Latest forecasts & probabilitiy of various scenarios: bank runs, riots, stock market... : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

The following is part of my latest article on Alert & Forecasts: Y2K's impact on Society, because it's lengthy, I shall only quote part of it here. Perhaps no two people agree on the probabilities as 1999 progresses. But I am Interested to know what are your estimates? Im usually learn something new from a lot of you. "...glitches are already being reported worldwide in increasing frequency. The following is my estimate of the probability of various scenarios in 1999-2000 here & abroad, based upon hundreds of hours of research. I could be & hope to be wrong. However, my past forecasts on financial & other trends have been over 80% accurate. 1. By April '99, there is a 30% chance there will be a major computer-caused disruption(s) in Japan and/or Canada. 2. By July (when about 35 states here will turn fiscal 2000), there is 50% chance of a major disruption(s) because of computer glitches. 3. By December '99,. 90% chance of lines in front of banks. 80% chance there will be shortage in certain items. 70% chance the U.S. stock market will crash. 80% chance our government will seriously hint martial law. 4. By January, 2000, 70% chance - there will be at least sustained, regional blackouts, lasting weeks or longer. This sentiment is uttered by no less than Sen. Bob Bennett, chair of Y2K committee & Sherry Burns, CIA's lead expert. on Y2K. Companies & schools would probably have to be closed. Some experts think blackouts & chaos may last 3 months or longer. A spokeswoman for PG&E in CA. told me (as of 7/15) "You will never hear us guarantee there will be power on January, 2000,". As of Feb., 99, it warns customers of possible "disruptions". See if you can get your local utility and other institutions to give you a written guarantee that their computers will be Y2K compliant? 70% chance - there will be looting and rioting, especially in U.S. urban centers & countries like Indonesia, S.E. Asia, and Russia. 60% chance a terrorist act(s) involving biochemical weapon will be unleashed on more than one U.S. major cities. 80% chance - IRS, agriculture, transportation, defense, energy & labor departments will not get the computers fixed. While social security should be compliant, FMS (the agency which sends the checks), are way behind!. 80% chance - Medicaid may be in trouble after 2000, according to expert Jim Lord. 80% chance - unemployment rate will rise. 90% chance - there will be great inconveniences & long lines everywhere. 8. By April, 2000, 60% chance of a worldwide recession. (Dr. Ed Yardeni thinks it is 70%!), 60% chance hundreds, even thousands will die especially of hunger in poorer nations 70% chance - record number of businesses will go bankrupt. "A record 10% of U.S. Banks and S&L's could fail", according to Michael Curtiss , a Y2K consultant to the Fed, U.S. Treasury & banks.! .The Gartner Group reported that only 25% of small businesses worldwide are dealing with Y2K. 80% chance there will be rationing of food, water & gasoline. 9. For the remainder of 2000, 80% chance - There will be a proposal of a strengthened World Food Authority & a new one-world economic system with a one-world currency (followed by a new number I.D. system in future years)..." For the complete article, you may go to a href="

-- Raymond Kwong (, February 18, 1999


Sorry, right after I posted my article, I realize I probably did not use the html format, is that necessary? Don't know why the hyperlink didn't show up. My apology. Someone can enlighten me.

-- Raymond Kwong (, February 18, 1999.



-- Sysman (, February 18, 1999.

First Ill comment on your statements: The 3 major legs of utilities, telecommunications, & banking are all in trouble. Not true. I work for a major telecomm and we are ready now! Ive researched the web sites of others and found positive statements there as well. (Oh I forgot thats spin but your article isnt slanted at all) Then you go on to One survey showed the great majority of the most quoted Y2K experts think it will be at least a 6- 7 on a scale of 10 (10 denoting most serious impact). When I looked at this list of experts I found a group of no more than 50 (North is no expert in my mind). Are you telling me that there are only 50 experts on Y2K from around the globe? And finally when did cobalt language come into existense?

As for your predictions, my crystal ball is just as good as yours. Anybody can make predictions. Your 80% accuracy rate still doesnt cut it with me. Look at Norths accuracy rate and yet you allude to his prediction as a 10. Its much easier to predict the sky is falling than to prove that it wont.

Troll Maria

-- Maria (, February 18, 1999.

Cobalt is the very ancient ancestor of Cobol. <:)=

-- Sysman (, February 18, 1999.

Troll Maria,

For which telecom do you work? If you are *really* compliant, there is no reason *not* to reveal it.


-- Jeffrey G. Bane (, February 18, 1999.

Maria commented:

" Not true. I work for a major telecomm and we are ready now!"

Maria, this appears to be good news. Can you go into considerable detail with regard to this statement?


-- Ray (, February 18, 1999.

Sorry, I can't; the legal weenies would have my head. That's the one profession that we truly make out no matter if Y2K is TEOTWAWKI or a bump in the road.

-- Maria (, February 18, 1999.


Your firm may be ready (a big maybe), but you have no business partners? You have no key customers and suppliers which also MUST be ready?

You're not part of a complex network where smaller components can jam up the bigger ones? You don't depend on electricity, which depends of fuel, which depends on transportation, which depends on...etc., etc.?

I really wouldn't be comfortable saying your firm is READY until we get dial tones and the calls go thru during most of 1st qtr. 2000.

-- rick blaine (, February 18, 1999.

Maria commented:

"Sorry, I can't; the legal weenies would have my head. That's the one profession that we truly make out no matter if Y2K is TEOTWAWKI or a bump in the road. "

Maria this is where I have a MAJOR problem with comments like "we are ready" and I believe that many others look at it as a credibility problem also. If there is GOOD news let's bring it out in an open and honest forum. Until we can do this there will remain legitimate disbelief.


-- Ray (, February 18, 1999.

"I really wouldn't be comfortable saying your firm is READY until we get dial tones and the calls go thru during most of 1st qtr. 2000". And that's exactly what the lawyers say. Yes we have UPS, and our up and downstreams are also ready.

Ray sorry you have a major problem with not getting it on the table. But no information does not lead one to conclude "all are in trouble".

-- Maria (, February 18, 1999.

Maria commented:

"Ray sorry you have a major problem with not getting it on the table. But no information does not lead one to conclude "all are in trouble". "

Maria, this is not my conclusion. My conclusion IS, those companies that are not up front may be hiding something and could very well be misleading the public. There are companies that have been up front and they are to be commended.


-- Ray (, February 18, 1999.

Maria: " I work for a major telecomm and we are ready now!"

In the memorable words of Alan Simpson not too long ago -- "Not proven."

Maria: "our up and downstreams are also ready."

And your information is based on? (select all that apply):

a) their declarations to you asserting their compliance/readiness.

b) statements by your management to you, presumably based on statements received.

c) end-to-end testing of all functions in all systems involved, in real-time operations, with date advanced throughout to 01 Jan 2000, with continued regressive testing to eliminate errors introduced during remediation work.

If a) or b), you have no certain knowledge, other than that statements have been made.

If c) is the case, congratulations. There would be no liability in disclosing this, since it constitutes due diligence, the most that can be expected of any enterprise.

Maria: "But no information does not lead one to conclude 'all are in trouble'. "

In point of fact, from "no information" no inference whatsoever can be drawn. Unfortunately, in this specific situation, "no information" can only raise the level of uncertainty.

-- Tom Carey (, February 18, 1999.

All: I've asked Troll Maria at least a couple of times for SPECIFICS regarding her pollyana pronouncements. The result has been profound silence. 'Nuff said.

-- vbProg (, February 18, 1999.

So saith T. Maria:

First Ill comment on your statements: "The 3 major legs of utilities, telecommunications, & banking are all in trouble." Not true. I work for a major telecomm and we are ready now! Ive researched the web sites of others and found positive statements there as well. (Oh I forgot thats spin but your article isnt slanted at all) ...

Now maybe you wrote your post in a hurry, but your firm's situation does not prove anything about its competitors and partners. The positive statements you've seen don't prove anything either. If you're going to flatly deny what someone else writes, which you did with "Not true.", it would be only fair to acknowledge your own subjective bias.

Of course we know how little can be proven - but when you dismiss a statement so abruptly, in a forum such as this, I would hope for more than your personal experience - which is good enough for you, since you're right there.

How likely is it that anyone would reconsider their take on the preparedness of state government because I post a note that says my particular agency is sitting pretty, and Ive researched the web sites of others and found positive statements there as well ?

And that last crack doesn't do anyone any good - IMHO. Considering that your reply, recounting your own experience, is no more objective than the statement you criticize... you point fingers at someone else about "spin" and "slant" ?

"From what I can see, we're going to be fine" carries no more weight than "It's TEOTWAWKI" - and no less weight, either. Countering opinions with opinions - or spin with spin, or slant with slant - is a poor excuse for proof. And don't think I'm asking for empirical data where none exists... but doesn't criticism place the burden of proof on the dissenter?

I just want to put out here, again, that chiding someone else's opinion or localized experience, using counter-opinion to ridicule them, is an utter waste of time. If I want to appeal to logic, I'd be well advised to bring something to the debate that's more concrete than "I think" and "I know" and "I've discovered".

-- Grrr (, February 18, 1999.

I can tell you that a major F500 company in the finance industry is ready. We went public right on schedule, 12/31/1998. We're not the only ones either. There are many, many companies that are Y2K ready right now.


-- Deano (, February 18, 1999.

Lots of evidence here of how you are spreading misinformation Raymond Kwong. You obviously care deeply about this issue. However, you are doing a great disservice to people with your misinformed articles.

"However, my past forecasts on financial & other trends have been over 80% accurate."

[Care to post what those forecasts were so you can prove this assertion?]

"4. By January, 2000, 70% chance - there will be at least sustained, regional blackouts, lasting weeks or longer. This sentiment is uttered by no less than Sen. Bob Bennett, chair of Y2K committee & Sherry Burns, CIA's lead expert. on Y2K."

[Where did you find them making those statements?]

"A spokeswoman for PG&E in CA. told me (as of 7/15) "You will never hear us guarantee there will be power on January, 2000,""

[No power company will ever guarantee delivery on any date at any time.]

"The Gartner Group reported that only 25% of small businesses worldwide are dealing with Y2K."

[This is entirely misquoted. Go back and do your homework. I believe the quote should be something to the effect that 25% of small business es in the U.S. have not started a Y2K project. Also this is old data, the story may be different now.]

You should not be writing articles about this subject, Mr. Kwong. You don't know enough about it. How many people are you misleading with your half-assed journalism?

-- usually (, February 18, 1999.

Deano commented:

"I can tell you that a major F500 company in the finance industry is ready. We went public right on schedule, 12/31/1998. We're not the only ones either. There are many, many companies that are Y2K ready right now. "

PLEASE tell us WHO since they went public this should be no secret Deano. You should be PROUD !!


-- Ray (, February 18, 1999.

Tom: The answer is c.

vbProg: I dont need to answer you especially after you flame me. But to address your current post, I was referring to the perceived deJager change in attitude. Before you guys praised him for his wisdom, now you chastise him for his hidden agenda. Its just a comment, anything positive gets a slap. In actuality, he has been saying the same thing all along. I remember reading posts about the meltdown to occur on 1/1/99, not even a peeble in the road. I remember reading about how Euro wouldn't make it, smoother than silk. The "sky is falling" predictions seem to crumble when you can point to fact.

Grrr: Sorry that you would hope for more than your personal experience I can only rely on my experience. I cant rely on this vaporware called the web. My experience tells me a whole lot more than the article written by this author.

Deano: Hope your testing continues to go great. Thanks for the update.

Tell me, do you think that $600 billion is going for lunch or to fix Y2K? How can you believe that money is spent yet progress is not made just because you dont know about it? I wont get into the numbers, overestimated, underestimated, more complex, less complex. Actually I see lots of good stuff coming out of this exercise. Businesses now have a better understanding of their systems and dependencies. (Before I doubt they knew much of what they had). This will enable them to find and fix problems quicker. Businesses have cleaned up their architecture, threw away old or unused components. Businesses updated their technology (also good for the suppliers). Businesses discovered the importance of key processes such as project management and configuration management. Businesses that dont remediate will die, part of Darwins theory eliminate the weak and stupid.

-- Maria (, February 18, 1999.

This "We are ready for Y2K but The Lawyers won't let us tell anybody" crap was made obsolete last October, when the Year 2000 Readiness Disclosure Act became law. As long as certain nominal requirements are observed (the main one being to literally label such a statement as a "Year 2000 Readiness Disclosure"), no company need fear that such statements will be used in subsequent litigation. (Obviously, if the statement is knowingly fraudulent, or has criminal intent, the Act will not help.) For a company to honestly believe that it is ready for Y2K and simply say so is well protected under the Act.

This has come up before, both Deano (who I think is a troll), and Troll Maria (who I don't think is a troll), know this.

-- Jack (, February 18, 1999.


I trust that you meant to say something like the engineers at NTT (Japanese telecom monopoly) told me last week: They feel confident about their system, except for the great unknown - embedded systems.

At least they were realistic in calling it an unknown parameter. Japanese companies and their Asian subsidiaries manufactured over 85% of the PCB's and they simply don't know what will happen, and are saying so.

Maria, it is the great unknown and it's OK to say so.

-- PNG (, February 18, 1999.

I can tell you that a major F500 company in the finance industry is ready. We went public right on schedule, 12/31/1998. We're not the only ones either. There are many, many companies that are Y2K ready right now.

Deano-What good will this do when the international financial system can not repay your company? Because their national economies have collapsed due to riots? Because martial law has been declared? Because they have sealed their borders? Never mind, I'm chicken little. But at least I'll be sitting high, dry and quite comfortable while the pollyanas are knocking at my door, begging for food.

Be prepared. Don't listen to fools. Stand your ground. John

-- John Galt (, February 18, 1999.

In response to maria,and any other polyanna's who call us fearmongers,I say this; WE don't want disaster to happen, we are simply advising america to get a little "insurance" if you will. would you laugh at someone who takes out a life insurance poloicy? auto insurance? or home owners insurance? I hope not. I for one don't want anything bad to happen to anyone, Myself included! I have auto insurance, not because I want to get into an accident but just in case. Now if I never get into an accident, would you call me a fool for wasting my money for all these years? There are no refunds at the end of life for never getting into an accident. However, If I never need my y2k insurance, I will be more than happy to sheepishly grin, shuffel my feet, and say "boy was I silly". And take all the ribbing I deserve. BUT, if I do need it and do have it, those of you who do not that would come knocking on my door for mercy, even after so many warnings, EXPECT NONE!!!! NOAH,who's ark took so long to build,Of all the people who laughed at him,and the warning's he fortold,These friend's and neighbors were swept away with NO MERCY, By the hand of god! Are you so inteligent,with your technoligy and plastic that you can stay the hand of god in whatever fashion he chooses to punish the wicked?? How do you know this is'nt the next "flood". I don't, so I will heed thy warnings and prepare all needy things. YOU have recieved your warning do with it as you choose. Sorry, neither a begger nor a borrower shall I be.

-- texas ranger (walker@mail.idsely), February 19, 1999.

Jack - I know all about the Readiness and Disclosure Act. I'm not worried about lawsuits. Do you really think I want to give out my place of employment to folks who regularly discuss the end of the world, government conspiracies, shooting anyone that thinks about stepping on your property and all the other happyface topics you guys bring up? Hell, why don't I just give you my name, address and phone number while I'm at it?! yeah right........


-- Deano (, February 19, 1999.

Jack, speaking from my own personal experience, we cant even sneeze over here without the legal weenies telling us if were doing it correctly. They are on us constantly about the process, proper documentation, and speaking to vendors, suppliers, partners, and most assuredly the press. In todays litigation happy society, I understand their hesitancy. (Recall the woman in Albuquerque who sued (and won) when she spilled hot coffee on herself. Manufacturers must put warning labels on everything. Its ridiculous.)

Texas ranger, advising America to take out a little insurance is quite different to shouting the world is at end. I will be the last to tell anyone how to spend their money. Buy whatever you please for your preparations. But what really sets me off is when I get flamed for speaking my mind. I just asked the question how you arrived at TEOTWAWKI from Y2K computer problems. I asked how it clicked for the doomers and never got a response. I know about Y2K, the dependencies, the interconnections, the system, the bad news and the good news and can not conclude TEOTWAWKI. I cant seem to leap to the collapse of the infrastructure from what I know about telecommunications and what I hear about banks and power.

As for car insurance, in some states its the law that you have insurance more than just something good to have. I also have house insurance just in case. Yeah, we live with risks every day of our lives. And we take precautions however we see fit. I know my chances of getting into a car accident. I drive carefully, keep my eyes on the road, wear seat belts, and all the others things that I should do. But I dont carry it to extreme by driving only on side roads, never in bad weather, with a helmet and armored garb, only in a tank you get the idea. And dont worry I wont be knocking on your door if TEOTWAWKI happens. Ill find my way to survive with what I have and Ill go out and help others too.

-- Maria (, February 19, 1999.

You can be a doomer like me and still consider Kwong's post largely dreck. Dreck. Shallow, largely inaccurate and pointlessly sensationalist, all with a view to separating people from some bucks. But the thread itself is modestly interesting, no? Here is what I don't understand, guys, sincerely:

Let's take PNG's comment as a kind of parable for Y2K uncertainty (though, obviously, embedded systems, whether there are 50B, 100M or 10 of them, are an authentic, not imagined uncertainty).

In other words, the issue at this late date surely shouldn't be some sort of catfight over how many systems are/will be Y2K compliant ("None"; "All"; "More than you think!"; "No, less"; "No, more!" "You're an idiot"; "No, YOU are." Sheesh. Boooorring.

I maintain, as some of you know, that it is the public uncertainty of the data (using embedded systems NOW as a metaphor) that is and will remain the wild card up to and, heck, beyond 1/1/2000. We could be WAY further ahead than the evidence seems to suggest, but so what? It's all "could be", not "provably are".

Doug Carmichael likes to say, based on this exact uncertainty, that Y2K could still be anywhere from a 2 to an 8, easy. He treats that as a simple observation, not as a prediction (how do you predict, given that spread)? He also considers this slushy range rather dreadful, considering it is February 1999.

Try this: assume TM, Deano and others on this thread are absolutely correct about their "local" settings. Let's even assume (hey, for argument, okay?) that most observers (de Jager, for instance) are more-or-less correct, SO FAR AS they can peer into the global "web" (and I don't mean WWW here).

The problem remains: the global web of Y2K is fundamentally unknowable because of the extraordinary systemic complexity of the problem, that is, uncertain. Not utterly, perfectly unknowable, but still fundamentally unknowable WITH RESPECT to making credible judgments about the outcome GLOBALLY.

Concatenate legal concerns, some who do disinform, those who really don't know and the bizarre difficulty we will undoubtedly experience across the world of often determining fairly what is Y2K-effect and what not ...... thus, Y2K "evidence", now and for probably the next 18 months, of the formal sort is degraded on the face of it.

Point: it will literally take historians to determine what was really happening in February of 1999, say. And, even if Y2K is a bump and the records are there, they may not be able to determine what was the actual status NOW.

And, by extension, it is very difficult to discern the LOCAL effects (whether local is your family, community or country) that will accrue from the global outcome.

Consequently, and maybe I at least need to be more precise about this, I take an absolute "gloom and doom" perspective WITH RESPECT TO THE NEED FOR PREPARATION and the need to URGE OTHERS TO PREPARE LIKEWISE. Not because Y2K will be TEOTWAWKI (I don't know, do you) but because of the range uncertainty (2 ..... 8 .... 10?).

Yes, I do personally expect a depression, but I can distinguish between what I expect and what is knowable .......

If I were a corporate CEO (actually, I am, but of a tiny one), I would be implementing contingency plans for a Y2K 8-10 out of prudence over this range of uncertainty. Now, if countries and corporations are entitled to do this (and are considered WISE for implementing go-to-the-wall contingency planning), why not families and individuals?

Now, granted TM is ready for the worst personally and I'll bet on her being a survivor, but her (your) attitude on this board always seems to be: "we're ready and TEOTWAWKI is totally unproven." Well, hey, I agree. Always have. TEOTWAWKI is utter speculation .... but not necessarily foolish or unwarranted speculation. There is a place in life for speculation and acting upon scenarios intelligently constructed from speculation.

In my judgment, given the fundamental nature of Y2K uncertainty, this looming event IS just that "place" where this is warranted.

Why is that so hard to understand or agree with (I'm asking sincerely)? And who cares whether the original post on this thread is dreck or whether some doomers say stupid things, which they/we do? How does that affect the kernel of my argument at all?

My challenge to you, TM, is, "why aren't you helping us envision worst cases and how we can indeed make it through and help others?" Worst case isn't what .... will ... happen ..., it is worst case. Surely you do that to protect your IT systems, why not help us do it for our communities?

-- BigDog (, February 19, 1999.

Big Dog, I won't ignore your question. It's the weekend and I have to watch my son's wrestling team, if they make it at state finals. I'll get back to you on this one.

-- Maria (, February 19, 1999.

Big Dog, I think you hit the nail right on the head.

I figure there's probably a 1:100,000 chance of having a car accident severe enough to make it worth my while to have car insurance, and we have car insurance. If TEOTWAWKI is only 1:100,000 chance, I want to have the kind of life insurance that will cover me and my family. So I prepare to the best of my ability for the worst outcome; not because I am a pessimist, doom-and-gloomer, but because I have the responsiblity to do so.

Those who oppose preparation obviously believe there is a less than 1:100,000 chance of TEOTWAWKI. I pray daily that they are right.

-- Tricia the Canuck (, February 19, 1999.


I agree with your post and with PNGs post on the uncertainty of embedded systems. I know nothing about them. Its the wild card. But from what I've read, the ones that do have a problem may or may not fail on 1/1/00. Some may fail months or years after 1/1/00.

I hope I got this right. Your position states that with this uncertainty and with the wide range of predictions (2 to 10), we should prepare for the worst case scenario. I agree that a person should prepare based on his or her own evaluations given the information thats out there. We make the decisions we need to make based on the info we have at the moment.

Now if I get you challenge right, you want me to help spread the word of Y2K. Yes I am helping my company prepare for the worst case for the IT systems, but I cant seem to do it for my community (not at this time). I have an optimistic view and to start telling the community to prepare seems hypocritical to me.

Ive noticed a lot of doomers are preoccupied with human waste concerns. Talk your community and city managers into having portable johns available. These vendors know exactly how to take care of human waste. (I ran in the bay-to-breakers one year. One hundred thousand people jammed into one street corner in San Francisco. There were plenty of johns around to take care of personal needs.)

On my personal preparations, I will purchase a few more grocery items mostly soups (a complete meal). I have posted previously that I have been on two week camping trips so I have all the camping gear to survive power outages. I know that it doesnt take much to keep hygiene up. Ive bathed on only one gallon of water, included washing hair. If it looks like the water will go, Ill start filling all containers with water. If it looks like my house temperature will go down, Ill shut off the water and drain all the lines. I will visit with neighbors to catch up on news and the local church to see if any help is needed. Even if my car goes, I have two legs to get me anywhere.

Outside of this, bigdog, I have a wait and see attitude. If things start looking bleak, Ill step up to the plate. My personal test will come in October. The only thing I really fear is the panic that may happen (it's a more real threat than Y2K could ever be). Panic never helped any situation.

Hope I addressed your question.

-- Maria (, February 22, 1999.

Maria --- While also a layperson about embedded systems, it does seem there will be a weird curve (not a bell, something else) spiking around 1/1/2000 and then ??? Where we may differ there is that I view this (ie, the uncertainty) as equally weighted with the software remediation issue in significance, perhaps more so (since the uncertainty on impact converges towards total). Arguably, even if I knew that every software system (mission-critical and non-critical) were to be successfully remediated and tested, I would still urge a total preparation effort.

I don't believe it is impossible (better: hypocritical) to have an optimistic view (though I'll admit mine obviously is pessimistic) and still urge completely serious preparation (I won't trot out the hackneyed-by-now life insurance arguments, but they are plausible: I am highly optimistic I won't die this year but I have a sizable preparation in place for my family ...).

I wonder whether your attitude is partly tied up to your own self-confidence about your ability to survive (not that this is a bad thing)? Though, even here, your preparations really describe only a few week negative trajectory.

If (let's come back to this), you agree with Doug Carmichael that the uncertainty yields a 2 to 8 impact (let's leave out 9-10 for now), prudence would dictate a longer preparation range. That is, he believes 2 thru 8 are EQUALLY likely, hence .....

I'm in agreement with you about fearing panic, though a software/embedded systems collapse will cause legitimate panic, as it were! Again (I know you've seen the arguments), the best antidote to panic is early preparation: I'm actually fairly mellow about events later this year and next BECAUSE we're almost done preparing.

I want to come back once again to two points and seek further clarification:

1. Do you agree with Carmichael/PNG (I think PNG would be in this camp) that 2 thru 8 is equally likely/unlikely?

2. Do you agree that, at least in principle, one could be highly optimistic for a 2, but, recognizing the fundamental information/evidence uncertainty of Y2K (remember: that's what my original post focused on), join with the doombrood to plan (heck, obviously, try to prevent) WORST CASE, just like you do with IT.

I still feel it is odd that you would be so responsible about worst case IT, but slough off worst case personally and/or for others who don't have your own tough survival skills.

I see no problem, for instance, in saying, "Big Dog/Milne et al, I think Y2K is going to be a bump and that you guys are generally nutso, but let's work together (brainstorm, prepare, conceptualize) against the small but actual possibility that it will be awful." Viz. your comments about "johns". Exactly. Isn't that precisely parallel to "being responsible" and professional in your IT work?

-- BigDog (, February 22, 1999.

Maria - so how'd the wrestling go? Willing to bet your boy kicked some fanny.

BTW - thanks for the kind words on our testing the other day. We're still at it (industry wise) and it's going very well. Not perfectly error-free, but very well to say the least.


-- Deano (, February 22, 1999.

Let me draw an analogy. Ive worked on system security in the past. That job included analyzing IT systems, testing security posture of the system and making recommendations for improvement. No matter how much security is put into the system, there always exists a residual risk. That is to say, theres always a chance someone will break through the security protections. There isnt enough money to make these systems 100% secure. (I wish I could draw a graph but imagine an X-Y plot which increases rapidly at first and then slows to little increase. Youll see a knee in the curve. Thats the point of little return on investment, more money spent does not improve your security as dramatically.) So the managers and owners must accept some residual.

I feel the same is true for Y2K. No one can prepare for the worst case scenario, ten year depression. You dont have a warehouse big enough for this type event. So you must prepare within your means and rely on personal capabilities. Just as in the security systems, look for the knee in the curve. Im looking at a two week worst case. If it turns out even worse than that, it goes beyond my imagination. I cant imagine a collapse in government. I cant imagine a barter system. Bartering worked in a time when people had a bartering type profession: blacksmith, chicken farmer, and others. What could we barter now? How would we know the bartering power of five chickens? Would that equate to one bar of gold? Or would gold be worthless? Whats the worth of three gallons of kerosene? How would a person who fixes generators be paid? What about those portable john vendors, are they the most valued profession now?

If presented with a problem, I look for a solution. I do it everyday on a personal level as well as professional level. In problem solving, you analyze the situation, come up with alternatives to fix it, list pros and cons, and select the best approach (which may be a hybrid of the alternatives). Sometimes, a problem cant be solved. Then I look at the ramifications of the problem and how to best mitigate the results. I think thats how Y2K may end up. My mind will be the only contingency plan I have.

If an 8 happens, well all need to rely on sharing just as in any natural disaster. Even though thats a local situation, its really world wide to the people in trouble.

To answer your first point, no I dont believe that cases 2 thru 8 are equally likely. Some are more likely than others. I am preparing for the one I feel is most likely.

On your second point, I agree that one can be optimistic and plan for the worst case. So BigDog, how would you like to brainstorm or conceptualize? Ill give it my best shot.

Deano, my son was very disappointed. He hurt his back and had to drop out, but hes planning now for next year. He ended up with best record and highest pins in metro. Of course, I am very proud of his accomplishments. Wrestling, the toughest six minutes in sports, especially for the parents in the stands. And remember tests hardly ever go smoothly as planned but you have a good head start.

-- Maria (, February 22, 1999.

Maria - sorry to hear that. That's great that he's already got his sights on next season. Attitude IS everything! I did a little wrestling in high school and it is, no doubt, all you got for 6 minutes. You can't imagine it unless you've actually done it. Best of luck to ya!

Speaking of testing - we're taking our testing a little further next month. We have a group of clients coming to town to run our software thru the ringer. There are 7 companies representing (roughly) 160 that will be here for 2 weeks. We're setting up the environment and letting them have at it. When it's completed (successfully) that group will present the results to the rest of our clients at our user's conference in Orlando in April. Should prove interesting to say the least. I really like that approach though. Contrary to popular belief, it's a huge corporation, being extremely open/honest with it's customers.


-- Deano (, February 23, 1999.


Excellent!! I've always found that we in IT can test til we're blue in the face and dead on our feet, say it works, and turn it over to the users, and find hundreds of errors!! There is nothing quite like turning something over to the oragutangs errr data entry girls to find errors.

Sexist? Me? Nahh! Empirical data suggests that there are more female data entry operators than male.


-- Chuck, night driver (, February 23, 1999.

While reviewing old posts from last year (I'm bored with the current discussions), I've come across this post from Ed Yourdon in March '98, which explains in a nut shell why I don't buy anything Troll Maria (who's nowhere an expert herself) may claim about her company, or any other spin from Banks, gov. and big companies. I thought Ed's post might be helping in bringing things back into perspective.

"Paul Neuhardt has been raising a number of interesting questions on this thread, and I apologize for not having had the time to respond to many of them (or, for that matter, lots of other interesting comments on other threads, too). I feel badly about this, because I know Paul and respect his ideas and opinions about lots of issues. But Paul, my good friend, you seem to be suffering from the schizophrenia common to many software engineers, to wit: yes, I know that almost every project I've ever worked on has been screwed up -- but nevertheless, I'm happy to accept the optimistic, positive statements that companies are making about their Y2K projects.

I'd like to focus on one item in particular -- namely, Paul's statement, in an earlier part of this thread, in which he said, "Also, I'm not worried about the power failing.They may screw up the bill, but I believe the juice will keep flowing. If that makes me an ostrich with my head in the sand, so be it. I'll take optimism over panicked fright any day. "

Okay... Paul, consider the following: there are 9,000 electric utility plants in the U.S., including 108 nuclear plants that account for approx 20% of the nation's power supply (and about 40% of the power on the East Coast). If you know anything about software metrics, you would immediately say, "Oh, I get it -- yup, we're doomed". That's because we have 30 years of software engineering metrics that tell us that, on average, 15% of ALL software projects are late (by an average of 7.65 months), and 25% of ALL software projects are cancelled.

But let's go on ... how many nof those electric utility plants are Y2K-compliant? It's important to emphasize here that I'm not concerned about their business IT systems, though it could eventually be a MAJOR problem if they don't get their billing and payroll systems running. But for the moment, I'm only concerned about the Y2K compliance of the embedded systems that allow the generating plant to function, and that allow power to get distributed through the substations and ultimately to your house.

How many of them are compliant? Answer: zero. None. Zip. Nada. Do you understand what I'm saying to you? Not a single power plant in this country, or Canada, can confirm that their power plants are capable of generating and distributing electricity 653 days from now.

Oh, well, not to worry: they're all working on it, right? And because they're all honest, competent people, we can trust them when they tell us that they'll be finished on time, right? Hmmm... well, how many of the electric power plants really HAVE NOT EVEN BEGUN the Y2K projects for their embedded systems? Answer: one third. Another one third have begun, but are seriously behind schedule.

Well, not to worry: all of the laggards will wake up tomorrow morning and begin earnestly working on their Y2K projects, right? Well, maybe (and maybe pigs can fly, too) ... but there's a small problem: the average Y2K projects for the embedded systems in a power plant takes 2 years and costs $20-40 million. In case you haven't noticed, we no longer have 2 years left. And most utility plants don't have $20 million in spare change lying around.

As for the nuclear plants: I've been told by experts who know how these plants operate that there are enough safety mechanisms that there is NO chance of a Chernobyl-style meltdown. But precisely because of Chernobyl and Thee Mile Island, there is an enormous collection of safety regulations that nuclear plants are required to follow, including reliable operation of various supporting systems that deal with security, radiation detection, etc etc. If a plant cannot demonstrate it is capable of running a safe operation, it is required to shut down in a safe and prudent fashion.

The Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC) posted a notice on the Internet in Dec 1996 indicating that all of the nukes had Y2K vulnerabilities. The NRC is now in the process of expanding its definition of "safe operation" to include Y2K-compliance. Thus, if a plant cannot demonstrate that it is Y2K compliant, there is a good chance that it will be required to shut down in Dec 1999.

Assuming that the Fear of God struck the CEO's of all these power plants tomorrow morning, we're talking about 9,000 large, complex hardwar/software projects being launched with a single, hard deadline of 12/31/99. Paul, your neighborhood is serviced by Commonwealth Edison; maybe they're an SEI level-5 operation with superprogrammers who can work 18 hours a day. Yippee for you; your power company might make it in time. Alas, Commonwealth Edison is on the power grid with Con Edison here in NYC, not to mention several thousand other power plants. If Con Edison goes down, NYC goes down first ... but Boston will shut down a few milliseconds later.

You may think this is a joke or an exaggeration, but I can assure you that it is not. I may turn out to be wrong, and indeed hope that that will be the case. But I'm putting my 35 years of software engineering experience on the line here, and telling you that the chances of 100%, or 95%, or even 90% of these power companies getting their Y2K projects done on time is wishful thinking.

The situation is compounded by deregulation that is currently hitting the electric power industry. Consider: if you're about to sell your power generating plant (as several utilities are in the process of doing), how concerned do you think you'll be about the Y2K compliance of your plant? You'll spin a good yarn, generate some nice documentation, and sell the whole thing to some other sucker who won't discover for another 653 days what a mess he's inherited.

By the way, if you want to keep up to date on this stuff, you should visit the web sites of Roleigh Martin ( and Rick Cowles ( who focus on this area exclusively.


P.S. With regard to the banks, which has been the main subject of this thread: all you have to know is that there are 11,000 banks in the U.S., and you can reach the same conclusion that I've discussed above. Yeah, probably Bank Boston will make it. So will Citibank, Chase, BankAmerica and the other big guys, maybe. But there are now serious predictions that between 5% and 20% of the small banks in the U.S. will fail because of Y2K. Well, to hell with the small banks, right? Well, okay, but what about the rest of the world? Europe is about a year behind the U.S., and is obsessed with the Eurocurrency project; Africa and South America are sound asleep vis-a-vis Y2K; and Asia has its own crises to deal with, which have diverted almost all attention from Y2K. So even if you assume that all 11,000 American banks make it (which would defy the odds of 30 years of software engineering history), the Bank of America could be dealt a fatal blow by a Y2K failure in the Bank of England or Deutschebank or the Japanese banks.

-- Ed Yourdon (, March 19, 1998. "

-- Chris (, February 23, 1999.

Chris, you must be extremely bored to come up with Eddie's comments from back in March of 98. You have no other recent info? Why are you sleeping so much? Well, just go back to sleep, you moron.

-- Maria (, February 23, 1999.

Chuck - I'd be VERY suprised if this beast came out of user-testing error free. It's a hugely complex system with many, many interfaces. We tested it for 2 years before we certified it Y2K ready. The good side is, if the errors are at a minimum (and we expect they will be), then the exposure will be very good for us.


-- Deano (, February 23, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ