Where do GIs come from?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Why is it that some people become GIs easily, and others seem so blind? I think there are two factors that play into this:

1) An awareness that there are lots of date bugs out there. We really can't tell (nobody can) just how many of these will cause problems, nor what those problems will be, nor how effectively we'll be able to deal with them. But bugs can never be good, and lots of bugs lurking in just about everything is a scary prospect, no doubt about it.

2) An abiding suspicion and mistrust. This causes us to spin everything we can find in the same direction.

First, we don't trust our collective ability to find and fix these bugs. Small remediation budgets are evidence that the problem is underestimated. Conversely, large budgets are evidence that the problem is intractable. Isolated claims of success are at best too small to be meaningful (and are typically rejected as hype). Isolated claims of hopelessness are evidence that the entire problem is hopeless, regardless of who made the claim. The few geeks who are pessimists are cited as front-line indications that we're hosed. The large majority of geeks who are optimists are cited as showing that geeks can be as blind as the general public.

Second, we don't trust the media. At best, they're lazy and ignorant. At worst, they're being controlled by inimical secret interests who determine what is written. Ironically, almost everything we know about the whole problem, we learned through the media. When we find URLs to pessimistic articles, we quote them endlessly. Any URLs to success stories are rejected as PR spin being parroted by the lazy media. The fact that stories on both sides are often written by the same individual doesn't bother us a bit. If he agrees with us, it's facts. If he disagrees, he's clueless.

Third, we don't trust the government. The fact that almost everything we know about the government is reported by the (untrustworthy) media doesn't occur to us. If it does occur to us, we apply those same principles we've mastered so well: selectively reject everything we disagree with, and use what's left as consistent proof of our a priori position. Two-thirds of the (US) public approves of Clinton, yet he's viewed here with universal, frothing hatred. Can anyone see a pattern here?

Fourth, we don't trust management. Managers are stupid, shortsighted, self-interested, and ignorant. They're responsible for the whole problem to begin with, they waited too long to get it fixed, and when they started at all, they skimped on the resources. Their progress reports are based on the stock price and the status of their stock options, and have nothing to do with actual work accomplished. Unless, of course, they admit to real problems. Then they become factual references and proof we're right.

Fifth, we have no faith in the economic system or the infrastructure. We follow chains of hypothetical dominoes to inevitable collapse, ignoring the fact that these systems suffer problems all the time and we deal with them. Wind, lightning, ice knocks power out here and there regularly, and we get by? Ah, but bugs nobody can find will be much worse, and will happen everywhere at once. Strikes cripple manufacturers, bad weather destroys crops over wide areas, and we get by? Ah, but unknown failures with small suppliers will kill manufacturing, and known trivial noncompliances in farming equipment will kill the food supply. How do I know this? I Get It, that's all it takes.

Sixth, we're addicted to worst-case assumptions. Incomplete compliance somehow becomes *no* compliance and nobody complains. Trivial noncompliances somehow become certain death of the organization, and nobody complains. Failure to test means certain death. Tests that found problems are proof that y2k cannot be fixed, never mind that the problems the tests unearthed get fixed. Tests that went successfully are faked. Claims of compliance are subjected to demands for impossible levels of proof. Accusations of noncompliance are swallowed whole, and nobody even questions the source of the accusation. And those who disagree with us "don't get it". Doesn't matter how well-informed they are, or how much thought they've put into it. They still don't get it.

None of this is intended to argue that the problems aren't real -- they are. Preparation is a must. Nor am I trying to paint everyone with the same brush, I'm pointing out a general bias. We Get It not because we have some special ability to 'feel' the myriad interdependencies of a complex system. We Get It because we're predisposed to expect the worst, and we expect the worst because we don't trust anybody.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 11, 1999


Trust No One

-- (mulder@fbi.com), March 11, 1999.

"We get it because we're predisposed to expect the worst, and we expect the worst because we don't trust anybody."

I'm an eternal optimist. I think everybody will rise to this occasion and do his/her very best to get things going again. Preparation is essential to give ourselves some time to overcome the problems, not a sign of paranoia.


-- Helen (sstaten@fullnet.net), March 11, 1999.

What's really amazing it that us GI's "trust" our unspeakably complex, leaky, scroungy, bacteria-ridden physical bodies to carry us through each day.

-- Blue Himalayan (bh@k2.y), March 11, 1999.

Golly, well, I guess there is a need to be able to think "out of the box." For instance just because the sun is shining today or the stock market is going up today, doesn't mean this is how it will always be. It is an ability to look at "indicators" as they say in intelligence, and make an unbiased judgment. It is hard for me to believe that my wonderfully capitalistic indolent lifestyle won't continue forever. But the indicators are just *to strong and solid* and *to many* to believe that there won't be serious problems. I spent 18 years analyzing intelligence reports looking for indicators for things that were different. A serious, detailed analysis of Y2K is so stressful that it makes my stomach want to throw up because of what seems to be a strong possibility around the corner.

I started preparing in November and felt I was seriously behind the power curve on this thing. I discovered this forum about a month ago and its the best support group around as it seems to me, the more you seriously study the issue, the more depressed you can get. I am thankful for the strong people we have here on this forum and those who have been trying to develop a more independant lifestyle for many years. They have provided great advice on things and are quite patient with novice questions. Sincerely, (totally paranoid) Apple

-- Apple (villarta@itsnet.com), March 11, 1999.

GIs understand that there are consequences to all actions. GIs can see more than the immediate consequences... they see tumbling dominos. Some are so good they can "see around corners" because they look for future consequences.

Non-GIs can't see much of a connection between causes and effects.

-- mister GI (mister-gi@getit.net), March 11, 1999.

Wouldn't you want to consider that the concept of "Got It" (meaning something on the orfer of: "I under what Y2K is and why it is a real threat") is independent of how a person interprets what happens after the world "gets it" when Year 2000 rolls around?

That is, you're discussing the effect of pessimism (or optimism) on how severe a person thinks the reaction to Y2K will be. But you are apparently assuming that this analysis of the effects is the same as the ability to understand that the problem exists at all.

That is, you can have a happy "Get It" or an unhappy "Get It" - but my opinion is that there is a very fundamental, very important, difference between both of those people and the group who "Don't Want to Get It" and those who "Don't Get It" . There may be a few who "Can't Get It" because of mental or age limits at all, even when its explained clearly, but that group is trivial compared to the DWGI and DGI.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), March 11, 1999.

Flint, The points you make may color my predisposition to taking Y2K seriously, but I see something far more basic. 1. "They" are taking us down to the wire. 2. Given what is at stake (the welfare of my family), the end of the year is clearly too late for me to assess whether "they" did what they needed to do and therefore what I should do to protect myself. If there had been any responsibility or sense of leadership, "they" would be twiddling their thumbs by now, and I doubt that Y2K would have become an obsession for me. I'd be just as unprepared for disasters as I have been all my life. (Even so, I'm still not sure what galvanized me so completely on this issue.)

Another extremely important factor is exposure to the Internet. This is where most of the information is located. My anti-survivalist tendency kept me a DWGI (I'm not one of *those* crazies!). Gary (on Art Bell, and then his web site) got me going, but I had to overcome my aversion for survivalist sites before I could really immerse myself and start to sort it all out.

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), March 11, 1999.

I've given this a lot of thought. I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell you I'm a GI because when was presented with the Y2K problem I understood first-hand:

1. the critical nature of dates in software
2. the ease of cascading failures (in software)
3. the time-consuming process of fixing a system and its data once failure has occurred.

For me, this has nothing to do with trust, except that I trust that the computer will do exactly what it is told, with the data it has, no matter how incorrect.

-- Codejockey (codejockey@geek.com), March 11, 1999.

Flint; Predicaments will abound. Being prepared to live is rational.Creative human energy will ultimately prevail given the liberty essential for creativity. Thanks for your thoughtful post. Best wishes,

-- Watchful (seethesea@msn.com), March 11, 1999.

Flint - very well put! That was pretty much what I've been saying for the last few months. There's a lot of pessimism and mistrust (of just about everything) on this NG. Almost every piece of 'good news' has been ripped once it's been announced here, for whatever reason. Some of it deservedly so. Some of it not.

It's tough to be optimistic when you always full of doubt. You cited THE 6 reasons why (in my opinion) no one here 'gets it'.

1. The job is TOO big. No way can it be completed. 2. The media can't be trusted. Good news must be lies. 3. No trust in the government. Everything they say is a lie. 4. No trust in management. We're not all liars. Really and truly... 5. No faith in the economy. But we're the most prosperous nation in the world. How can we be doing it wrong?? 6. Pure pessimism. Expect the WORST, prepare for the WORST. I'm WAY too optimistic to even entertain that type of thinking. If you prepare for defeat, then you have already lost.

Have faith. Be optimistic. You may be suprised at how well it effects your outlook on everything.

Polly gotta have a view too ya know.


-- Deano (deano@luvthebeach.com), March 11, 1999.


A major portion of your argument is that "GIs" share mistrust as a characteristic. If we discount the obvious inaccuracy of your absolute term, "anybody", it appears that you perceive most "GIs" as being people who, ". . .expect the worst because we don't trust (much of) anybody."

As it happens, I agree with this evaluation.

Trust however, is a commodity that we begin a relationship with none of; zero, zip, nada. Each subsequent transaction either adds to or subtracts from that starting point.

Now, my own experience has been that the government, the media, management, etc. have proven, over a lifetime, to be mostly untrustworthy entities. Those institutions have earned my mistrust and such perspective has played no small part in achieving what success I have enjoyed in life.

Also in my own experience, pessimism has far more often proven to be realistic than optimism has.

My question to you, Flint, is this: Do you think that such mistrust leads to an inaccurate evaluation of the Y2K situation?

Conversely, do you believe that we would arrive closer to the "truth" of the situation by employing an optimistic, trusting position towards those same entities?

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), March 11, 1999.

I'm with Codejockey. Having witnessed the range of ho-hum to spectacular SW and HW failures all of my adult life (and having always been on the cleanup crew), I know how little it takes to stop production.

IS people are also intimately familiar with the lies and coverups that go hand in hand with systems projects and failures.

We know our onions, as Hardliner says. Flint, aren't/weren't you an IS guy?

-- Lisa (lisa@work.now), March 11, 1999.


Im an optimist as well. And Ill bank on human spirit every time. (The odds, at anything, are increased with extreme preparation too. Would you run a marathon without getting ready?)

However, for those with abilities in strategic thinking and global inter-relationships, the SCOPE of Y2K, helps define the potential upcoming problems.

Big time.

GIs see beyond borders, sort of like looking back at planet earth from the perspective of the moon.

DGIs or DWGIs see the four walls around them, and not much else. What they can touch and feel defines their reality.

Macro v.s. micro.

Y2Ks the millennial whopper, IMHO!


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 11, 1999.


An extremely well thought out piece - and high time, the discourse on this ng was approaching hysterical levels. The question remains: will the GI's Get It?

-- Vinnie (mail@bomb.com), March 11, 1999.

I am a GI who thinks that Y2K will be an 8. I base my belief on my 20 years of experience as a programmer on large corporate systems. I asked the technical representative of our computer hardware manufacturer in 1980 what we should do about the year 2000. He said to be "conscious of it." That manufacturer, like IBM, did not begin a Y2K program until 1995. Several people, such as Bob Bemer and the Murrays, raised this issue in public forums in the 1960s - 1980s. No one in power wanted to listen.

We now have a world that depends on hundreds of millions or computers and billions if not trillions of lines of codes. We also have billions of embedded processors. The greatest predictor of completing a software project in time is when it began. THE WORLD SIMPLY WAITED TOO LONG. I do not see how we will get out of this without terrible repercussions.

-- Incredulous (ytt000@aol.com), March 11, 1999.


I think that "Get It" and "Don't Get It" have somewhat different meanings to different people, especially in terms of the severity of the problem. Though there are many exceptions, my impression is that most GIs on this NG are not expecting the worst (Infomagic, say) but they are expecting that severe or significant problems have a large enough probability of occurring and affecting them (and their family) detrimentally enough (financially, healthwise, safetywise)that it's prudent to prepare and try to avoid as many of the possible hazards as we can foresee, just as you are doing. I consider DGIs those who have similar reasons (they've read and heard of the situation) to think similarly but, for some twist of logic that I can't imagine, still don't see a real risk to their welfare and still don't think it prudent to prepare for potentially significant disruptions to the resources that maintain their welfare. DWGIs, then, are those who willfully ignore easily available information, debates, and arguments on the issue. They never even reach the stage of becoming either a GI or DGI. I also don't think that DIs don't trust anyone. That goes too far. But I'd say that DIs lack sufficient trust in the spectrum of relevant Y2K "Not a problem" sources to lower their risk assessment and concern for themselves and others.

-- bdb (cb_rex99@hotmail.com), March 11, 1999.

Flint, today's Wall Street Journal has a y2k article stating that demand for contract y2k remediation is collapsing. The unstated tone of the article is that the job is pretty much done. You and I discussed this in a thread a week or so ago. The curious thing about this article to me is simply that there was no actual mention of whether the job was finished or nearly so. I'm getting a lot of conflicting information. I was very concerned after hearing the Senate testimony last Friday. But if companies are calmly dropping most or even much of their remediation work in early March, then it's hard to believe that there is a real threat domestically. But, the foreign situation still looks FUBAR, so it's all very confusing and unclear to me. I'm starting to feel more like a chicken little, but I am not going to back off of my preparation. I do disagree with your final sentence in your original post. I certainly do not expect the worst. I truly do not expect to need my water storage or my PUR purifier. However from a risk management perspective, I think it would be a bad management decision to fail to pay heed to this identified but unquantified risk.

-- Puddintame (dit@dot.com), March 11, 1999.

Gee, thanks, Flint. I just about had myself convinced. Now I have to ask myself, why am I preparing? Because GN told me to? What if I don't trust _him_ either? I was in a cult once before this, too. Sheesh.

Now I'll have to go back to pacing the floor until the wee hours, saying to myself... "the probability of event a is x; the probability of event b is x; the probability of a and b both happening is x*x; the probability of a, and b, and ...(instances up to the amount of n) all happening is x*x*...(x instances up to the amount of n)where a, and b, and ...(instances up to the amount of n) represent the _absence_ of failure in each of the billions of lines of code and chips that maintain the brittle metasystem of technological civilization but cannot possibly be fixed in time; where n is a large but unknown number (billions ? I take off my shoes to balance my checkbook) and x is _optimistically_ 99%... At some point in the progression a...n, the product of the x's becomes vanishingly small? Even if the code is completely fixed, the problems introduced in remediation cannot be fixed in time. So I did the math as best I could and that's why I am in the Doombrood.

This is my mantra when I know I need to prepare but sit in the coffee shop and listen to Brubeck and think, wait a minnit. I would rather this zeitgeist, spooky as it is, continue. Spookier I don't need.

I agree, it's a question of trust or lack of it. When I was a kid my mother got drunk and told me, go away, I don't want to be your mother anymore. I used to think that was a handicap; then I heard that beginning journalists are told, "if your mother says she loves you, check it out". Maybe it's essential early training for the world. True, I don't have a high trust level; I have various scars on my body that remind me when I look in the mirror that not all people can be trusted. Am I missing something; am I a lemming?

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that people are or are not out to get you. You can still get got even if everybody's on your side. Circumstances are somtimes untoward. The world is a vale of soul making, acording to Jung, and maybe the point is not winning, it's how you play the game. See you on deck.

-- arthur mccaskey (arthurmccaskey@(nospam)usa.net), March 11, 1999.

I've always felt that I "get it" when it comes to Y2K. However, what I "get" seems to be quite different from what the majority here view as "getting it." I think that a lot more of the public understand the possibile Y2K outcomes than most here seem to think. I think the difference between being a doombrood GI and a GI who thinks that things will turn out OK, like me, is that element of trust. I believe Flint is correct that many in this forum don't trust anybody. The public, for the most part, and myself, don't trust everybody, but we do trust somebody. Without at least some trust there would be no civilization at all.

-- Buddy (buddydc@go.com), March 11, 1999.


>> demand for contract y2k remediation is collapsing

Interesting. What is being measured here? Demand for individual contractors through recruiters? Open salaried positions with headhunters (presumably not)? Demand for consulting firms to take on new projects (how measured?)

(Guess no link because WSJ is a subscription site. I'll check it on the newsstand.)

-- Debbie (dbspence@usa.net), March 11, 1999.

This thread is so dopey it's hard to know how or whether to respond to it. If it weren't so patronizing, I'd let it go.

Flint, you're the one who casts the extremely nuanced and careful discussions on this board in simplistic tones of "mistrust". Are there some loony threads? Maybe. So what. I can think of several dozen that have risen to the level of the best intellectual give-and-take I've seen just about anywhere, ever.

Why patronizing? Because, at root, you are saying that most of us here haven't gotten a thing, actually, we're just consistently paranoid. What a joke. Codejockey and Lisa have it about right, it was, is and will be about the code and it also is about what happens in the real world when IT meets the government (as Diane, Leska and Kevin track) ... a match made in hell.

We started too late, deadlines are slipping, mission-critical systems are defined down, budgets are climbing, testing is being cut and that's only the U.S., with the rest of the world way further behind than this.

Who is making that up, Flint? The paranoid people on this forum? Give us a break. Those are the facts. What they mean can be debated, but their veracity can't. That millions of people in our country choose to interpret them as trivial doesn't mean that the few on this forum are "mistrustful" by nature or neurosis. Like attracts like. So what? I appreciate speaking with people who, broadly, share my perception about Y2K. Whooooooa, that's weird and unexpected .....

Every time there is even a hint of good news (SSA, nuclear industry), most of the GIs here stand on their head to examine and confirm it if it is reasonable. Why? Because we are heartbroken over the possible suffering that people are going to face next year, not least because some of us geeks partly helped bring it about. GI, Flint?

Sometimes the potential good news holds up well enough (both the examples above have been accepted on this forum), usually it doesn't (FAA comes to mind) and, on some, the jury is still out (JAE, travel reservations). I'm still waiting for someone to spin the Postal Service and its likely impact on us next year ....

Not only that, the vast majority of GIs on this forum have done their best to communicate graciously with their families and neighbors, even in the face of ridicule, some with their communities and quite a few have been preparing expressly to help DGIs and neighbors.

Wow, what a mistrustful crew we've got here, eh? If there is also heated discussion of the merits and dangers of self-defense against the prospect of trouble, so what?

As for Clinton, he's a jerk. I hate to clue you in, but even the people who approve his job rating think he himself is a jerk. But if he had or EVEN NOW began leading with integrity on this specific issue of Y2K, most all of us, after a suitable period of DESERVED skepticism about his motives, would jump up and down with delight. Gore likewise. Heck, anyone likewise. Though Senator Bennett himself spins like a top most of the time, people on this forum practically worship at his feet.

I truly believe you systematically and continually misjudge the nature of the discussions on this forum and the character of the people involved. I'm not sure why, except I suspect it's your way of being condescending towards the rest of us. That way, you can feast on our intellectual effort and prepare your family but you can feel superior that you're not really one of those kooks .....

I can't prove this, but I would wager that the regular GIs who post here (I could name 25 or so immediately) would score extremely high on any tests that measured rationality, social empathy, etc.

Speaking from personal experience, the more one understands about the causes and possible impacts of Y2K on REAL PEOPLE, the more extraordinary becomes the amount of civility exercised here, including civility verbally towards our "leaders."

About the things that really count here, you truly are a DGI, clueless. Is it incurable? Only you can answer that.

As for me, I am very proud to identify myself with the GIs on this forum and only wish I had the opportunity know many of them personally.

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 11, 1999.

Debbie, As I read the WSJ article, it was primarily about consulting firm contracts.

-- Puddintame (dit@dot.com), March 11, 1999.


Bigdog pretty well speaks for me on this subject. I would object strenuously to the label of GI ---> paranoid, mistrustful, etc. Rather, this forum is populated by a number of very rational (almost Vulcan) personalities who demand logical proof and details for any given stance on Y2K. You talk about "good news" being "ripped to shreds" implying that those doing the ripping are acting in an irrational, paranoid manner. You might have tried sharing what you think is "good news" that has merit and deserves recognition. The NERC reports, the Senate reports, various banking reports have all been spun in the media as good news. The problem is that, when you actually read the FULL report, the "good news" now seems quite farcial. The most recent Senate report comes to mind. The local newspaper headlines were all happy face. The actual report is downright scary

I am a naturally happy person. If its raining, I think how good it is for the flowers and garden. If its snowing, I think about having fun skiing. I want this to be a Verry minor Bump in my life - thank you. But, on the basis of the code that I personally KNOW about and the behavior of major corps I have worked for, its not going to be a bump - unless you think going off a 90 meter ski jump in the dark is a bump!

I know you GET IT. Your postings portray that explicitly. But some part of you really wants to climb back into that nice,warm, dark womb of ignorance.

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), March 11, 1999.

BigDog said:

"I truly believe you systematically and continually misjudge the nature of the discussions on this forum and the character of the people involved. I'm not sure why, except I suspect it's your way of being condescending towards the rest of us. That way, you can feast on our intellectual effort and prepare your family but you can feel superior that you're not really one of those kooks ..... "

You may be right, BigDog. However, I think Flint and others, including myself, who have expressed a view of Y2K that is not a worst-case scenario have been on the other end of that. We've been told we don't get it, told we must be morons for not getting it, told we must have our heads in the sand, etc. etc.

The simple fact of the matter is that one can "get it" without believing that the end of civilization is at hand. Maybe things have changed on this forum--I haven't kept up as much as I used to--but the consensus here for a long time has leaned toward the doom&gloom views more than any other, and those views include a lot of mistrust.

-- Buddy (buddydc@go.com), March 11, 1999.

Buddy --- It is true that most of the posters here expect Y2K to range from serious to disastrous. So what? So that's the tenor of this particular forum. It's not a crime, and most of us feel we can justify our expectation from the facts known so far.

I repeat what I said: nearly all of us slobber at the merest hint of good news about Y2K, which invalidates the entire mistrust smear. That we are more skeptical than you may be about the validity of some news that is claimed "good" is not necessarily mistrust, but may be based on other criteria we are applying that you do not share.

As Ed Yourdon said in an article about fire engines compliance, the typical charge levied against us is, "you assume nothing is going to work unless it is proven that it will."

Well, yes. In a situation of the gravity of Y2K, the code is guilty until proven innocent, not innocent until proven guilty. We're not talking about human suspects or principles of jurisprudence here (false analogy), but computer code where WE DON'T KNOW UNTIL WE FIX AND TEST SOMETHING WHAT WILL WORK AND WHAT WON'T. In the case of fire engines, for instance, embedded systems mfrs acknowledge that identical production systems may behave differently. So, is it paranoia to test all engines or prudence?

Reasoned skepticism is not the same as mistrust, at least in the spirit that Flint brings to it.

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 11, 1999.


Your questions are much more subtle than they appear, and I found it very difficult to address them clearly.

It is indeed simplistic to say that we don't trust "anybody." Indeed, we eagerly believe all bearers of bad news, regardless of source. Paul Milne has even cited Clinton and Koskinen as 'proof' of the coming calamity, whenever they admit to real problems or urge preparations. They only become 'idiots' when they fail to state the obvious -- that the world is coming to an end and we're all gonna die!

So I started wondering, what leads some people to embrace trouble, even if doing so requires that they occasionally abandon analysis, consistency, and critical thought, or must reject clear indications to the contrary? Here we have a forum composed almost entirely of true believers in the coming doom. What do they appear to have in common?

[And no, Big Dog, I'm not denying the code is broken. I'm addressing the question of how we individually decide how badly it is and will remain broken, when we're faced with an overwhelming morass of conflicting information]

After a lot of reading here and elsewhere (like csy2k), it became more and more clear that as closely as any disparate group of people come to any common trait, is an incipient paranoia. A helpless feeling that the world is beyond their control, where distant and unknowable 'authorities' are making decisions that affect them in ways they only dimly understand.

You will notice that almost none of us here have anyone reporting to us on the job. The exceptions are not nearly so paranoid. And paranoia is very difficult to contend with, because it creates closed, logically consistent systems. I tried to show in the original post how those systems work. We are helpless in the face of a crisis 'they' created, and which 'they' are now covering up, because 'they' have the power and control the real information. But we can see through them, oh yes we can, because the Internet allows us to reassure one another that we're right.

So yes indeed, I think this mistrust leads to a much more dire picture than justified by the reality. Anytime you can choose from a wide range of information, and you select only that information which supports your position and reject the rest, you can reinforce *whatever* opinion you chose to begin with. The question I'm dealing with here is, what common characteristics led so many of us to choose a very bad future to begin with? Only those furthest over the edge can deny that there are many highly sincere, intelligent and informed people who don't share this outlook.

Only in rare cases do we base our conclusions on the evidence. (And indeed, the evidence is so variable and equivocal that it doesn't lead anywhere consistently). Instead, we base our evidence on our conclusions. Ironically, this is the essence of politics. Politicians never commission studies to learn the facts. They *always* commission studies to generate the facts necessary to support what they've already decided to do. When I did survey work for the government, I was always handed the results and told to create a survey to produce those results! We're doing exactly the same thing here. We know very bad times are coming. Now, let's select whatever evidence we can find to support that knowledge.

But I don't think a completely trusting position is the road to truth either, although it comes a lot closer. Problem is, too much of the material we have to choose from is flat contradictory, as Drew Parkhill has pointed out before. How do we trust *both* the FDIC and Weiss? How do we trust *both* de Jager and Yourdon? How do we trust *both* Rick Cowles and Dick Mills? Do we trust what Koskinen said yesterday, or do we trust what he said today? How do we digest the constant claims that everyone is in good shape, but nobody they rely on is? What could that mean, really?

I'd really welcome any serious attempt to find general characteristics here. Paranoia, being at the bottom of the rganizational food chain, a marked willingness to believe in conspiracies, a deep-seated distrust of authority, opinions impervious to the most obvious contraindications. Anything else?

Please note that there is probably *nobody* here to whom all of these descriptions apply, and quite a few to whom *none* of them apply. A forest is made of many kinds of trees, and even the densest forest is mostly empty space. No single instrument captures the essence of the symphony.

Meanwhile I'm encouraged by recent indications that the public at large is starting to wake up and make at least minimal preparations. Like Koskinen, I have doubts that the world can telescope 12 months worth of production into 9 months. But that production doesn't need to cover everything. There are surpluses of useful stuff, and selective purchases of suitable supplies can redirect a JIT economy in a hurry. If the trend continues, we'll muddle through. Uncomfortably and impatiently, and with isolated serious problems, but we'll get past it.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 11, 1999.

In 1968 with 2+ years experience is was assigned to write a program using a 2 digit year. I turned to my friend and fellow programmer and asked rhetorically, "..and what happens in 2000?'. I knew it 31 years ago. Fortunately I worked for a worthless (true, not exaggerated) government agency, now defunct. In my now total 33 years experience I have found that most of the criticisms of DP (now IT) are pretty much on the mark. It mostly lurchs along from one screwup to another. I have done well all my life trusting my own analysis and judgment. No one on this forum or elsewhere convinced me of anything. My conclusions are entirely my own. I am going to sit this on out.

-- curtis schalek (schale1@ibm.net), March 11, 1999.

Flint, you forgot to include another reasons to GI, having nothing to do with paranoia.

Actual face to face interviews conducted with CIO's at County, City, University, and local businessess.

Actually attending govt y2k hearings and listening to testimony.

Friends who work in y2k remediation telling us their situation.

-- Mitchell Barnes (spanda@inreach.com), March 11, 1999.

GIs are simply those who have slipped the chains and have left (or are leaving) Plato's cave.

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), March 11, 1999.

1) I like the idea of being prepared for anything. Why not? Is paranoia involved? I don't see why that would make a difference. I was a Boy Scout. I was brought up to believe that being prepared is a good idea, and I believe it to this day.

2) I agree with Hardliner. The people who are not trusted have over the years earned that mistrust. Dilbert is very popular for a reason.

3) Not to beat a dead horse, but I've never seen good news on this or any other forum. All the news that I have seen has been bad news. I have seen unsubstantiated assurances that things will be OK, but no evidence to examine offered in support of the optimism.

4) This is Ed Yourdon's site. He wrote a book last year expressing three levels of pessimism. Has any optimist proven Ed to be in error on a single count? Not that I know of. So what is there to be optimistic about?

-- GA Russell (garussell@russellga.com), March 11, 1999.

Interesting thread. The mistrust angle does not fit with me. I am normally a realist seasoned with a bit of naivete. I am a "hope for the best prepare for the worst" kind of girl scout. I came to be a GI because I see many times in my job where multiple small problems compounded creates chaos that is difficult to recover from and worse case scenario, someone could possibly get hurt or die. Normally one or two of those same problems only create an annoyance or delays but get a bunch of them going simultaneously and Katie bar the door, it's time to curtail services and as they say in the medical profession, do some triage.

I became sufficiently aware of a possible Y2K problem after reading an article by a IT expert posted by our internet provider that said all is not well. Up until then everything that I read said that all was well. I then did some research and the "cascade theory" made perfect sense to me as I have seen it in action at work. I have subsequently surveyed the vulnerabilities of my locale and am preparing accordingly.

I only expect a moderate affect in the USA. I think maybe initial interruptions (24 hrs - 1 week) of utilities in many areas with immediate implementation of work arounds. I expect some sporadic outages lasting longer in some areas and some outages after problems appear to have been solved. I expect some shortages or rationing of critical goods especially in urban areas but I expect them to not last much more than a month and to be rolling, with some goods being more plentiful while others are in short supply. I expect some civil unrest in some larger and more vulnerable urban areas. I expect a medium sized recession as a result of the chaos and cost of Y2K remediation and damage control. This scenario holds for me only if everyone remains calm, stays on the job and works to repair what's broken. If there is wide spread panic then things could definitely get worse because there are more folks becoming part of the problem not the part of the solution.

I guess I have examined the substance of the information and the agendas of all of the players (including the GI ranks) and I have decided/acted accordingly. I do not see my involvement in preparation as a "GI" as due to some character trait other than my usual penchant for being prepared for some reasonably forseeable event.

-- Ramp Rat (Aviation_R_us@noname.nocity), March 11, 1999.

Since I am a physician, I like medical analogies. One that I like for Y2K is the analogy of a burn injury. A burn involving, say, 80% of body surface area, is a different animal from a burn limited to five percent. There is a threshold beyond which cascading dominoes of body system failures begin, and that threshold is determined by numerous factors. In the world's informational nervous system, small burns are always being sustained and healed. There is an equilibrium between new injuries and healing of old injuries. Globally speaking, all injuries to date have been small ones. The largest burn in history is about to arrive, and it will upset the equilibrium. We could compare it to a large barrel of scalding water that is about to be thrown toward a man, who symbolizes us collectively as well as individually. We don't know whether the barrel of water, at the time it is thrown, will be two feet or thirty feet from the man. We have to decide whether that barrel of scalding water is worth paying serious attention to, or not.

I am not fond of the terms GI and DGI. For one thing, they imply that Y2K is all there is. But neither is any other word or symbol perfect. They probably serve a useful purpose sometimes.

The barrel of scalding water is approaching, and only those who don't value their lives should ignore it.

-- Bill Byars (billbyars@softwaresmith.com), March 11, 1999.


Thanks for eloquently articulating my thoughts on Flint's post. I was all fired up and ready to wade into this argument with guns blazing until I read your reply.

Having read Flint's comments and engaged him on several topics over the past several months, I have come away feeling that Flint looks down on most of the "Doombrooders" on this forum as being intellectually inferior.

It's easy for Flint and the other Pollys on here to feel smug and superior if they can rationalize that all who see a serious outcome to the Y2K situation are paranoid pessemists who really want the world to crash. It's inconceivable to them that we could have rationally evaluated the problem and come to a conclusion. No, we're much too unstable to do that.

So Flint constantly tells us he is preparing, just to show us that he does in fact "get it." Yet all the while He tries to convince us that Y2K won't really be a problem. And when Pollys trot out the latest media spin as evidence that Y2K is going to be fixed, Flint publicly laments when the doombrooders won't accept this garbage as "evidence."

Call me a pessimistic, paranoid doombrooder. No, Flint, I don't trust the powers that be. Yes, Flint, I do expect the worst.

-- Nabi Davidson (nabi7@yahoo.com), March 12, 1999.

"It's easy for Flint and the other Pollys on here to feel smug and superior..."

There's a lot of smug and superior attitudes coming from the doombrood too. Can't we all just get along?

-- You started it. No, you did. (smug@superior.IQ), March 12, 1999.

Because I fall into the pessimestic and distrustful catagory, I took extra time researching the possibilities before springing prepreparations on my friends and family. I do this because I recognize my biases and always try to factor them out of every decision I make.

However about distrusting government and media: They have earned this distrust. You can believe the media only when they are reporting against their bias, and then try go go from there to find the "truth". The government you can never believe as you are dealing with politics(say anything whatsoever as long as it will get you elected and then do anything to stay in and increase power) and bureaucrats whose sole object in life is to get more funding.

This was an interesting discussion.

-- hugh (HughGlass@hotmail.com), March 12, 1999.

There's a brutal tag-team demolition of Flint on the thread titled "It's Y2K, stupid". Enjoy.

-- Detlev Bronk (mj12@ft.meade.com), March 12, 1999.

Trouble is, if you spend your time thinking this way, you will think nothing can ever work again. Ever read Catch-22?

"If they tell me it will fail they are telling the truth, if they tell me it will work, they are lying." How does reality manage to get through a filter like that? Good or bad, how does it get through?

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), March 13, 1999.

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