A Different Measure (long post, wife say too long)greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
- - - - - - - A Different Measure - - - - - - -
Ive watched the discussions here for about six months and cant take it anymore. Ive got to jump in with my "view". Its different. You will have to decide if it has value for you.
Many people have tried to measure and analyze the events and future predictions surrounding Y2K with several different rulers. All of which are useful only up to the point that the individual unit of measure is reliable. As we increase the power on the analysis microscope some of the individual units start to misbehave and not follow the trend of the whole measurement.
The detractors to the (whichever) argument love it. "Ah Ha! there it *is*, see I told you, that fact doesnt fit / is wrong / is too subjective / unverified (your pick)". Therefore your entire argument is invalid. The possible effects of Y2K may be too serious to get caught in a syllogistic trap.
The view I am advocating here seems less prone to dissection and subjective argument over the pithy details. (Of course we could argue about that too). . . How to judge? Whats a good ruler? Whats a good litmus test? . . The Simple View: - - - Its the information - - -
This is the "information age". We live in an "information economy". These points have been well made by others more erudite than myself.
The Y2K computer problem is, at its essence, a information problem in information machines. No sane person (other than a geek) cares about code. Only good (meaning accurate) information is of final value. Great value that is. --- Value so large that many / most businesses would not be able to continue making current profits without good information flow. (Notice I did not say *any* profits.) --- Value so large that government / health / social service are delivered in most part on the strength of the accuracy of the information. --- Value so large that the flow of good information is as important as our infrastructure of roads, bridges, trains, ships, etc. Many of which cannot operate without it. (I just had a vision of a train load of bagels showing up at an coal-fired electric generating plat. Anyone know how many BTUs in a bagel?) . . The question then, it seems, is how and to what degree will the flow of information be affected. This is hard to see and harder to quantify. Therein lies the rub. Lets try anyway.
What we need is a new unit of measure. (CAUTION: it gets tedious for a while)
Lets imagine a new meter that measures the flow of good information. Well say the unit of measure is Terafacts. (New unit I just made up. 1 Terafact=1000 Gigafacts=1,000,000 Megafatcs, etc.). While were at it, lets imagine this meter can measure the flow of good information for *all* the businesses and government agencies in the world, or just the USA if you wish. The "information" here means business information not things like this post which is just a conversation.
Pick some point in time that you like. I like 1998 as a reasonable guess for a world as yet not seriously affected by Y2K problems. Take a measurement for a base line. Lets say the good information flow is a quantity of G Terafacts. In 1998 some number of dollars were made as profits due in varying part to that information. Lets say that was H dollars. We can include in H all the government Help and all the other things that result from out information society. We should then find the relation of G to H. They appear in direct relation G:H. (I hate sounding pedagogic. I arbitrarily picked G and H because X and Y sound too academic).
There are only three logical possibilities for the future: G gets larger G stays the same G gets smaller
To repeat for the 1000th time: No one *know* what will happen. But what do you think will *probably* happen. Will the flow of good information be more, less, same. And then of the harder part: by how much? This is an academic question in this post. No need to populate the thread with answers of more, same, or less. But it is _the_ question that you should answer for yourself.
The real point is this: If G is reduced by 10% in 2000 H will be reduced by 10%. If G is reduced by 90%etc. And again G is directly related to H. A case can be made that the quality of our lives is directly related to H and will be affected to about the same degree.
We *really* dont want my quality of our lives to decrease _any_ . But if it is going to, we *really* would like to figure it out ahead of time. The greater the potential decrease in H the more urgent our awareness becomes.
[The argument that reduction of the portion of H that is Government "services" might be "a good thing" (as Martha says) should be taken up elsewhere.]
G is for us much like the freight on railroads was when our forebearers were trying to tame the American continent. You could manufacture (or grow) all the goods you wanted to but if you couldnt get them to market you were dead in the water. The railroads carried the freight for an industrial nation. The computer are carrying the facts for a information nation.
------- Try this: At the height of Americas industrial/manufacturing prowess some track workers come along as try to tell the world that spikes are coming out of the railroads. Somebody made them drive them in too fast they say. Some trains have derailed because of it. The derailments so far havent been bad and they have those trains going aging. But, they also say that they have figured out the whatchamacallits and gizwhickers will cause *most* of the spike to come out soon and cause most of the rails to come loose. If true, this is too dam serious to ignore. Especially if you live along the line somewhere and get all you groceries by train delivery. Or maybe youre in the mule freight business and haul freight from the railhead to a bunch of small towns. Youre allwell hows the best way to put it.toast.
You can argue that the railroad boys will never let that happen. And you can argue if it happens theyll get if fixed. But you cant eat arguments. For *you*, if it happens, its going to get pretty hungry around the homestead until the next shipment comes in over at Mr. Waltons general store. Nobody is responsible for you. There sure as heck arent enough groceries around town to feed everybody for long. Those mule team guys have a sparkle in their eyes cause they are going to start hauling from back east now and make a killing. When? "Oh, well have a *huge* shipment back about this time next year." Then there are all those Indians out there on the reservation who get all their government beef hauled in by the railroad. (There are never enough troops in the local fort if all the Indians decide to get frisky.)
IF you thought this was even remotely possible youd be a dam fool to ignore it. Just dont get caught up in the arguments about the whatchamacallits and gizwhickers before you realize how essential to your life the continuation of the railroads are. Then you can figure out whether to trust all those Irish track workers. Dont fall into the trap of thinking that just because theyve always delivered before they always will. ------- . . This measure is only a beginning. It may take a while to get you head around it, but it works. It will clearly set the pointer one way or the other for you. You can then move on to those grimy details.
What I have tried to do here is set a framework around the problem that allows measure from a higher perspective. Crank the scope back. See which way you think its headed then go for the degree. Hopefully this will help some who get lost in the myriad of details that can keep you up late at night if you are suspicious that all-is-not-well on the western front. If you really think G will get larger, you should be getting on with your life.
Parting thought: Ive refrained from mentioning my background or my personal view here as they are irrelevant to this post. (Willing to share same otherwise). If the logic does not stand on its own for you then the whole measure is useless to you. . . Greybear
- Got grit?
ps - If you have any flames, save your effort. Im more fire-resistant the Mr. Milne (who on my subjective scale is too nice - he fires warning shots). Ive seen too many elephants for flaming words to have any effect. OTOH I welcome logical discussion. And for all you racially (over)sensitive folks out there: save you breath (or bytes) they are after all historical facts and did avoid mentioning the Donner Party (till now). Even worse, Im Irish and Indian mixed. [Bad bad combination]
-- Greybear (Greybear@home.com), January 14, 1999
"What's a good litmus test?"
Excerpt from Tom Atlee's RAISING THE QUALITY OF COMMUNITY DIALOGUE ABOUT Y2K:
The litmus test is whether the resulting communication generates more connection, understanding and possibility. If it does, it is dialogue, and will enhance collaboration.
As soon as it's he posts the document, I'll post the URL.
-- Critt Jarvis (Wilmington, NC) (email@example.com), January 14, 1999.
Greybear: "The real point is this: If G is reduced by 10% in 2000 H will be reduced by 10%. If G is reduced by 90%etc. And again G is directly related to H. A case can be made that the quality of our lives is directly related to H and will be affected to about the same degree."
A new perspective on all this is certainly welcome. How dreary it is to bounce like Superballs from Infomagic to Webster to Milne to Koskinen to Hamasaki to Clinton to North to.... it's dreary, I say.
But your equation (even as analogy) is flawed. It assumes G (good information) is fungible, which it is not. Soybeans are fungible. Dollars are fungible. One bag of beans can be exchanged with the bag next to it; one dollar is as good as any other dollar.
But information is distributed over a very broad spectrum. One "bit" is not interchangeable with another. Some information is relatively trivial: the population of left-handed, red-haired bartenders in Oskaloosa, Iowa, for instance. And some information is absolutely critical (to humans, that is): the temperature of the primary cooling fluid in a nuclear-powered generating plant, the concentration of aflatoxin in peanut butter, and the like.
And much critical information is not resident on computers, and can never be. You know how to proceed from your intention to raise your hand, to the action of raising your hand. No computer can learn how to do this, since it has no intention. No science known can explain how you do it, either.
The first year of a baby's life is occupied in gathering and correlating information vital to survival, at a rate greater than in any subsequent year of life.
Second point: "A case can be made that the quality of our lives is directly related to H and will be affected to about the same degree."
Arguably it is precisely that outlook that is responsible for the Y2K problem itself. Five or ten years ago no CEO could justify the expense of committing to remediation, although the need for doing so was perfectly evident. Short term advantage beat long term prudence. In other words, maximize "H".
Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "The rich are different from us: they have more money." It doesn't require a double-blind research program to observe that the life of the rich, though filled with all that money can dream of buying, is of much the same quality as that of the rest of us. Their children disappoint them, bother them, reject them; their bodies suffer the same ailments; their noses run, their feet hurt, their guts rumble; their friends die. They don't seem to be particularly happier than the mass of the population.
Short form: quality of life is not measured by the capacity to buy more things.
Corollary: Not all "information" is worth having.
(FWIW, I'm Irish and Bohemian. And coming up on 74. Hope this helps.)
-- Tom Carey (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 14, 1999.
Thanks for the articulate reply.
Granted information is not fungable. I had in mind more the _flow_ of information as the unit being measured as in gallons per minute. As and to the exent this slows the economy slow. The rate of slowing also obviously will change. Less in early 99 more later.
As to quaility of life. I had more in mind the quality of my life now. Definetly not rich. I have been hungry - not a good quality. I have been shot at and hit - not a good quality. I don't really want to have to raise most of my bread by the sweat of my brow - not a good quality. (Much rather keep pounding keyboards and be continuly amazed that they pay me for it.)
By lowering quality of life I mean that for the vast majority of us in America compared to the rest of the world throughout history - we live like kings now. I spent the first part of my life with a lot of sweat pouring out of me, but in a relatively safe society. Nothing wrong with honest sweat.
But one of the primary qualities of life I fear loss of is the Rule of Law. Lose that and you'll see lots of loss of quality of life in new and (for most Americans) unimaginable ways.
I have had to point a gun at a human. I have enough bullet and knife scars to last the rest of my life. I have had to do many things that were not otherwise civilized (even though in the effort to enforce the law)
I don't want my children to have to. (Though they are both trained, armed, and as ready one can be who has never been in the breach).
This make it any clearer?
- Got hope?
-- Greybear (email@example.com), January 14, 1999.
Thank you for this perspective. I think it works, especially for non-tech/non-geek types who are trying to make mental pictures of the possibilities that lie ahead.
As a "big picture" overview, this perspective simplifies the disparate threads into a manageable concept -- which, like all simplifications, might suffer a little from simplicity! -- rather like the comparisons of y2k to polishing marbles or changing lightbulbs.
It's understandable, clear, and makes decision-making a whole lot easier....
-- Anita Evangelista (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 15, 1999.
Given that G is a quantifiable flow rate, I think you have contributed an excellent method of evaluation. The question that arises is what does one think will happen to the info railroad. Same set of options, same set of questions, same set of assumptions, same range to all of the above. this is just a bit easier to work with as it allows you to divorce your own a$$ from the discussion and to do the evaluation on cognitive/intelectual basis.
Not many people can cognitively deal with the possibility that they might not be here tomorrow, but if you work the analogies, you don't look at it as if it were you, until you get to the end and decide to do something or not.
BTW FWIW Do you wear an armadillo pin???
-- Chuck, night driver (email@example.com), January 15, 1999.
What fun, a new viewpoint to pick apart! (Berry cackles gleefully)
I don't agree that G is directly related to H. Even given the restriction of G to mean mission critical business (and/or government aid and defense) information flow, some of it is still "weighted" more than others.
For instance: If a big manufacturing firm has missed *one* Y2K bug that causes a plant to shut down production until the code is fixed or the embedded controller is replaced, then that tiny little reduction in G has a much larger impact on H. G is still flowing with accurate information between the manufacturing firm its suppliers and customers. The accurate information says - don't send us any more material and don't expect any product shipment until further notice. Please note that I am not saying this is likely - just pointing out the logical flow of consequences if it did.
Your argument is flawed for the same reason this statement is flawed: "mining, agriculture, and power generation contribute x% to our GDP". Lets say that x = 20% ? But remove X and you will see that the other 80 percent drops to next to nothing as there is now no way to make things or distribute information.
-- Berry (BerryPicking@yahoo.com), January 15, 1999.
"Not many people can cognitively deal with the possibility that they might not be here tomorrow...)--Chuck
It's a bit more complicated than that. Cognitively and emotionaly. Some people have the cognitive ability, but not the emotional ability. Some people have the emotional ability, but not the cognitive ability. Some people have both, some people have neither.
And that's why we have this huge controversy, when in reality the problem remains the same, the code is broken, the facts are there waiting to be found and the code is screaming to be fixed. But the time has ran out.
-- Chris (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 15, 1999.
Granted that there are (will be) many instances like the one you cite.
I see G as more of a measure like the Gross National Product (GNP). The GNP is the sum of all we produce in a year.
The information flow I'm talking about is all the info flow looked at at one point in time and "measured". Or more like a running average of those measurements.
Again: Crank back the scope.
The entire original post was mostly for the benifit of the newbies and DGIs that are trying. Some earlier post triggered me.
NOW, I'll get into personals so that may help explain the "view".
I've be a GI since about 1992, thats a two on the end. Been a geek for 18 yrs and am TOO intimately familar with the potential problems with our society.
You see, I don't think the BIG problem is with the technical glich associated with Y2K. The BIG problem is that we as a society are not ready for it. Boy, is that the understatement of the year.
I first saw the posibility of a stock market crass back in 1992 and invisioned the possible results. (Read the Great Reckoning).
Is was and is my specific view that if our culture in America gets a shock of deadly proportions (from whatever source) that it may well come apart at the seams.
This is what I fear.
I can handle living without electricity. I can handle living without indoor plumbing. I can even handle growing all my own food (or trading with neighbors).
What I don't want to have to handle is loss of the Rule of Law. It's for my children. Notice I did not cop a popular line and say for *the* children. I am unashamed of the philosophy that I *will* take care of me and mine FIRST, withour looking to the government for help.
It is my long considered opinion that if the rest of America would head into the sam type of hard headed self sufficieny that we would all be a lot better off.
Diane and her community approach is fine. I just have the attitude that I need to take care of mine first and then if I have anything left over I'll share with the community.
To make all the above diatribe (hopefully) make sense:
If I can provide anothere view that will help some newbie get started along the right path, I believe I've done someone out there some good. Communication is easy now. There may not be the means or time in the future.
-- Greybear (email@example.com), January 15, 1999.
This has helped me understand the picture a lot better. Thanks Greybear
-- Jenny (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 16, 1999.