The Truth : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Here is an excerpt from message boards at the Chicago Trib:

[This is an excerpt from a book entitled "The Truth" by Joseph P. Firmage which can be found at:]

For Y2K, David Isenberg, (a former AT&T telecommunications expert, now at Isen.Com) has identified the two variables which seem obvious - the range of technical failures from isolated to multiple, and the potential social responses, from chaos to coherence. Both variables are critical and uncertain and are arrayed as a pair of crossing axes. When displayed in this way, four different general futures emerge.

In the upper left quadrant, if technical failures are isolated and society doesn't respond to those, nothing of significance will happen. Isenberg labels this the "Official Future" because it reflects present behavior on the part of leaders and organizations.

The upper right quadrant describes a time where technical failures are still isolated, but the public responds to these with panic, perhaps fanned by the media or by stonewalling leaders. Termed "A Whiff of Smoke," the situation is analogous to the panic caused in a theater by someone who smells smoke and spreads an alarm, even though it is discovered that there is no fire. This world could evolve from a press report that fans the flames of panic over what starts as a minor credit card glitch (for example), and, fueled by rumors turns nothing into a major social problem with runs on banks, etc.

The lower quadrants describe far more negative scenarios. "Millennial Apocalypse" presumes large-scale technical failure coupled with social breakdown as the organizational, political and economic systems come apart. The lower left quadrant, "Human Spirit" posits a society that, in the face of clear adversity, calls on each of us to collaborate in solving the problems of breakdown.

Since essentially we are almost out of time and resources for preventing widespread Y2K failures, a growing number of observers believe that the only plausible future scenarios worth contemplating are those in the lower half of the matrix. The major question before us is how will society respond to what is almost certain to be widespread and cascading technological failures?

What is a possible natural evolution of the problem? Early, perhaps even in early '99, the press could start something bad long before it was clear how serious the problem was and how society would react to it. There could be an interim scenario where a serious technical problem turned into a major social problem from lack of adequate positive social response. This "Small Theatre Fire" future could be the kind of situation where people overreact and trample themselves trying to get to the exits from a small fire that is routinely extinguished.

If the technical situation is bad, a somewhat more ominous situation could evolve. Government, exerting no clear positive leadership and seeing no alternative to chaos, cracks down so as not to lose control (a common historical response to social chaos has been for the government to intervene in non-democratic, sometimes brutal fashion). "Techno-fascism" is a plausible scenario -- governments and large corporations would intervene to try to contain the damage -- rather than build for the future. This dictatorial approach would be accompanied by secrecy about the real extent of the problem and ultimately fueled by the cries of distress, prior to 2000, from a society that has realized its major systems are about to fail and that it is too late to do anything about it.

Obviously, the scenario worth working towards is "Human Spirit," a world where the best of human creativity is enabled and the highest common good becomes the objective. In this world we all work together, developing a very broad, powerful, synergistic, self-organizing force focused on determining what humanity should be doing in the next 13 months to plan for the aftermath of the down stroke of Y2K.

This requires that we understand Y2K not as a technical problem, but as a systemic, worldwide event that can only be resolved by new social relationships. All of us need to become very wise and very engaged very fast and develop entirely new processes for working together. Systems issues cannot be resolved by hiding behind traditional boundaries or by clinging to competitive strategies. Systems require collaboration and the dissolution of existing boundaries. Our only hope for healthy responses to Y2K-induced failures is to participate together in new collaborative relationships.

At present, individuals and organizations are being encouraged to protect themselves, to focus on solving "their" problem. In a system's world, this is insane. The problems are not isolated, therefore no isolated responses will work. The longer we pursue strategies for individual survival, the less time we have to create any viable, systemic solutions. None of the boundaries we've created across industries, organizations, communities, or nation states give us any protection in the face of Y2K.

We must stop the messages of fragmentation now and focus resources and leadership on figuring out how to engage everyone, at all levels, in all systems.

As threatening as Y2K is, it also gives us the unparalleled opportunity to figure out new and simplified ways of working together. GM's chief information officer, Ralph Szygenda, has said that Y2K is the cruelest trick ever played on us by technology, but that it also represents a great opportunity for change. It demands that we let go of traditional boundaries and roles in the pursuit of new, streamlined systems, ones that are less complex than the entangled ones that have evolved over the past thirty years.

There's an interesting lesson here about involvement that comes from the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Just a few weeks prior the bombing, agencies from all over the city conducted an emergency preparedness drill as part of normal civil defense practice. They did not prepare themselves for a bomb blast, but they did work together on other disaster scenarios. The most significant accomplishment of the drill was to create an invisible infrastructure of trusting relationships.

When the bomb went off, that infrastructure displayed itself as an essential resource--people could work together easily, even in the face of horror. Many lives were saved and systems were restored at an unprecedented rate because people from all over the community worked together so well.

But there's more to this story. One significant player had been excluded from the preparedness drill, and that was the FBI. No one thought they'd ever be involved in a Federal matter. To this day, people in Oklahoma City speak resentfully of the manner in which the FBI came in, pushed them aside, and offered no explanations for their behavior. In the absence of trusting relationships, some form of techno-fascism is the only recourse. Elizabeth Dole, as president of the American Red Cross commented: "The midst of a disaster is the poorest possible time to establish new relationships and to introduce ourselves to new organizations . . . . When you have taken the time to build rapport, then you can make a call at 2 a.m., when the river's rising and expect to launch a well-planned, smoothly conducted response."

The scenario of communities and organizations working together in new ways demands a very different and immediate response not only from leaders but from each of us. "

Comments? There are pathetically few posts on this thread: y2k how bad?

The host asks what others think of "The Truth" Anyone up for some fun?

-- Deborah (, February 16, 1999


"There are pathetically few posts on this thread: y2k how bad?"

Probably because the GI's read it, see the sense of it, and go on without comment. The DGI's don't read it, see no sense in it, and forget it. The DWGI's, don't want to read it, see a possibility of it, and avoid it.

GM's CIO, said that Y2K was the cruelest trick ever played on us by technology, but represents great opportunities for change. IMHO, the first part is not true. Y2K did Not play the cruel trick. Top management played the cruel trick by not addressing the problem while it was in its infancy. Nixon ignored the cruel trick by not listening to those who begged him to address the problem. But there is great opportunity for change, now that short-sighted, greedy corporations are dragged, kicking and screaming, to fix the problem. They must change their thinking, from a bottom line, profit seeking, share taking, bonus raking mentality to a spending and fixing mentality; chances are, they've started too late and all their pretty chickens will die.

-- gilda jessie (, February 16, 1999.

Gilda Jessie,

You've put that quite neatly. I agree.

-- Hardliner (, February 16, 1999.

I posted a response to "the Truth" on that forum. You can read it for yourself.

-- sis (, February 16, 1999.

Ignorance can be cruel.

"Y2K did Not play the cruel trick. Top management played the cruel trick by not addressing the problem while it was in its infancy. Nixon ignored the cruel trick by not listening to those who begged him to address the problem."

Gilda, you assume that top management/government understood the problem and its concequences when it was still time to fix it. I personaly believe that had they understood it then, the profits would have been second in priority to the fix.

As a small example, my husband is not cruel nor greedy, he is CEO, the proof is in all the expanses and time he won't spare to ensure safety for his construction workers. I intimately know that his clear concience and caring for people would have him do everything he could and spend all that is needed to prevent a y2k catastrophy. Still he does not understand the problem as he should.

We always look for someone/something to blame. I blame ignorance. On a massive scale.

-- Chris (, February 16, 1999.


For every man with the conscience of your husband, there are 9,999 in corporate management slots who would sacrifice the jobs of 1000 workers and the futures of those workers' families in order to achieve the next promotion. A lot of those would sacrifice far more for far less.

You're making the logical error of arguing the general case based on the specific incidence.

A corporation exists solely to make a profit for the stockholders. Any action that the corporation takes must filter that action through the priority scheme that has PROFIT at the top. If it does not, the corporation will eventually fail.

Management may not have understood the problem, but the point is that it is management's job to understand the problems and solve them in a timely manner that does not interrupt the flow of money to the stockholders.

Your husband may be a CEO, but it sounds, from some of your previous postings, like he owns his own company. He is in a position to impose his own moral values on his own operation without concern that a powerful stockholder will have his job for sacrificing a few points in favor of his employees. That is an almost non-existent position for a corporate manager to be in.

I have personally known any number of such managers who accepted the value that this quarter's profit was a higher priority than anything else, including their own marriage, their own children or even their own golf game (but that's rare).

The Y2K problem never had a chance.

-- Hardliner (, February 16, 1999.

Alright, I concede. From now on I'll blame ignorance, fear and greed.

-- Chris (, February 16, 1999.

And stupidity and short-sightedness, and going along with the snickering crowd, and a total lack of independent research.

-- Leska (, February 16, 1999.

er, folks, is it just me, or do your descriptions of the causes of y2k tend to lend creedance to the idea that this country is being run by a bunch of folks who are still operating from an adolescent perspective (as opposed to an adult perspective)?


-- Arlin H. Adams (, February 16, 1999.

Actually, Arlin, sometimes it seems younger than that ;^)

-- Leska (, February 16, 1999.

Arlin, if I understand what you mean, that would be assuming that all adolescents are ignorant, fearful and greedy, and upon becoming an adult one loses those traits.

From my experience and what I know, one is born with tendencies to have those traits either strongly or not, and it's bolstered by how the child is raised. Maturity, if coupled with adequate intelligence, gives wisdom and the ability to introspect and assess our "soul" and gives us the choice to work on it. Many don't have those abilities strongly enough.

-- Chris (, February 16, 1999.

Quoted this in another thread a few months ago. One of my faves.

Hanlon's Razor: "Never ascribe to villainy what is best explained by stupidity."

Have worked with a few CEOs and senior execs of some very large (70K+ employees) organizations. Most of them are absolutely inundated on a daily basis by data, which if they have a fairly smart organization gets transmuted into information before it reaches them. I was always instructed to assume that I had about fifteen minutes to get my point across to an exec, as that translated to about 1/32 of his or her day and the exec had a lot more than 32 things to do. If I succeeded, we got "executive sponsorship" for the project, which is critical to its success. If not, I would have to decide whether to try again later and just bag it and go work on another project.

Did the majority of organizations put Y2K on their "hot list" of projects prior to, say, 18 months ago? Unlikely, since few if any organizations had come to the conclusion that Y2K problems were potentially threatening to their business. So the executive team (including the top dog) stayed focussed on business opportunities and/or day-to-day operations, which have more than enough crises to keep everyone quite busy indeed, until just recently, when the full scope of the Y2K issue has become more and more apparent. Then it hits the "hot list" and gets management attention.

This is for a well-run organization, and this is why I'm not optimistic about Y2K. The whole nature of the beastie has kept it off senior exec radar until far too late. Add in a natural disinclination to believe bad news and a healthy heapin' of PHMs at various levels who have no clue about the complexity of IT projects and you have a recipe of business disaster.

Most CEOs aren't really much wiser or smarter than any of us. Scary, huh?

-- Mac (, February 16, 1999.

Good post Mac. This scenario happens even small businesses. Take my husband example above, who employs around 100+/- people. He has the same time constraint problems, and regularly attempts to remedy to that by working 12 hour days and often more. Making a point in 15 minutes is generous, Mac. He juggles 32+ things/decisions an HOUR. He scares me when I go into the office, I prefer to stay away and not think of what it's doing to his heart and blood pressure. He has several men to delegate below him, but being a small business the structure is neccessarily less rigid, and he ends up double checking and not trusting as much, and he needs to stay involved in every part of the business.

So this scenario is happening across businesses of all sizes, not just big ones. Perhaps the problem is even worse with medium and small businesses, and hence why they're not as advanced and/or aware as the gov. has been saying.

-- Chris (, February 16, 1999.

Thanks, Deborah.

... "The lower left quadrant, "Human Spirit" posits a society that, in the face of clear adversity, calls on each of us to collaborate in solving the problems of breakdown."

That is certainly what works.

In terms of CEO's "getting it" or not, point out the benefits and competitive advantages to being Y2K compliant and ready, and they'll come round. Almost nothing's worse, in their book, than being at a competitive disadvantage.


-- Diane J. Squire (, February 16, 1999.

Chris, I wasn't speaking from personal experience. I was just speaking about very large corporations that during the 80's "downsized" (fired) employees, and took salaries that would have supported half the people in a third world country. The bottom line is what counts with them.

But I could have responded from a personal point of view too. Years ago I was married to a CEO of his company, very successful, juggling lots of balls at once, worked long and hard, and he thrived on stress. He was a very fair man--didn't discriminate against anyone--he treated everyone like shit, and never raised his voice.

Sure we had the private plane, condo on the beach, two homes, cars, boat, all kinds of stuff we didin't need. But one day I got tired of being a rivet in his super structure and walked out and never looked back.

Believe me had someone told him he had to become y2k compliant and spend thousands of $'s. He would have told them to shut up or walk. Programmer's who have attempted to warn management, have met the same fate, so I've read. I met many CEO's during that period and believe me, your husband is the exception.

-- gilda jessie (, February 16, 1999.


Interesting perspective. :>)

Isn't this all about MONEY? It would have cost money in the beginning (1960's) to expand computer memory. It would have cost more money in the seventies and eighties to fix it(very damaging to that "bottom line") and it would have cost even more money in the early nineties. The money it's costing today is mindboggling...and they've only started to fix it now because if they don't--IT WILL COST THEM MONEY!!!

Isn't that what's at the heart of all this?

-- Scarlett (, February 16, 1999.

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