Lower-income people fear the effects of the Y2K computer

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As Y2K disaster nears, we put trust in technology By Tom Weber, NEWS Columnist


A recent Associated Press story about a survey of New Englanders reported that lower-income people fear the effects of the Y2K computer bug more than their more affluent, better-educated neighbors.

Families earning less than $30,000, on average, tended to worry that the computer malfunctions scheduled to arrive at midnight Dec. 31, 1999, would result in "serious economic impacts.''

One public policy analyst said he wasn't sure why lower-income, lesser-educated people fretted more than people with more money and schooling, who are likely to trust technology and to downplay the severity of its glitches.

The heightened degree of anxiety, said University of Massachusetts Professor Ralph Whitehead Jr., might be due to "inexperience with technology, or skepticism about government or large institutions.''

The suggestion, of course, is that people with less education are simpler folk who view computers a bit like our ancestors once viewed the celestial movements of the night sky: with an unreasonable fear of powerful forces beyond their control.

Yet the closer we get to this mysterious day of reckoning, the clearer it becomes that no one, regardless of education, can say precisely what will happen when computer clocks around the world detect the last two zeros of the year 2000 and think it's 1900 all over again.

"Forecasting Y2K is a lot like predicting the weather,'' said U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, who, with Sen. Bob Bennett, runs a Senate panel overseeing the problem. "You can only track the storm and watch the effects.''

Well, isn't that a reassuring statement this late in the game?

Education and money appear to have little bearing on a real understanding of the complicated problem, in other words, as the wildly diverse information on the World Wide Web has proved all along.

There, in that cacophonous gabfest of the erudite and the illiterate, exist many highly educated technologists who insist that we've terribly underestimated the disaster potential of the millennium bug. Some of them recommend the stockpiling of food, water, money, medicine and other necessities. The more zealous types go so far as to suggest relocating to rural areas of the country, such as Maine, to escape the desperate masses who were too shortsighted to prepare for the worst.

On the flip side of the volatile debate are those equally educated technology gurus who scoff at their hand-wringing counterparts, and call them dangerous purveyors of doomsday paranoia.

So if the so-called technology experts can't agree on what will happen, what are the rest of us supposed to think?

Frankly, it's getting tougher by the day to trust anyone's predictions about where this whole mess will lead. The Federal Aviation Administration's top Y2K expert, for example, recently insisted that airline safety will not be jeopardized Jan. 1. This, by the way, from an agency that admitted it was so late in starting to fix its computer problems that the glitches cannot be fully remedied by the new year.

A Senate report recently concluded that 64 percent of the nation's hospitals  most of them small  haven't gotten around to testing their Y2K-readiness programs. More than 80 percent of doctors' offices nationwide are not yet prepared either, the report stated, which could mean the loss of medical records and even more serious breakdowns of computerized medical devices.

The Pentagon, after its shamefully slow start in dealing with possible Y2K complications, now asks us to believe that its 600 unfixed mission-critical systems will be ready when the millennium dawns.

And what choice do we have, aside from holing up in a bunker somewhere, than to trust that common sense will prevail and that the promises will be kept by the time the big day arrives?

After all, it's awfully frustrating to think that such a highly educated, technologically advanced society like ours could find itself staring into space like the primitives, hoping for miracles.

-- Moron Slayer (NWO@hotmail.com), March 09, 1999


This so-called civilization is only skin deep in it's seconds of existence.

-- Watchful (seethesea@msn.com), March 21, 1999.

There are bad omens in the heavens. Our managers have been false Gods, and our geeks unreliable prophets. When downtime, screwups, delays and shortages (the 4 horsemen of the technocalypse) march across the land, take care you aren't in their path.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 21, 1999.

lower-income people fear the effects of the Y2K computer bug more than their more affluent, better-educated neighbors.

Yeah, the more "affluent" could pay for better, more advanced brainwashing.

Mr. K
***we don't need no stinking bankroll to be intelligent***

****and besides...more affluent in what?....horsesh*t?***

***one more rant....why is this important anyway? Who needs this kind of report? Government? Do you see that the dumberferks running this kind of thing says in their so called "report" that:
A. If you fear (scared people "prepare", right?)Y2K, you must be poor (oh... the societal what-will-the-neighbors-think shame) B. If you fear Y2K, you must be poorly educated, or downright stupid. Pick one and apply. C. If you fear Y2K, you must be one of those "simpler folk"... just like your dumb old ancestors who had unreasonable fear of powerful forces beyond their control.

I'm glad Mr. Weber, in charge of reporting this drivelous survey, had foresight to balance out (somewhat) the suppositions in mid-article.

Got a bit peeved at that, for some reason....

-- Mr. Kennedy (Astab@survey.rot), March 21, 1999.

Is Moron Slayer really "Norm the Troll" in disquise? If it's a disguise, its not very effective. Something still stinks round here.

-- Cheese (peeee@eeeeewww.com), March 21, 1999.

Wonderful, Flint. [Applause] I certainly respect your opinions, even while I may disagree. Further, I admire your presentation. But that's the first thing you've written that I absolutely MUST add to my quotefile. Thank you.


"Better to sweat from informed worry than from ignorant fear."--- BHRichard

-- Hallyx (Hallyx@aol.com), March 21, 1999.

Yeah nice one Flint. Glad to see you've joined the party. Just one big happy doomer family

-- humpty (no.6@thevillage.com), March 21, 1999.

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