Reply to Tom Carey : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Tom, you wrote:

"Persons aware of Y2K, but who share Flint's confidence in government and media, are hardly motivated to waste their time here debating questions already authoritatively defined as settled. "

Making my position clear turns out to be a lot harder than I expected. I think your statement is wrong-headed in several ways, although I think I can see where it came from. I'll try again, because you seem to be one of those people who can read and think at the same time.

Basically, what I'm saying is that the acceptance criteria for y2k material, used by many in this group, are not applied evenly. I do my best (such as it is) to apply the same criteria to reports of both good and bad news. For each item, I question:

who said it

what their motivations might be

what might be left out or glossed over

who is selling what and how

how much real research went into a statement

what level of detail is provided

whether this is a statement of observed current conditions or a projection about possible future conditions

how well this statement agrees with other material on the same immediate topic

whether the statement is susceptible to multiple interpretations and what these might be

To what degree will reported noncompliance reduce actual operational functionality of the organization if not fixed

, etc.

I emphasize that I apply these questions to *all* statements. My complaints are that that those in this newsgroup (some, not all)

1) Apply such questions *only* to material with which they disagree. 2) Arrive at *predetermined* answers to these questions anyway.

Statements with which they agree (in the Yourdon forum, these are statements implying bad news or predictions of future problems) are accepted as facts, at face value. Even if those statements came from the government or media. In other forums (check out comp.arch.embedded or comp.lang.cobol) the same lack of rigor is applied in the same way, but in the other direction. Statements of good news are accepted prima facie, and bad news is subjected to insurmountable doubt. Beyond that, the key difference is that the optimistic groups never see conspiracies hiding under every bed like some here do. They see errors, incompetence, shortsighted management, misplaced priorities, poor scheduling and staffing, etc. But no conspiracies.

I protest, therefore, that you have painted my position exactly backwards. I don't regard *any* question as "already authoritatively defined as settled." Mentally, I assign each statement a probability of accuracy, based on the best answers I can determine to the above list of questions. I do this recognizing that the billions being spent on remediation are accomplishing *something*, while the clock continues to tick down. Nothing is holding still.

Indeed, my chief concern is that too many Yourdonites regard statements of bad news as "already authoritatively defined as settled," and choose to think no further. To me, this is bad logic, and cannot lead to correct conclusions. Interpreting my approach as a see-no-evil whitewash of what is clearly a genuine serious threat, is symptomatic of exactly what I've been saying here. The overall Y2K situation is in a wild state of flux, which I expect to continue for years. Nothing is defined and settled, good or bad.

p.s. I regard Ed Yourdon's expectations (see his "decade of depression" essay) as the best synthesis of the material I've seen so far. I expect recovery to be a bit faster than Yourdon (maybe 5 years), but in all other respects I think he's nailed it. I've redirected my preparations to match Yourdon's future somewhat, and I think that's the key. If power and banking stay up (or recover quickly to an adequate functional level), I'll need money to tide me over the likely unemployment a lot more than I'll need to spend it on a generator. Etc. The most accurate picture of the future I can come up with, allows me to direct limited resources toward the most appropriate preparations. Isn't that what this forum is all about?

-- Flint (, March 14, 1999


Flint; Right on! Verify every aspect; particularly the legitimacy and integrity of the source. Thanks,

-- Watchful (, March 14, 1999.


I agree with this post, but you are inconsistent in applying your own standards. As an example, you recently gave the same "weight" to the USPS chief versus the Inspector General audit. Clearly the motivations and consequences are different for these two individuals. The IG gave numbers/percentages while the Chief's comments were far less specific. As a technical person, aren't you more comfortable with news (good or bad) when its supported by specifics. The good news mavens are usually far fuzzier than a doomster. For example, Cory H will talk about SVC-11, tm_date, 3083 microcode while bks will say "a major GM exec says all is well with their robotics". I look at 10Q's and say "my power company budgeted $75 million for remediation and has spent $15 million over 3 years. They still say it will cost $75 million but there is only 9 months left." Specifics, numbers, data remediation rates, time budgted for testing, BIOS configurations, TD etiology, operating system problems, VSAM file handling changes, embedded controller SYSTEMS - these are the specifics that doomsters (lets change that tag to REALISTS) struggle with daily. So far, what hard data is available suggests a possible disaster. I agree with Yourdon's 'most likely scenario' of a year of interruptions with years of economic impact. But, its a slippery slope. Throw in war or disease and far worse is possible (even probable).

-- RD. ->H (, March 14, 1999.

Flint -- This all began with your extremely patronizing post about "GIs" (the phrase you used in the title of your thread). You're still at it. It's still wrong. Why don't you just back off? Do you have to be "right" about everything?

We all agree with the criteria you stated above. They're good. The fallacy remains your stubborn, proud insistence that you are the only one who is applying them. No. They are being applied by almost every single regular, whether pollyanna or doomer (Kevin, Leska, Diane, Cook, Shannon, PNG, Carey, Greybear, Hardliner, Chris, Andy, Yourdon, Watchful, Sysman, Seger, Barnes, Old Git and about 20 more that I don't mention here only because I'm grabbing from the top of my memory. I even include Maria and Paul).

That some of us disagree about the interpretation of things, even after having applied the criteria means, amazingly enough, merely that ... we ... disagree. One thing we disagree about is whether "nothing is defined and settled, good or bad." Hate to clue you in, Flint, but that is your interpretation.

90% of every thread generally revolves around our testing each other as to whether or not the criteria HAVE been applied, sometimes explicitly, sometimes tacitly.

Though, I'll say this, at least you are now only blaming *some* of us. That is progress.

-- BigDog (, March 14, 1999.

Let me add just this: Flint, by all means USE the criteria you cite above. Disagree with anyone/everyone/me when you feel we're not applying appropriate criteria, as you do. I, personally, LOVE that. One of the main reasons the regulars are here so often is because we respect that approach wherever it is taken.

I have found your thoughts about embedded systems to be particularly useful.

But arguments about people's temperaments and biases are counter-productive. I have sometimes thought your ideas about facts or your interpretations of facts were wrong, but I haven't a clue about your temperament or biases, really and it doesn't matter. This isn't therapy.

Just post your opinions about the actual stuff and be done with it.

-- BigDog (, March 14, 1999.

Hi Flint, I'm just a ancient soul who has enough faith to make my own judgements.I have no computer knowledge although when I started on a computer course at Harwell I seem to remember learning Cobol & Algol (?).The print outs were in the form of punched tickertape.I gave up because programming was not for me.Its therefore difficult to make informed judgements.

However,many years of living have taught me three things:

1.Coverups,greed & duplicity and plain stupidity are not uncommon in the higher eschelons in normal times.I have learnt to take almost every authoritarian prouncement with a pinch of salt...not just YK2 statements.Personally I'm not into conspiracy theories as it seems that incompetance is often a cause of events.

2.When the chips are down the only person you can rely on is yourself or family. 3.Toast usually lands butter side- down on the floor !

If it is important to be labelled(why?)I guess prudent would be a good description for many of us doomsters/survivalists.I don't want to see my family suffer if it can be prevented by preparation.

If everything switches over with minimal disruption,I'll be on that plane to the party with the biggest smile you have ever seen and smoked duck,rice & beans in my suitcase!!


-- Chris (, March 14, 1999.

That's your BIG problem Flint:-

"For each item, I question:

who said it

what their motivations might be

what might be left out or glossed over

who is selling what and how

how much real research went into a statement

what level of detail is provided

whether this is a statement of observed current conditions or a projection about possible future conditions

how well this statement agrees with other material on the same immediate topic

whether the statement is susceptible to multiple interpretations and what these might be

To what degree will reported noncompliance reduce actual operational functionality of the organization if not fixed

, etc."

No offence intended BUT...

You over-analyze everything, you over-analyze up the kazoo, you miss the big picture as well as the simple truth every time because of this character flaw (in everybody except Sherlock Holmes ), you do not trust your gut or intuition, you will STILL be over-analyzing this on New Years' Eve - guaranteed.

I think we've got past the analysis stage by now, nothing is gonna change what is going to happen WORLDWIDE.

It's a done deal. 150 working days to go.

But hey, Mexico's ready!!!


Agree with you 100% on your P.S. paragraph :)

-- Andy (, March 14, 1999.


I think you may have hit on something important here. When I first became aware of y2k, my gut was a lot bigger than my head. This is no longer the case - my appetite has suffered during the last two years.

Gotta work on this, somehow.

-- Flint (, March 14, 1999.

Andy --- Let's see, suppose Flint really IS Sherlock Holmes. That makes Chris, Watson and you or me Moriarty. No, phew: MILNE is Moriarty. ;-)

To you sourpusses on the forum, I'm just JOKING!

Now, who is Inspector Clouseau ..... (that's too easy).

-- BigDog (, March 14, 1999.

Flint, as I said in a post to you the other day, I enjoy your posts because they make me think. Whether or not I agree with you is a moot point. It is far more important to be able to listen to arguments from 'the other side' and assimilate the information. Who knows. they may well change the skew we all put on our opinions.

Regarding consipiracy, the NWO, etc. I do not believe that Clinton, FEMA, et al. have the competence (either mentally or as a beauracrat) to stage such a potentially overwhelming situation. What I do think they are capable of is manipulating the media and spin so that; 1. they don't resemble the fools they seem to be currently; 2.take advantage of a situation to increase their hold on power; 3. Increase 'Big Brotherhood' (and I don't mean the kind where you pick the kid up on Saturday).

I agree with you that the situation is not a result of a 'conspiracy' but I do think that the entrenched powers that be are not above feathering their own nests by utilizing a situation . Too much incompetence, mismanagement and just general stupidity to be otherwise.

-- Lobo (, March 14, 1999.


After he'd been in office for about a year, Kennedy was asked what was most different from what he expected, about being President.

Kennedy replied that his biggest surprise was the vast difference between how easy it was to give an order, and how difficult it was to get that order carried out. Executive orders vanished into a fog of resistance and reinterpretation.

The 'government' consists of millions of people. They compete with one another in countless ways for countless reasons. Any 'secret' policy someone disagrees with will leak immediately. The government is full of informers (called 'spies' if foreign governments pay for the information). The whole idea of the government maintaining any broad-scale conspiracy for more than a few hours is ludicrous. Was it Ben Franklin who said three people can keep a secret only if two of them are dead?

-- Flint (, March 14, 1999.


(Hypothetical question), Is that why the doom and conspiracy people attribute over 90 deaths to Clinton? (I'm joking)..

-- Lobo (, March 14, 1999.

I've been out of town since Wednesday, just catching up.

Flint, I stand corrected on your confidence in government and media. Consider this revision of the statement of mine that you found "wrongheaded":

"Persons aware of Y2K, who trust governmental and media statements implicitly, are hardly motivated to waste their time here debating questions already authoritatively defined as settled."
My point was only this, that this forum selects such persons out, and others, with other characteristics, in. One of which might be reliance on the adage, "Never trust a rumor until it has been officially denied." Which I thought might have some bearing on your question.

Flint: "Basically, what I'm saying is that the acceptance criteria for y2k material, used by many in this group, are not applied evenly. I do my best (such as it is) to apply the same criteria to reports of both good and bad news.

You list good criteria for doing this. Is there good news? Is there bad news? Was it Infomagic who wrote this?: "The good news is that the U.S. is way ahead of the rest of the world. The bad news is that the U.S. is way ahead of the rest of the world." The only reasonably good news I've seen lately is that the embedded chip problem seems to be less significant that it was thought to be earlier.

My daughter-in-law tells me that she is sure nothing will happen. I point out that she is uninformed. She replies, "I don't want to know about all that, I have enough to worry about already." I recommend establishing some sort of food reserve (they have three young children). She says, "I will not stockpile food." If not much happens, that family will be OK. We've got to accept that individuals differ. In this case, I'm trying hard. You might try it yourself. Individual appraisals on Y2K differ. It doesn't matter why. As someone else noted, this is not psychiatry we're doing here.

In your original thread: Where do GIs come from? you ask-- "Why is it that some people become GIs easily, and others seem so blind?"

In a subsequent post on this thread, you wrote

"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?"

It has been abundantly clear since Roman times (at least) that a sizeable portion of the population maintains only fragile links with "analysis, consistency, and critical thought." It's unlikely that this group goes unrepresented here, or anywhere.

But I'll go out on a somewhat metaphysical limb here on the more basic question, "what leads some people to embrace trouble..." Perhaps it's a rebellion against a culture that seems disempowering to many. And perhaps not....

And you continued

"Here we have a forum composed almost entirely of true believers in the coming doom."

This is so far off the mark (insofar as I have read this forum) that it brings into question either your intelligence or your sincerity. Given that appraisal of what you've encountered here, your persistent return to this forum is inexplicable.

As a remedial exercise for newcomers here, I've copied a few items from Daniel Drasin's HOW TO DEBUNK JUST ABOUT ANYTHING-- (quoted here for educational purposes only):

"State categorically that the unconventional [read: concern for Y2K disruptions] arises exclusively from the 'will to believe' and may be dismissed as, at best, an honest misinterpretation of the conventional."

"In any case, imply that proof precedes evidence. This will eliminate the possibility of initiating any meaningful process of investigation, particularly if no criteria of proof have yet been established for the phenomenon in question."

"Although science is not supposed to tolerate vague or double standards, always insist that unconventional phenomena [read: concern for Y2K disruptions] must be judged by a separate, yet ill-defined, set of scientific rules. Do this by declaring that 'extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence' but take care never to define where the 'ordinary' ends and the 'extraordinary' begins. This will allow you to manufacture an infinitely receding evidential horizon, i.e., to define 'extraordinary' evidence as that which lies just out of reach at any point in time."

"Practice debunkery-by-association. Lump together all phenomena popularly deemed paranormal [read: expressions of concern for Y2K disruptions] and suggest that their proponents and researchers speak with a single voice."

"Imply that investigators of the unorthodox [read: those anticipating Y2K disruptions] are zealots. Suggest that in order to investigate the existence of something one must first believe in it absolutely. Then demand that all such 'true believers' know all the answers to their most puzzling questions in complete detail ahead of time. [....] Carefully sidestep the fact that science is not about believing or disbelieving, but about finding out."

"Remember that you can easily appear to refute anyone's claims by building 'straw men' to demolish. One way to do this is to misquote them while preserving that convincing grain of truth; for example, by acting as if they have intended the extreme of any position they've taken."

You also wrote

"I'm addressing the question of how we individually decide how badly [the code] is and will remain broken, when we're faced with an overwhelming morass of conflicting information."

For my part, I haven't encountered this "morass of conflicting information." There seems to be ample reason to expect some failures to occur in applications and infrastructure. Those who advance this view are generally proficient in the fields they comment on, and present persuasive technical details to support it. This I consider to be information, which I haven't the competence to dispute. Those who do dispute these expectations seem never to use technical details in making their case, and often appear to have a vested interest in downplaying the risks ahead. This is information of a sort, but not useful.

What I find instead is great uncertainty as to details of possible failures, and as to their location, extent and consequences. Pascal's Wager, suitably modified for this situation, still seems a rational basis for action. So I am trying to prepare, insofar as I am able, for something well short of TEOTWAKI, say 3 months of uncertain food supplies and unreliable electric power. Since I can't prepare for a 10-year depression, I'm not going to try. For all I know it may not be that bad. For all I know it may be far worse.

There will be folks reading this who think I'm a foolish optimist. There will be others who'll cast me as a prophet of doom. And still others in between. This is a forum, not a choir.

Flint, I don't think you're wrongheaded. I think you're dealing with your own apprehensions in one of many possible ways. I am too.

But this isn't psychiatry, so it's OK.

-- Tom Carey (, March 15, 1999.

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