Robert Theobald: reflections on the evolving Y2K debate: beyond Y2K fatigue : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Futurist Robert Theobald speaks from a perspective similar to that of Doug Carmicheal and Meg Wheatley. His latest:


I have had the opportunity to attend a large number of Y2K events in Australia. The overall reaction clearly is that this is the time to look at the broader issues and desired futures. It is the time to push trends which are already emerging in the culture. This pattern has led to the following musings which I hope may be useful.

I want to share some emerging thoughts with you about Y2K and the confusion I think we are feeling. I don't think that there is anything very new here but I do think that some of the language and its brevity may be helpful.

The initial Y2K issue was how much we could fix the bug: the hope was that it would be possible to limit the damage so that there would be at worst a bump in the road.

As community people realised that it was almost inevitable that there would indeed be a bump in the road, then it became obvious that there was a need for preparedness. The model that developed proposed that people should stock food and water for a given number of days. There are also suggestions for preparing for interruptions in energy and money supply, etc.

This fell easily into parallels with disaster preparation. The work that is going is obviously useful for people have indeed become far too casual about what might go wrong and what they need to have available to them if there are disasters e.g in ice-storms, high winds, electricity and gas failures etc. This model assumes that there will be a short period of major disruption and that realities will then go back to their previous shape.

It seems to me, however, that the debate has moved on. The people who I respect are arguing that while there may be short-run dangers, the real issues are far more complex. They believe that the overall industrial system is dangerously stressed. They think that if things do go wrong, breakdowns will take place over time and will damage the infrastructure on which we have come to rely in unexpected and unpredictable ways.

If this is the case, we need a second level of preparation which is quite different in nature. The best way I have so far found to get at this is to provide a parallel with attitudes to the human body. One could not live well if one spent one's whole time worrying about all of the diseases one can possibly catch. One needs to have a general awareness of one's body and to be aware of specific dangers which come from one's specific circumstances but the most important goal is to build one's health and immune system.

At the present time, it seems to me that we are greatly in danger of asking people to try to understand all the possible breakdowns which could emerge from Y2K. This is leading to "Y2K fatigue" as people find that they are getting whiplashed by contradictory experiences. I am convinced that we need to help them to see that there is an overall set of responses which are relevant and which we have aimed to evoke by the term resilience.

People will only see the need for resilience if they tackle the Y2K crisis at a deep level where they understand that it is challenging the core of the beliefs that we have used to shape our realities in the twentieth century. They will then move on to see that we are indeed being forced to develop a new set of understandings and beliefs.

Y2K is indeed a catalyst and an opportunity. But it cannot operate in this way unless we enable people to approach it from a values and spiritual base.

What does this mean in specific terms. It means that we must affirm the need for preparedness as there will necessarily be times when families and neighborhoods will need to support themselves. But preparedness is not particularly a Y2K issue. Rather it is part of an overall failure to grasp the reality that the challenge in any culture is to deal with failures as they occur rather than to believe that all failures can be avoided. It is part of the needed shift to recognizing that mistakes are part of life and are learning potentials but only if they are admitted rather than denied.

The real Y2K challenge is to see it as the forerunner of massive changes in the 21st century. Our future goals must be quite different than those of the past. We need to state clearly that human survival requires a profound shift from a quantity of goods to a quality of life orientation. It demands that we commit to social cohesion, ecological integrity and effective decision-making. It demands that we live on the basis of positive values. It requires that we move from mechanical to organic metaphors.

(To gain further perspective please check out

Blessings and Peace,


-- Hallyx (, March 16, 1999


In the US, this translates into two concepts:


Sub-optimal outcomes happen without someone being at fault.

Sadly, neither concept has a place in our society as configured, or as imaged by the PTB. Equally sadly, many of the institutions in this country are busy working on reducing the level of consequences for any number of things which should be in the realm of "Personal responsibility" which is a concept that goes hand in hand with the first, and may or may not contribute to the second.

In many cases, the PTB are actively trying to eradicate "personal responsibility," witness the "study" which suggests (editorial license) a link between 3rd trimester smoking and male violent crime commission. I would dearly like to see the controls on this soi disant "study," to see what variables were controled out, so I could see why my two brothers, a brother in law, four cousins, and I do not fit the "study."

Whups! Not too PC! We're supposed to be anti-smoking! (errr - well, until it comes to the money from Big Tobac!!!) Well, I am. I quit 5.25 years ago. My sister-in-law wrote her MSN dissertation on how an RN should assist in the effort to stop. (Patricia Rienzo, in case you want to look it up


This is almost a crystal clear atempt to give the miscreants an out. Now, instead of the very tired, "It's my en-vire-run-ment that made me do it." (a new variant on the old "The Devil made me do it!"), the perp can claim his mom smoked, and he should be let off to sue Big Tabac for millions.


{\/ off soapbox}

Chuck, who hopes the link and teh html worked and the above isn't a mass of gibberish (errrr at least no more uninteligible than normal G,D,&R)

-- Chuck, a night driver (, March 16, 1999.

Chuck --- You are so right. Unfortunately, I don't think we have the presuppositions in place any longer for the approach in this thread (prococative post, Hallyx, thanks). Or, at least not in the early years post-Y2K.

I foresee a weird combination of big-time blame game mixed with legislated litigation limitations, but even stronger victimization routines. Bad.

-- BigDog (, March 16, 1999.

Hallyx, This is a very insightful post.

Chuck & Big Dog, your answers are most poignant.

We are on the threshold of traumatic changes in peoples' perspectives.

Thanks folks,

-- Watchful (, March 16, 1999.

Yeah BD. I think you and Chuck are right. Remember that Doug and Robert (and Meg, too, I think) have been at this "new paradigm" pitch longer than they, or even most of us, have been Y2K aware. They are among many "communitarian" newbies to this silly glitch game. But their perspective is valuable in assessing sociological evolution in the face of traumatic, or at least radical, changes---which is both their focus and their point.

I don't think there should be conflict between personal responsibility and personal liberty. But as long as the former is missing, the latter must be tempered by social dictum. Only when the social dictators go beyond their mandate do some people feel restricted.

On the other hand, many of those same people, including the fictitious people called corporations, neglect their responsibility toward society and, by so doing, invite restriction by their collective peers, as represented by the government.

As an individualistic American of the old school, I am deeply conflicted by this, and by the trend toward collectivisation and socialism. Still, I recognise that many ways of thinking, of believing and of apprehending this world are no longer feasible or sustainable, if ever they were. We might consider ourselves lucky if Y2K is all it takes to effect a "traumatic changes in peoples' perspectives." Unlearned now, these lessons may be taught again---and at much greater cost.


"The Corporation is an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility."---Ambrose Pierce

-- Hallyx (, March 16, 1999.

Thanks Hallyx,

Time for all of us to rethink Y2Ks greater lessons. At least, for those not encouraged to play brain-dead.

Diane, tired of "Y2K fatigue" and spin

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

***"What does this mean in specific terms. It means that we must affirm the need for preparedness as there will necessarily be times when families and neighborhoods will need to support themselves. But preparedness is not particularly a Y2K issue. Rather it is part of an overall failure to grasp the reality that the challenge in any culture is to deal with failures as they occur rather than to believe that all failures can be avoided. It is part of the needed shift to recognizing that mistakes are part of life and are learning potentials but only if they are admitted rather than denied."***

Thanks Hal,...Good to see you still alive and kicking! I find the above paragraph of some interest. Among many people of my acquaintance the unwillingness to accept that problems such as, Y2K, could necessitate a need to prepare for self-sufficiency, their neon-studded unconsciousness, abounds and troubles me greatly. I knock the side of my head with the heel of my hand, thinking, "where are their brains? Have they no understand of the history of human beings on the planet? The vagaries of human existence?" The unconsciousness, zombieness, moreover, the longing for unconsciousness, is to me the glaring problem. And when all the changes roll over The Insistent Unconscious like gale-force winds, that will be when we'll see catastrophe unparalleled in history. Grab your helmets, friends, and strap in!

(Aside to Chuck,...mouth agape here at the ridiculous news on violent sons coming from smoking mothers! Logical fallacy masquerading as valid research...and do we know what The Unconscious do when someone spins "valid research" at their sleepy little heads? You bet we do...!)

Got No Doz?

-- Donna Barthuley (, March 16, 1999.

A very odd thing happened to me just now, as I was re-reading the initial post here. I had my hand on the mouse, but the cursor was in the text. I must have clicked the mouse -- for suddenly another web page opened. Went back to this page -- nope, there aren't any links anywhere near where I was.

The page that opened is International Symposium on Electronic Arts 1995 -- Keynote Address -- Thursday 21 September 1995

I flipped back to the upstart page and looked thru it. It is (in part) a very thorough account of the origin and development of the Internet. It continues with a deep analysis of the possible and/or likely consequences to be expected from the ongoing engagement of world society with the Internet. This particular clip caught my eye:

We have in our hands a tool unlike any other; over the last four years Ive made a dedicated study of its nature and powers. These are dangerous waters; the unification of art and science, while noble, is unspeakably dangerous; Pandoras box opened, we have no choice but to deal with the plagues released.
Seems to me that Y2K in all its opaque potentials for risk and loss and reconstruction is well characterized here.

Over and above that, I think the whole piece is much to the point and relevant to this thread.

-- Tom Carey (, March 16, 1999.

Without core infrastructure usability running at nearly 100%, the only real social reality we all are going to have to get used to is Famine and Plague.

-- Mitchell Barnes (, March 16, 1999.

Mitchell's point, if I really get it, is quite OT. Beyond a certain point, there will be little time or energy to waste on litigation or victimization!

Hallyx -- your post with Chuck's is insightful and, in its way, as bleak as the Y2K problem itself. We live NOW with the results of earlier unintended consequences which have wrenched out of our culture the "American tradition." The tradition AS A TRADITION is dead, though embers are everywhere and I am faintly optimistic they could be fanned into flame again. But it will take new Madisons, Jeffersons, Washingtons and Lincolns. They are in even shorter supply these days than generators, last I checked.

-- BigDog (, March 16, 1999.

Hallyx: Thanks for the post and this interesting thread. You were missed. Please don't be a stranger.

-- Rob Michaels (, March 16, 1999.

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