Let's extrapolate from AIDS predictions

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NB This is not just another run-of-the-mill "attack Gary for being extreme" piece. I respect Dr. North and take his y2k analysis very seriously, or I wouldn't bring him up. But I think we can learn something important from his earlier writing on AIDS:

Gary North on AIDS

I think Gary North's predictions on AIDS are interesting because:

i. he was fairly early in predicting the seriousness of AIDS

ii. the predictions were too extreme in the time and place that he cast them

iii. the predictions may yet end up being close to correct, in another time and place than he originally envisioned.

We can analogize over to the y2k case. In statistics, there is something known as the regression fallacy , which, vastly oversimplified and stripped of formulae, basically says extremes are unlikely . In fact, Dr. North predicted some true things about AIDS: it has cost tons of money, it has affected the society, cost many lives, and diverted research from other pressing things, etc. It has been very serious. But not as serious as Dr. North predicted, essentially he expected it to cause the collapse of Western civilization. I'm thinking this will be the case with his y2k predictions:

i. it won't cause an immediate and catastrophic collapse

ii. it has already cost tons of money and sapped resources and this will continue

iii. ultimately our over-dependence on fragile technological infrastructure probably will be our undoing, in some future time and place that we can't predict precisely right now.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, we all know it. But often a trend that seems dramatically different is really a continuation that could be graphed with a smooth statistical fit. For example, the apparent total breakdown of communism regimes in Eastern Europe masks the fact that most of the gov'ts there are currently made up of former communists. Japan and Germany lost the war and had their economies destroyed, but today you might almost think they had won, from their economic and cultural strength. Etc. Thus I am extrapolating from Dr. North's prior success/failure in prognosticating the AIDS crisis, fitted to y2k.

As always, (standard disclaimer fine print): the code doesn't care, your neighbors may eat you, hope you can fire your 12 ga pump as fast as I can fire my autoloader, keep preppin .


-- Runway Cat (Runway_Cat@hotmail.com), January 14, 1999


I respect North while recognizing he is truly a fanatic. Then again, in a sense, so is Clinton. So were the founding fathers. So what?

North's great intellectual contribution to Y2K has been his early and implacably consistent hammering on Y2K as systemic. Arguably, 90% of the debates on this NG, including the near-flame war earlier today, still revolve around that, put as a question: "is Y2K systemic?"

The other thing he hammers on, "where are the compliant entities"? is a bit more complex since there could be numerous reasons, especially legal, why we're not going to hear a lot of claims of compliance. Even here, though, slipped schedules, misinformation and lying abound.

Cat, to topic, you could argue that Western civilization collapsed in 1914 and that we're all just making a lot of fuss about-and-during the aftershocks. I'm more serious than I might sound ....

If Western civilization (I didn't say technology, folks, civilization) has collapsed as a "common world" within which to live (the extreme has already happened), we are looking at a need for analysis (why), not for prediction (when). Looking for the possibility of an extreme external event may be beside the point.

TEOTWAWKI is behind us, neutron-bomb like. Y2K, because it focuses the spotlight on the possibility we will lose the trophy baubles of that civilization, simply focuses the us laser-like on the interesting question: how shall we choose to live? Or, maybe, do we still retain the capacity to choose how to live?

Of course we ain't going back to 1800 as TEOTWAWKI dudes often like to say, even if it proves to be Aladdin and Dietz time. We're going forward to something much odder, bizarre, dangerous and, maybe, if we also take some time to recover a bit of that lost civilization while we stumble towards the next one (scripture, the Constitution, Shakespeare, community, farming), better.

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), January 14, 1999.

Cool point Dog. But from a biological, species point of view, it has not yet been TEOTW. There's a lot more of us homo saps than 1914, and we've kicked butt on every other competitor species since then. We rule! Civilization has always been beside the point.

-- Blue Himalayan (bh@k2.y), January 14, 1999.


-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), January 14, 1999.

Extremes are unlikely... There's another way to look at it. Predictions of the most massive IT projects in history being completed on time for a change (and an imposed deadline at that, not an internally-generated estimate) are pretty darn extreme...

-- Shimrod (shimrod@lycosmail.com), January 14, 1999.

"...and, maybe, if we also take some time to recover a bit of that lost civilization while we stumble towards the next one (scripture, the Constitution, Shakespeare, community, farming), better."

Excellent point, Dog, and my hope, as well. My family (including two teens) are already well along with the first two items on the list (can quote long passages from either source), impeachment is helping facilitate discussion and analysis on the third, talks with the neighbors and the Home Owners Association re Y2K show progress on the fourth, and the fifth? *sigh* Frankly, up until now, we're the only people we know who can kill a silk plant. 8-}] But that doesn't mean we can't change and learn!

Say, regarding that handle of yours: is it associated with big bikes? I saw a 16-wheeler the other day with "BigDog Motorcycles, Wichita, KS" on it and thought of you...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), January 14, 1999.

Ha! I wish! No, though I love newfs and I am the big dog in my not-very-big world, fantastic wife, five gonzo kids, chickens, turkeys, geese and, yeah, lots of puters (more of them in the house than the kids).

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), January 14, 1999.

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