im a middle-aged wuss. The Paul Milnes of the world can build their enclaves and I wish them well, although I am not convinced it will work even for them. But me?
Im a middle aged wuss. I have to take a different approach. The whole thing still absolutely stuns me. One more, and it is a much happier tale, I promise. Probably not until the end of next week.
I have a lot of respect for deJager, but I am beyond being swayed one way or the other by anyone else's view of the commonly held information on this subject. I have looked at it all, and I have made up my own mind about the evidence that exists. I have few illusions about any new evidence.
And only new evidence or new information will matter to me now. There will surely be success stories over the next few months -- like the Wall Street tests -- and they will create a lot of noise. The financial part of the network might actually manage to hold together if it gets the opportunity. But not the banks *and* power *and* transportation *and* telephones. Even if they all make it, there are a million other possible points of failure. Almost zero chance. Jim Lord's description of the job -- a Grand Canyon full of marbles for to polish -- is only too true.
The waters are not going to get muddied for me by an announced compliance here, or a re-assurance there. I know how much evidence I need to counter that blood trail from Bundy to Rockingham. For me, a man who prides himself as a rationalist.. Look, I am mostly a freelance writer, not a journalist, but a writer. I write about the labour market, about ice hockey, and about education mostly. Reports for governments. Reports for lawyers. Wordsmith for hire.
I am writing this for me, and aside from posting it to this group, I have no idea as to what I will do with it. If anything. Like all writers, when I am writing for me, my choices are intensely personal. This is Tom's take, my view, the way I see it, for what it is worth. I am writing on the aspects of the problem that I want to write about, and I offer no apology for my choices. I also refuse to either apologise for my argument or defend it.
To be honest, it has been the hardest thing I have ever written. My heart is breaking as I desperately race against time myself, but I am a writer, and this is something I have to get out of my system before I get on with all that I have to do.
No apologies, no defense, no offense. One more post. It might be a few days for those who are interested. I don't care about anyone else.
I didnt really know where this is going when I started, but I am very glad I wrote this series. It turned out that this is the post I wanted to make all along. A catharsis for me, and I thank you all for your indulgence. I have not received one truly unpleasant piece of email, even though the essay in four parts completely subverts the purpose of this newsgroup.
Toms take, final chapter, what I think, for what its worth. A little more speculation that leads to a path out of this mess for me, and I hope maybe for you. Not for Paul Milne -- he is on his own -- but for us. Speculation yes, but far firmer than a guess. This is how it will be after the fall. Beyond survival. I am certain of it. It is obvious, as obvious as the blood trail.
No wonder we have denial. When Fast Eddy Yardeni recites a litany of problems that all but announces that we are f**ked, somebody always says, "Listen to what you are saying! Recession my ass! Does this mean Milne is right?"
And Fast Eddy has to shuffle backwards frantically, because there is no future there for him or for anyone else when you take his findings to the obvious conclusion. So does Allen Simpson when he talks about the global food chain falling apart. "Hey, Al does this mean Milne is right?"
Simpson sputters and talks about failure not being an option, and how it means that we just *have* to make it. This is not good enough for Milne, of course, and scorn is easily heaped on the lot of them. It is not good enough for you and me either. We need another answer or the choice is Milne or death or denial. For the middle aged wuss, it is death or denial. Small wonder we choose denial.
We need to be able to paint a new millennium reality for people, one that is not Paul Milne. We have to have an answer that makes room for the middle aged wuss, if I am resourceful enough, and if I prepare well enough. That is my objective, and it has been my objective from the beginning of this series, although I didnt know it. To paint a new millennium reality for the middle aged wuss.
"Hey, Tom, does this mean Milne is right?"
Paul is not right. Milne is right for Milne but not for anyone else. He is probably right about the magnitude of the disaster because no rational person can deny the trail of blood from Bundy to Rockingham. If remediation fails, it all falls apart, and remediation is very probably going to fail. Paul Milne will survive because he is a survivor, and I wish him well. But there will be survivors everywhere, and survivors will choose the Hamasaki Alternative, not Paul Milne. That is the path for most of us after the unimaginable tragedy.
I choose the name (and without permission) only partly because I think Cory shares my vision. He can disavow it if he wants, but I mean it as a tribute to honour Hamasaki and Cowles and deJager and Westergaard and Senator Bennett and Bruce Webster and David Eddy and too many others to name. It has taken great courage to make sure I had the opportunity to learn and think very hard about this issue. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that I owe these people the rest of my life.
I also owe Gary North and Paul Milne, not for their messages particularly, but for the fact that it takes courage to be the millenium survivalist nutball, too, and they served an important purpose. In the end, I reject their solution because they offer me only death or denial, but still, I thank them for their courage. I thank all the geeks who are working so hard on this problem, too, and I particularly offer thanks to those who choose to fill sandbags until the very end. I am sorry if my pessimism makes it harder for you when it is already surely very hard.
I refuse to deny because the blood trail leads from Bundy to Rockingham, and I choose to fight for my life. I reject Paul Milne and I choose the Hamasaki Alternative, and a view of the future that says a middle age wuss can make it, if he is resourceful enough, and if he prepares.
Can I make that fly? For me, it has wings. It soars far above the hills where down below we can see where the survivalists hunker and survive. Does it play for you, too? I hope so, because it is the future. This is the way it will be. It does not depend on charity or altruistic behaviour. It is the truth, and we will speed the recovery if we accept it and build around it.
We are going to rebuild our economy from the bottom up, not from the top down. It will happen with stunning speed. A decade may be wishful thinking, but I am going to wish for it. In twenty years, tops.
The immediate problem is survival, and that means learning from Captain Dave and Paul Milne and stockpiling individually and in small groups. This is not survival for long enough so the authorities can fix the computers, and make life normal again. The bank president is dipping a pail into his swimming pool for water. Lawyers are burning their Y2K litigation files. Geeks who think someone will pay them to keep remediating after the fall are kidding themselves. This is survival for long enough to allow for the creation a viable local economy. Survival with a purpose. Survival for recovery.
In my last post I was very pessimistic about the city. In this post I want to emphasize that there will be survivors everywhere. Even close to the epicenter. It is not hard to imagine squirrels in burrows all over New York. Or an entire apartment building, with people pooling the stockpile, using the roof, collectively providing security. A generator. Rain barrels. Parks dug up and potatoes planted. A viable local economy is impossible in the city now, and it will be impossible for months, perhaps even for a year or two after the fall. But some squirrels will be ready for a year or two and well prepared groups can emerge from the imaginary rubble earlier.
At the other extreme, there are some places that will be very rich almost immediately. Suppose there was a place that was relatively small and isolated. It is on the ocean or near a forest. Maybe some hobby farms on the outskirts of town. Imagine a place with all of those things. What are the other local resources? Every house has a stock of heating fuel that cant be burned in the furnace. How do we use that? We have knowledge. In some places, the land is so rich, even the unprepared will survive.
Most of us will find ourselves somewhere in between Paradise and Hell, but there will be survivors in Hell too. Everywhere we look there will be survivors. Stunned, shocked, dazed, horrified, grieving, but alive, and determined to stay that way. Im the one somewhere over there in the middle of a bunch of people working to learn different skills. Im not too worried about security, because security will not be the problem we imagine. Road Warrior is a movie, but still, there are issues. But not for me. My best friend was a snakeater in 'Nam in another life, and the skills are there to draw on, and he has to worry about that set of problems. I will worry about other skills because that base is covered by my friend.
Im the one somewhere over there in the middle of a bunch of people working and developing different skills. A middle aged wuss who is lucky because his wife forced him to face it in time, and because he is resourceful, and because he will be prepared. I owe my life to my wife. My children also owe their lives to my wife, but they do not realize it yet. "It is going to happen. We have to face it," she kept saying over and over. She has not stopped moving since. The inertia has been overcome.
The key to this problem is learning how to use the resources around us to rebuild the economy. The resources are there. Less pollution and a cleaner environment will be a positive force and a big help. We just have the wrong skills for a simpler life. We can learn. The key is to create viable local economies. We will have to acquire new skills and make new divisions of labour. We will. For sure. We cant help it. The efficiencies we realize are so great the situation will demand it. We act in our own best interest and we will create a viable local economy. We will create them everywhere.
This certainly plays for me. Can you see it? Links between the viable local economies will become easier and easier.
The harder a local economy is to create, the better provisioned you have to be. A viable local economy is what we seek. New rules. This middle aged wuss has assets, not the least of which is a wife and two strapping teen age boys. He has some time to get ready. There is too much to learn. I have friends. How do our skills mesh? Hamsaki is learning about radios, and that means I dont have to. I would be silly to learn about radios, because I know Cory when there is so much to learn.
We cant just think about stockpiling. Stockpiling is critical to survival, but even more critical is purpose. Even a middle aged wuss can stockpile, but to what end? The stores will run out, sooner or later. I have to find a new way to make a living. A viable local economy is what I seek to join or to build. The Hamasaki Alternative. We will not do this as a community. We will do this as individuals who are part of a community. Each recognizing our own best interest as small groups and individuals and acting on that interest. The resources are there, we have the knowledge, we can learn.
It is easy to see a viable local economy in Paradise, it is harder in that suburb even if you factor in a much smaller population. It is impossible in Hell for a while, but not forever, not even in Hell. Survival with a purpose. It is relatively easy for the middle aged wuss in Paradise. We can all imagine the fisherman trading part of his catch to solve a fuel problem. One person digging clams, while another gardens with a few chickens and a goat. How hard is a fair trade? How many benefits are there for both parties?
An economy. How many potatoes will I trade for a venison steak? I dont have to acquire all the skills. I dig potatoes, Bubba hunts. We make a fair deal. This is an economy. It will grow and diversify. The Hamasaki Alternative. We adapt with new skills. Preparation means stockpiling with a purpose. As I put away my rice, I am thinking about the nearest viable local economy. Where I am going to earn my living, and how I am going to plug in.
Refugees from the city will not be welcomed in that first winter, not even in Paradise, because even Paradise is a relative term. In the winter we have to huddle in Paradise, too. But in the spring, there will be a labour shortage in Paradise. There is too much work to do. Squirrels from the city will begin to trickle into the Paradise in the spring. They will be welcomed for their labour and the skill that they bring.
Pollyanna? It plays for me. Im a middle aged wuss, who can prepare to stockpile to survive, and I can also prepare to plug into a local viable economy I can see down the road through the morning mist. When we look beyond the horror, it is obvious. Old skills must be dusted off. We have some time. At least part of your preparations have to be about acquiring new skills.
If the forest is one of the assets in the viable local economy, cant someone decide to learn what is edible and what is not? Not to live on in the short term -- the stockpile is the short term -- but to be part of a living in the longer term. Mushrooms and nuts for potatoes and corn? It plays for me. How can we not do that? How can that not be the way?
If I spend two or three days bringing seaweed to you and digging in one of your gardens, what will you give me? A weeks worth of food? What is fair? We acquire new skills. Hamasaki learns about radios. Ill give him an egg or two for a copy of a weather report with news from the outside. With his garden, and his stock of barter items and his weather reports.. hey, its a living, okay? He is lucky, but this is a new paradigm and we need a new definition of luck for this paradigm.
How about this for luck? In another place that will be Paradise, the survivors live beneath a dam! The water still crashes over it! The generator is not broken! As soon as we can pool enough resources to support a work crew for a month, or two or three, we can figure out how we can produce power! Not for the grid, because the grid is gone, but for us! We will be dazed and confused, but we cant let that opportunity pass! If we are smart we will make the arrangements right now. Plant a seed.
The power allows us to squeeze much more from our other resources. Genuine growth. That local viable economy a hundred miles down the road will give us something very good if we can figure out how to move power another hundred miles. It will probably be easy. This is my answer to Paul Milne. All we have to do is find the fair deal and act in our own interests and use the resources that surround us. All we have to do is act like human beings have always acted, and we will soar above the hills where the survivalists survive.
How will that not happen? In the city, the squirrels will still be burrowing even with Paradise only 50 miles away. The situation is still desperate, but by the second spring a path is being worked out of the parking lot. No rescue, but the survivors will dig themselves out. They have a plan, too. They can salvage many things that people in Paradise will crave. They have the resources if they think and if they learn and if they acquire more skills. Something to think about in the burrow. Hell begins to improve as a stream of goods from the rubble go one way in exchange for a flow of food back. How can that not happen and expand exponentially?
The Hamasaki Alternative. We go back to the roots, we rebuild from the base and in the end we will soar above the hills where the survivalists survive.
All the 7-11s are toast, but I will see a store again in my lifetime. Built from the ground up. A do over that spreads with remarkable speed, because we still have the knowledge. The Hamasaki Alternative. It plays.
Fair deals, a new division of labour, viable local economies, new skills for a new paradigm. If we all look for a place. The elderly do not have to be fatalists. They have to stockpile and survive, and comb the memory banks. How were the old days? Old ideas and old knowledge applied to a new reality. With the Hamasaki Alternative, we help our parents because we love them, but they earn their keep with their memories. Does that play? Can you make it work for you? It does for me.
In my viable local economy, there are many, many maple trees. I noted them when I was working on my personal Hamasaki Plan. I looked at everything around me. I looked for mission critical systems in the millennium economy.
I try to plug myself in. There are still many ways to make a living and we will find them. New seeds watered with knowledge. How can we not soar over the hills where the survivors survive? It is inevitable.
Any way, the maple trees. The knowledge. A low priority bit of information filed away with some plastic tubing. On a Christmas morning in the not too distant future, each of my friends will open a bottle of maple syrup as a gift. That will be my turning point. We will still have a long way to go on that Christmas morning, but that is the day my broken heart will soar.
There is too much work to do, and too much horror to face, and it is very hard to see through the tears. But even through the tears it is as clear as day for me. My heart will soar over the hills where the survivors survive.
It plays for me and I hope it plays for you too. Godspeed.
The email and the posts have comforted, thank you. I have one explanation to make and one point of clarification. I keep saying I am done, and I have to be done.
I am very proud of this whole piece, and it is probably the best writing I have ever done, but I do not like it very much. I never dreamed I would write a true horror story. I am giving it away. I renounce all rights to it. Consider it -- and this post -- to be in the public domain. Do anything you want with it.
I can't make any money with it anyway, and probably neither can anyone else. I hope nobody else tries to make money with it, but you can if you want. This is the way it will be. Survival with a purpose, and not merely survival. Survival for recovery. Spread the word. The new paradigm for everyone who knows that this is not going to end well and is prepared to face it.
I am a rational person who believes that the end of the world as we know it is coming. If you agree, this -- not Paul Milne -- is the future. It will happen, anyway. Whether I write another word or not. I am writing an argument about economics, not about human nature. It is TEOTWAWKI, but it is not TEOTW
The reason I came back is because the mail tells me I made a mistake. I forgot to kill the bogeyman. And the bogeyman gets in the way of true acceptance. If I had understood the extent of this fear, I would have put this piece somewhere right after the crash. Part IIIA. The bogeyman myth is strong.
"I am a Vietnam vet, and I do not like the idea of doing a replay of that domestically. I am too old and too experienced to feel anything but dread." Others like the ideas, and the elegance of the prose, but they lack my faith in the human race, they report sadly. Everyone will kill and loot, I am being told. The leash will be off. People will go wild. Rampage!
When you come to believe that the systems will crash, horrible things come to your mind. No food, no water, no whatever! From there somehow we make the leap to Road Warrior, because Road Warrior is a movie we have all seen, and CNN tells us how horrible we are to each other every day. It is easy to make the leap. That is why Paul Milne is so far away. He is right about the crash and he has the courage to face it. He sees Road Warrior. He is wrong.
Have you imagined the details one by one if everything crashes? I wrote the disaster scene from a distance but I examined it closely. It is much worse than you can imagine, but only because it is real. It is going to happen. The blood trail from Bundy to Rockingham. But no matter how far I descended into Hell, or how hard I tried to find him, I could not find the Road Warrior.
This is Achilles Heel in the Milne argument. How do you advance from the crash to marauding gangs killing you for food? Tell me exactly how this gang comes to be? It can't happen. Where does Hopper get his cigarettes in Waterworld? How does Mel Gibson eat? Impossible. The movies. Hollywood horror.
I make no pious appeal to have faith in humanity. This is about economics, not some pious appeal. I am going to challenge Paul Milne on this. It can't happen. I know about the scum and the parasites. I know people will go crazy. But parasites die when the host goes under. If you accept that host is going down, the parasites go down with it.
Dehydration, starvation, exposure, suicide. These will kill most people, not bullets. These are the enemy. This means it is more important to ensure water, food, warm shelter, and sanity before security. Many people are girding themselves against an imaginary threat when the limited resources should be spent on the real ones. Dennis Hopper is a movie star. Once I see how many people are going to die, and it is real, the tears well up in my eyes. But I can see survivors everywhere, too.
I see city survivors. Tens of thousands, if tens of thousands prepare. Maybe more. A handful, relatively, but survivors. How did they survive I wonder, and then I figure it out. It is easy when you work your way through the details. Think the unthinkable. Catch the paradigm. We are going to survive and rebuild. Dead certain. Most of the survivors don't even know how it will work. They are just stockpiling. But it is basic economics. But if we understand it, we make better investments. More survivors and a faster recovery. That is my aim.
But it is dead certain, anyway, just a little slower. The more of us who choose the Hamasaki Alternative, the better. The sooner we will recover. Simple basic Adam Smith economics are applied to the problem. Screw the social scientists, and the liberal pointy heads who sing "Come on everyone, let's all love one another." I take that back. I said it that way to emphasize that cooperation is not necessary in my paradigm. It will help. It will happen. But it isn't necessary.
I am going to kill the bogeyman, and then I will tell you how people are going to survive in the city, by the tens of thousands. Do not think about the rest any more. It can't be helped. Milne's right. Most people will die. It can't be helped. But you can choose to survive. Not as Paul Milne. Not miles from anywhere. You can survive anywhere, not miles from it.
There will be violence in a number of forms, but Road Warrior is impossible. Security is a concern, and civilised and uncivilised people are going to shoot, and be shot at. But security is not going to be the problem that most imagine, and I worry about people spending too many resources on that instead of focusing on the most important threats. Most of us will not have to kill people. Most of us will not get shot at. You can position yourself so that you minimize the danger.
There are only three real possibilities that lead to violence between people under my scenario. Two are easily avoided. The third must be dealt with and I talk about it briefly first.
1) In rural areas, people will steal from a garden, go after a chicken, and poach from a stockpile that is growing outside. These are individual thieves who will depend on stealth, but it is a real concern. If a thief steals from me today, hey, it was only money. But I need my chickens. The stakes are raised, and I plan to defend against poachers and thieves. But these people will sneak, not attack. That is a concern, like raccoons are a concern.
2) When the roads jam, there will be a lot of people caught in the parking lot. A very bad place. If you are caught in the city, do not attempt to escape. Plan to burrow. That's where the survivors are. You will not be really welcome outside the city anyway unless it is in the spring or the fall. It is not difficult to imagine someone going crazy and randomly shooting in the parking lot until someone else dispatches him. It is not difficult to imagine someone or a group of someone's going from car to car with weapons and stripping refugees of everything.
Survivors from the parking lot battle may be able to make a viable living by preying on refugees, because refugees are carrying all their food. Travel will be dangerous for months, particularly for individuals. Think the highwayman of old. The stagecoach robber. That is a concern.
3) The inner city will explode, because it always explodes. It will explode, run wild with looting and destruction. No National guard. The mob runs out of energy and it peters out in three or four days. Now what? No National Guard comes (and some in the mob must wonder about that) but it runs out of energy within three or four days. Now what? These poor souls are trapped. No food, no water, exhaustion. Now what? The truth? They die, even the innocents among them.
Trapped and unprepared. Exhausted, no food, no water. I don't care how many guns they have, or how malevolent their intent, they are not going to get five miles from the inner city. Walk? Malnourished junkies? Hungry, thirsty, no dope? They are going to die without even trying to get out.
But suppose I am Dennis Hopper, a really bad, really smart guy. I already have a battle hardened organization of ten men. As soon as it falls, I recognize the implications. This is incredible already by now isn't it? This can't happen, but I am trying to *create* Road Warrior now. If I cannot create him -- or Paul Milne cannot create him out of this chaos -- then he will not be created. Road Warrior is a movie.
Back to me, the scumsucking parasite Dennis Hopper with ten Vietvets who immediately recognizes what has happened. Instead of being dazed and confused, I realize that even though everybody I know has no food or water, in every 1000th apartment there is a burrow. I am incredibly smart, aren't I? This is becoming a movie, not real life.
But even if I am Dennis Hopper with ten guys, and I figure it all out, how do I find the burrows? I can clean out the ghetto where I know people. Maybe. But there are millions of holes and most have no squirrels. There will probably be some cannibalism because I am the worst person you can imagine. Now what do I do? We invade the next neighbourhood a week down the road. Isn't this impossible yet?
Dennis Hopper is in a strange neighbourhood now. There is no destruction but the dead and the dying are everywhere. Where are the squirrels? They saw you come in and disappeared into the burrows. Even if you know they exist. Try making a living as Dennis Hopper. Even if you do find a burrow you will lose a man or two to take it -- squirrels are not without resources -- and how far ahead are you? A month or two of resources for the army. It can't happen.
The mutant cannibals are gone within a month because they have no viable economy. Knock 999 doors down to find horror and death before finding a squirrel? It does not pay. It does not play. Dennis Hopper dies in the inner city. Dennis Hopper is a movie. Hollywood Horror. We have much worse to deal with.
The suburbs are safe from the violence unless friends and neighbours turn on each other. Can you imagine your neighbour as Dennis Hopper? I can't, and even if he is, he can't survive if he is not prepared. Decide to survive. Survivors are everywhere.
Near the inner city is the hardest, and few there can afford it. I grieve for the innocent who are there. I can't go into details about survival, and what to stockpile. You have to solve the water problem. It will be safe to go out and garden in a short while, but squirrels have a lot to learn about avoiding disease. If you can afford it, stock enough for someone else's burrow. A loved one in denial. Help everyone you can right up to the crash. But after the crash, you have to be hard. A knock on the door. Silence. A longer knock. "Go away, I am dying!" A strong door is enough to keep out a starving acquaintance who remembers your warning.
I'd like to have two years of stockpile in a city for a pair of squirrels. A network of burrows to spread the risk. There will be some single squirrels. Stay inside until the dying have died. The population shrinks rapidly. Survivors cautiously emerge, and start to garden. Dennis Hopper is dead. Now is the time to share if you have extra. Ignore the carnage. I won't think about those problems but you have to face them. Think of the strategy and fill in the details.
Your plan is to salvage in the city. This is the way you are going to make your living in the new millennium. Plan to arrive in Paradise at harvest time. Better the second harvest. There will be both work and demand for your goods. Help with the harvest, barter your goods, and return to the burrow to wait out the winter. You can do it the first year, but I won't be able to buy much. The second is better.
Burrow, emerging as infrequently as possible in the early days. Not because it won't be safe in a month or two, but because it will be so unpleasant. Burrow. Burrow in networks. Think about the paradigm I am laying out. You can survive anywhere, if you can wait for the viable local economy. The city populations will shrink with breathtaking speed. You will be able to garden that first year. With a good stockpile and the basic problems solved, you will survive. There will be survivors everywhere.
Not faith. Economics. Dennis Hopper is a movie. He dies in my tale, and he dies really early. Squirrels survive. My wife made me move to a Paradise even though it broke us. But I have no illusions. Paradise will be a terrible struggle. I won't bore you with our problems. Focus on yours. See the strategy, solve the problems. I am laying out a paradigm. A recovery that works. The Hamasaki Paradigm.
Burrow early because outside is unsafe. Burrow because it is so unpleasant outside. There is too much time to think in the city. Spend your time in the burrow hoping against hope for Paradise and wondering about my problems and the problems I am trying to solve. I am working very hard while you endure in your burrow. Make imaginary lists of the things I will need. I will be unable to resist almost anything practical that you can give me, and you will probably take me for most of my surplus. A fair deal.
If you visit me, I will give you a good meal just to have you show me what you brought. I won't have a surplus until the second year. The road will be safer anyway then. But dream about that meal I will have for you. What will it be? It will be here, I promise. We will laugh and cry together. You won't tell me what you saw, or how you survived and I won't tell you
The city will get more pleasant over time. You might even get some competition as people move back to the city because salvage is such good business. An economy. A life. A world after Armageddon. The Hamasaki Alternative. It works. It really does. I could spin these survival scenes out, but I'll have to ask you to trust me. Buy the paradigm and the rest will fall into place for you. The Hamasaki Alternative. Milne accepts the worst, leaps to Road Warrior and isolation. We accept the worst, but we know Hollywood Horror when we see it. We plan for recovery.
1) Decide on a new occupation. There are not that many of them to choose from. For everybody it will be lots of little things at first.
2) Stockpile enough to survive until the new occupation pays.
Spread this paradigm. If you get the big picture, you can fill in the details. The local economies first, like tiny shoots of green that begin to sprout after the forest fire. They will spread and connect naturally, almost as fast as the fire. We do not plan for anything beyond local. No altruism. No faith in humanity. The rest will take care of itself. The more local economies we create the faster we come back. Act in your own best interests, try to make a living in a local economy, and the shoots of green will become a carpet of grass. Trees eventually. We do not have to try to build a tree. If we try we will fail. But it will eventually grow without a gardener if we nurture the shoots.
I promise. For sure. The blind watchmaker. The invisible hand of Adam Smith. If there is any doubt in my mind it is about the first three installments and there is very little doubt in my mind about the horrors we face. I have seen the blood trail and it is enough. If you agree with my take, then agree with it all. Trust me even though you don't know me from Adam. The Hamasaki Alternative works. It is a plan for recovery. Pass it on.
"Keep writing," people ask and I wish I could. I have to stop. If I had a choice, I would type until my fingers were sore. (Can't you tell?) Y2K survival would pour out of me because the dam has broken. But there is not the time remaining to do the book, and even if there were, I don't personally have time. I have to write about other, irrelevant things, things that will make me money. The rest of the time, I have to work on my Hamasaki Plan and help my wife.
If your rational side sees the blood trail from Bundy to Rockingham, survive. Dennis Hopper is a movie. Hollywood horror. Survival depends dealing with the real horror.
-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), December 19, 1998
Thanks again Andy! :)
-- MVI (email@example.com), December 19, 1998.
Wow!, Truth IS stranger than fiction. This was the most comprehensive writing on the outcome of Y2K yet. Thank you soooo much! God Bless you & your family.
-- Randy (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 19, 1998.
Ah, Randy, this IS fiction. Well reasoned speculation, but as such fiction. Now, do I disagree with it?? In some points but nothing serious. I happen to think that this is one of the best speculative pieces to come down the 'pike in a VERY long time. But, it is still speculation, ala Heinlein, etc.
-- Chuck a night driver (email@example.com), December 20, 1998.
So? Turn it around - the denial phase of the 'we are doomed' folks:
1 Every computer everywhere will fail.
2 Some computers will fail and bring us down despite those that don't
3 Most computers will work but the software will fail
4 Much software will work but the critical software will fail
5 The sofware may work partially - but the PLC's will fail.
6 The software and the PLC's will somewhat work but the critical stuff won't
7 It doesn't matter because the system will go down at any failure because of the famous dominos
And so on. The people who claim nothing will happen are the mirror image of the ones who demand TEOTWAWKI. Look in the mirror. And if you still insist on TEOTWAWKI - why not run down to the local university and get the anthropology profs to teach you flint knapping? Its pretty easy to pick up - I know several guys who are really good at it. A tip if you get a traditionalist though - a solid copper rod sharpened at the tip a bit is really better than deer antler for getting those little flakes just right.
I'm tired and cranky - going to bed.
-- Paul Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 20, 1998.
Thanks for the post. Well thought out scenarios.
-- Kevin (email@example.com), December 20, 1998.
This is the best piece I have read on any forum. First time I have ever printed off this forum. Well worth the 21 sheets of paper. Thanks Andy. Mike
-- flierdude (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 20, 1998.
The most impressive part was the fact you gave permission to copy and "give " away..I get so tired of people yelling about different things and warnings and then saying "you have to pay for this video" ( talk radio)If the people really were trying to prevent a crisis they wouldn't be charging for the info. ( I realize some people have to charge as there are costs involved..but I'm talking about basic principles)
-- More Dinty Moore (Not @this time.com), December 21, 1998.