The Panic-Preparation Riddle: Your Opinion? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Shimrod made a post on Ed Yourdon's "Y2K and the Year of Living Dangerously" thread that got me going on something OT to that thread but worth a few cents, maybe. I'll copy most of my response to him:

"Your comment about supply chain illustrates the lack of integrity to the three day preparation mantra. The claim is that "panic" would be self-fulfilling. Maybe. We don't know, do we? We do know that you can't ramp up the JIT system unless you can forecast demand: effectively. Koskinen and the PR machine is suppressing demand.

Even today, what would most likely happen if the truth were told?

The market would plunge 1,500 points over a couple of weeks and then (I think) stablize for the next four or five months. An initial crazy wave of panic would be exchanged for thousands of valuable media pieces EXPLAINING how to prepare (including how to do all the old-fashioned stuff that doesn't take much money). Families, neighbors and communities would begin to do REAL planning and sharing of skills and what was available.

And, IMO, 90% of our citizens would recognize the simple reality that prep supplies are bound to be tight for the rest of this year and (WOW) adjust.

RIDDLE ME THIS: how is it that the same populace that the government says can handle whatever happens next year with no sweat can't be trusted to handle reasonable preparation ahead of time?"

Ironically, the powers-that-be have traded a Y2K bump NOW, at a time when panic, if it happened (and that is only a supposition) CAN be controlled, because Y2K impact is still in the future, against a bad Y2K crash later, when it can't.

-- BigDog (, March 24, 1999


They want the public to feel good about the gub'ment having all power over them!

-- linda (, March 24, 1999.

Big Dog,

Purturbing riddle.

Aren't most folks bowing to tyranny in exchange for "being cared for"?

Wouldn't "here are the facts; now take care of yourself" dispel the illusion that gub'mint cares or is capable?

Since tyranny can only grow to the extent that folks submit to it, why not just leave them ignorant until troubles occur?

Then hit them with more edicts for "the gud uv the peepull"!

-- Watchful (, March 24, 1999.

BigDog: Aren't you glad you figured the riddle out before all TSHTF? A lot of people are going to be immobilized when they are told your on your own (we've been told that and have taken it to heart). Face it, people like to be taken care of, it makes them feel secure. Even if 50% of the people started packing it away, it would still be too late because there's not enough goods to go around and people don't have the extra money to spend. We have done it over a period of many months, those soon to be GIs don't have that luxury, time is of the essence. One more thing, how will people be able to store hundreds of gallons of water in a very short period of time when it has taken me many, many months? My sister has been at it as long as I have and she realizes that she does not have enough water. There's going to be a multitude of people that will be SOL.

-- bardou (, March 24, 1999.

Big Dog, I agree with you entirely about what would happen if the people were told the truth. People could actually PREPARE. You'd still have a small % that would be in denial, but that's human nature. I'm so tired of hearing people say, "I know Y2K is going to be a disaster, but there's nothing I can do about it, so I'm not going to worry," which to me is just another way of saying, "I don't believe it's really going to be bad enough to demand my attention." If people not only knew the truth about Y2K, but were also given ways to start preparing, maybe this country could pull together and cushion ourselves for the shock that's going to come.


-- jhollander (, March 24, 1999.

The govt wants the programmers to keep cranking out code as long as possible.

-- dave (, March 24, 1999.

bardou --- one very real possibility is that the gov agrees with you and has decided that it is too late to AVOID millions of people having their lives put at risk. Fix on failure.

I believe the answer to the riddle is that, just as we view the government/media as a bunch of idiots, they view us, citizens, likewise. And (I'll whisper this) ... both sides are largely correct.

Y2K exposes the profound lack of trust that has built up gradually for the past 40 years.

-- BigDog (, March 24, 1999.

Big Dog: How long will it take to fix on failure?

-- bardou (, March 24, 1999.

The government and most people in it stink. That's why. They've proven themselves #$@^&%$'s over and over again, why should Y2K be any different?

By the same token, most people *out* of government stink, too. Americans have been fed (and willingly swallowed) such a huge ration of s*** via the mass media for so many years that the majority have become dissipate, sick and venal to a greater or lesser degree.

Despite the efforts of what good men are left in this country, it's unraveling.

-- sparks (, March 24, 1999.

bardou --- assume you're asking seriously? IMO, two years to restore reliable-enough national infrastructure; five years to return to 1999 levels. But it will be weird and locally variant, with some aspects of infrastructure working to 1999 level by 2001, others not until 2005 or even later.

-- BigDog (, March 24, 1999.

I think I read/heard somewhere that the executive powers that launch FEMA as being in control of "supplies and processes" does not come into play until a disaster actually happens.

Telling the people the truth now will: 1) cause an intitial panic at the supermarkets, etc. 2) will push the prices of certain goods, like toilet paper, over the top, due to supply and demand; 3) will escalate the number of opportunists selling #10 cans of gawd-awful stuff; 4) will cause the stockmarket, banks, and durable goods markets to crash.

By waiting until the "disaster" has actually occurred, the gov't is thereby empowered to prevent any and all of the above, by rationing, anti-hoarding laws, price control, and closing the banks and the stock market.

Otherwise, they don't have any power....they have to wait for the disaster to happen....


-- Mary (, March 24, 1999.

Big Dog:

I've given this riddle some thought as well, and I started some guessing about it in another thread.

In the old days when motorcycles had terrible brakes, it was considered advisable practice to 'lay it down' if necessary to avoid an accident. The rider needed to decide if the *guaranteed* damage and probable injury of laying it down would be a good tradeoff against the likely damage and injury of a worse accident.

I think some such calculation is going on in some government circles. While I think there's considerable doubt as to whether our economy can boost production of suitable supplies enough to support universal preparation at a safe level, there is no doubt that an effort at such preparation will cause real economic dislocations.

Whether this guaranteed dislocation would cause more public hardship in the long run than the actual y2k bugs is a tough call. We can model the impact of universal preparations pretty damn well. We can't even begin to model the impact of the bugs usefully -- estimates continue to range from "nobody will even notice" to 90% of people in the world croaking. Clearly, any such model will do no more than reflect arbitrary assumptions.

And this being the case, modeling varying 'public impact' resulting from varying preparation levels becomes hopeless. A pure crapshoot. We can't really address questions like: "To what degree will individual preparation reduce initial national impact, or speed national recovery?"

So I think we're looking at what amounts to a dead reckoning process without data, on the government's part. If I had to summarize it, it would be something like this: "We know that economic dislocation is bad for most people. We know if there are real problems, being unprepared is bad for most people. Maybe if we recommend just a *little* preparation, we can minimize economic impact while also minimizing direct bug-induced hardship."

Think of it as a saddle point problem.

-- Flint (, March 24, 1999.

Flint - I think you've got it about right - viewed as a no-win situation by a leadership that is psychologically incapable of dealing with no-win situations their only choice is to fudge both ways in a vain attempt to somehow be able to claim victory no matter what happens.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, March 24, 1999.


Even setting real political goals aside, the issue remains difficult. If you were in charge, and really had NO clear idea if that barrier up ahead was a brick wall or a big pillow or maybe even an illusion, would *you* advise the public to lay it down?

I know most of us here expect very serious difficulties. But many knowledgeable, experienced people disagree (did you see that long post from Computer Pro in the Yourdon essay thread?). And we have passed spike dates with no public impact, and the Euro wasn't even a pale shadow of what Capers Jones predicted. Our worried ranks contain one famous programmer, one famous economist, one loony historian, and one journalist. We are seriously outnumbered by informed optimists. And most of us aren't willing to guarantee disaster, our focus is to prepare for it just in case, and hope it doesn't come to pass.

In this light, there is a very genuine risk that urging public preparation for a month or two will prove to be a cure far worse than the disease would have been. Even in a no-win situation, one approach is sure to minimize the losses. But which one?

-- Flint (, March 24, 1999.

Since alot of our politicians are lawyers they have seen people at their worst and very possibly have a cynical attitude about 'the people' they are elected to 'serve'. The main agenda for them is power, which here has alot to do with controlling money and people. Lawyers are also pragmatic to a fault (if one could be so kind as to call it a fault and not something worse).

1) They know that people tend to over react to bad news/disaster news.

2) They know that if people panic and go grabbing for food and supplies that this will become a self reinforcing situation - it will simply get worse and worse until anarchy breaks out, which they can not allow to happen.

3) They know that government intervention to control anarchy is inevitable.

4) The only thing they can really do is buy time.

5) That is what they are doing.

6) They are planning on shutting the 'comsumer economy' down and replacing it with a 'state economy' and rationing where the government is in control of distribution.

7) They believe this is the only way to make sure that everyone at least gets fed.

At least that is my read on this situation. I could be wrong. They could possibly have not gotten this far in thier thinking/planning. In which case they are bumbling along just as stupidly as the rest of the country.

Anarchy is the worst situation. IMHO even bad government is better than anarchy. Ask any Ugandan or Rwuandan.

-- David (ConnectingDots@Information.Net), March 25, 1999.

David --- Yeah, the problem is we don't know what the gov really thinks about Y2K impacts. My gut feeling from the published CIA/NSA briefings to Congress is that they may not know much but they fear plenty. While Slick is amoral enough to do anything, his passivity and reactive nature may mean that they're taking the position of hoping things work out (a la Flint's post).

Again, a lot depends on what the private, strictly confidential briefings are telling them. You can darn betcha they're hearing reports of Y2K progress/regress that we're not, ESPECIALLY military and banking ......

-- BigDog (, March 25, 1999.

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