Note from a friend, re: denial and the media : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From an ongoing Y2K discussion with a friend:

[Said I]

"I mean that at the highest levels, the most Real of the dangers of Y2K is ....... a massive loss of faith in "the system". ....the system that gives us our position."

[To which he responded]

Yeah, I see that. Another layer of onion skin just fell off my eyes. Thanks.

It connects with some other first hand experiences you might find interesting.

I play men's hockey with a couple of guys who are 'senior policy advisors' to the prime minister of Canada. Another guy on the team is the scion of a multi-billion dollar beer fortune.

We talk about all of these things, and it is very clear that these people _believe_ that the 'system' is perfect, and will correct and fix any malfunctions.

But you can clearly see 'fear' about anything that might disrupt the system. I mentioned about a month ago (to them) that the American Petroleum Association figures show that, for the first time, the oil pumped out of the ground in about 2010 will be less than the oil pumped out in 2009, and that a long, slow slide will begin.

The extreme denial-fest was stunning. They were literally startled out of their chairs, looked at me askance, Everybody spouted some fact or other and immediately agreed that oil was virtually limitless, and that I was crazy.

Anyway, I see no evidence that anyone at the highest levels 'knows' that the system is screwed. What I see is a bunch of guys who are at the top _because_ they are the most avid 'believers' in the systerm.

I've never bought the whole idea that corporations control what gets printed in the media overtly. The image of some back room person saying, 'that gets printed, bury that story, etc etc etc' just doesn't jive with my own experience. But I see now how it works.

Because the only people who make it to the 'top' or the corporate world are true 'believers' over time they hire people they are 'comfortable' with. Meaning people who 'think' the way they do. And those people hire more people who 'think' the way they do, etc etc etc. Slowly but surely, the entire media is drained of anyone who can 'think' at all! It really is horrifying, isn't it?

This is what I see with my own two eyes after getting some people at the 'highest levels' quite drunk and bringing up some topics of conversation.


"The basis of optimism is sheer terror."---Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray)

-- Hallyx (, April 13, 1999



Thanks for the post.

It's well known in the petroleum industry that the supply of oil is finite. How finite is up for conjecture and is, of course, a variable of usage, but most estimates are between 30-100 yrs. That is not to say however, that a "long slide downward" is inevitable since there are other possible power sources...deep natural gas, methane, solar, etc. It's a case of economics again and a lack of forward thinking or planning. In the early 80's oil was projected to hit $50-60 a barrel and during that time you saw exploration of other energy sources. For instance, Robert Hefner's expensive foray into the Andarko Basin drilling 40,000 deep wells for gas. Some geologists have theorized that there's an "almost" inexhaustible supply of natural gas deep in the earth's's just extracting it that is problematic.

It would seem possible that if solar energy was more affordable to obtain that could power much of our needs. However, I think you hit the nail right on the head by recognizing the need for those at the top or near the top to keep the status quo rolling along until crisis time. But is solar energy too decentralized if panels were more affordable? I don't know that much about solar power but it seems that utilities would be big losers on that one.

-- Texan (, April 13, 1999.


Exactly. This is what I call "accidental conspiracies." They aren't 'real' conspiracies -- no big group could be that all-pervasive or organized. It's when human nature is the predictable factor, and because most all the people in any grouping behave predictably, certain end-results are also predictable, or unavoidable. And because attitude and behavior "rolls downhill" just like other things (especially noticeable with CEOs and their results), those people in charge of XYZ will hire others they relate to, only the people they relate to will tend to get promoted, and they themselves will eventually be promoted if they 'relate to' somebody above them. It only takes a few generations before this "idealism-as- nepotism" displays a repetitive profile through every person in the system, and every process and end-result. And then, somebody says, "Our media is not free." And before we argue, we have to remember that the same people on the board of directors of many government agencies, health agencies, every type of media, etc. are either the same people, or spouses, children, relatives of those people. They all think alive, they all have ties together. They all operate in tandem with the stated "idealism" of the person at the very top. Not because they're in cahoots to do anything else in, just because they naturally are drawn to agree and behave that way.

I don't know who said this, but one of my favorite quotes is:

Government is like some hideous plastic contrivance. Shape it any way you want, but relax for a minute and it snaps back into ancient forms.

Kinda sums things up here doesn't it. :-)

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (, April 13, 1999.

Hal, others, thanks for posting your experience and thoughts. Fascinating.

-- Old Git (, April 13, 1999.

Hallyx: We have both touched on aspects of this before, though I do not remember the thread(s). Anyway, it's part of human nature to discount any information that does not fit in with our current beliefs. So as 'believers', they are acting in accordance with human nature and responding from inside the box. This lends credence to the following fundamental theorem of Information Theory:

The value of any information is directly proportional to its improbability.

-- Rob Michaels (, April 13, 1999.

"it's part of human nature to discount any information that does not fit in with our current beliefs"

Amen, Rob. It's very hard to find a polite way to apply this truism to ourselves. I was amused by the observation that Beach's confusing article (which accorded with the observer's preferences) was "gracious" and that all of us who do this for a living and disagreed were not only "baseless, condescending and arrogant" but that this discription was regarded as a "self-evident truth"!

Nothing is quite so reasonable as a shared prejudice.

-- Flint (, April 13, 1999.

Mavericks, in any business setting, are almost always "discouraged."

Until, they make lots of money. Then they're called entrepreneurs. And corporations will pay top dollar to send their managers to workshops, seminars and even Business School at night to learn the secrets of entrepreneurism.

So then these employees are encouraged to think outside the box ... sort of ... while putting up up the prevailing culture, inside it.

The smart ones leave, and start their own mindset, uh, company.

And so it growths ... again.

Its hard to NOT be normal in this world.


-- Diane J. Squire (, April 13, 1999.

Hallyx, I puzzled for years about this in the corporation I work for. It did not make sense until I read Virus of the Mind. Now what happens at work still doesn't make sense but I understand why and how it happens. I now can choose which mind virus I want to be infected with. J.

-- JES (, April 13, 1999.

Guy by the last name of Janis did some interesting psychological work in the early 80's on a phenomena he called "groupthink"...that when we are in groups we *perceive* to be highly cohesive (ie: we think alike, have the same opinions, are of the "same mind" etc) we THINK as a group, often with disastrous results. The reason is because most humans are loathe to swim against the tide, to go against the prevailing thought, idea, opinion, or attitude. He was the psychologist brought in to try to figure out WHY almost every engineer working on the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 KNEW there were problems with the shuttle, but not one of them raised even a tiny stink, though individually and privately each one of them admitted to grave misgivings. They were an especially cohesive group and got along with each other famously. Each one was afraid to break this social happiness of sorts.

(Did a paper on it in college. Hey some of that stuff comes in handy????? ;)

-- Preparing (, April 13, 1999.

Thanks, OG, but it was my friend's observation and experience--which, of course, jibes with mine and many others here. Kinda proves our point about birds-of-a-feather, doesn't it Rob?

It also explains the 'personality' of a corporation. Having worked at many different an engineering contractor, I've observed that each seems to have certain differentiating characteristics, usually devolving from upper management. Some are serene and polite; others are confrontational and rude.

The FAA seems to have a culture of ineptness; the IRS an authoritarian feel. I'm sure you would be able to sense the difference between the Village Voice and the New York Times just by walking in the door.

Thanks for the elaboration and insight, friends. I'm sure my friend will enjoy this thread when I pass it along to him.


"That millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make those people sane."---Eric Fromm

-- Hallyx (, April 13, 1999.

One reason for the hockey guys' skepticism, if they are well-informed, could be the result of this famous bet on the potential of techno-capitalism to stay ahead of the Malthusian curve...


In 1980, economist Julian Simon and population critic Paul Ehrlich decided to put their money where their predictions were. Ehrlich had been predicting massive shortages in various natural resources for decades, while Simon claimed natural resources were infinite.

-- Runway Cat (, April 13, 1999.


-- Ct Vronsky (, April 13, 1999.


Welcome back. Where ya been Buddy?


-- Hallyx (, April 13, 1999.

This is great! Hallyx and RC, I am so happy tonight to see you both posting again, and on such an interesting thread. Hopefully there are more good contributions to come, let's see where the thread goes.

Flint: Yeah, I read that 16 page Secondary Clocks report but almost all of my IT experience is in SW - I know just enough about HW to be dangerous :) and so have just watched and tried to figure out what makes sense. Your point though is well made.

-- Rob Michaels (, April 13, 1999.

Hey Preparing, interesting synchronicity here. I just happened to have lectured today on the shuttle Challenger disaster in my business class. I talked about the Groupthink aspect but focused mostly on a phenomena called Escalation of Commitment, that is--why is it people and orgnanizations throw more time and money at current courses of actions that can be seen to be poor investments, or why people generate more rationales to support ideas that realistically should be abondoned. Among some of the factors I described were: 1- having misprioritized goals---focusing more on meeting the ambitious launch schdules than on maintaining the highest reasonable safety standards; 2- a reward system that favors staying the course---there was a mighty big carrot in terms of congressional funding that biased launch decision-making. Similarly with y2k companies are rewarded for downplaying non-compliance fears because their stockprices would otherwise fall, customers might leave them, their reputation would be damaged, etc.; 3- organizational politics and culture influences---"don't question the execs or managers who claim a failure probability of only 1 in 100,000 launches" (the engineers were suggesting a 1 in 100 probability), and don't forget that NASA has the best and brightest of "can do" high-frontier magi ("IT won't fail because WE can't fail") (and the Titanic can't sink either, right?); 4- there's also public expectations for solving the problem---"we won't let you down" says NASA and the government, an attitude that doesn't permit serious doubt or reservations; 5- then of course there's the political pressure, as mentioned above, the need to fulfill the promises and commitments made to congress that were necessary to encourage continued attractive funding rates for NASA's manned missions and the space station; 5- finally there wasn't negative feedback about the decision to launch (who could say for sure that there was a problem?) and besides, it wasn't uncommon for there to be problems with rockets but that still succeeded in their missions, so supposedly there's a tolerance for engineering or mechanical problems. A lot of these same thinking biases are occurring with the y2k threat. This doesn't mean that there's going to be Challenger-like disasters all over the place. So who thinks the O-rings will hold this time? (by the way, I'm a space enthusiast and a NASA fan, but still -- let the criticism fall where it belongs).

-- bdb (, April 13, 1999.

There was dissent from the engineering team at Morton-Thiokol, but it was overridden by management, who decided to OK the Challenger launch. Roger Boisjoly, one of those engineers, has a long essay on the web: The Challenger Disaster. I quote from Section 6, in part (my emphasis added):
VI. A Management Decision Overrides a Recommendation Not to Launch

"The major activity that day focused upon the predicted 18 degrees Fahrenheit overnight temperature and meeting with engineering management to persuade them not to launch. The day concluded with the hurried preparation of fourteen viewgraphs which detailed our concerns about launching at such a low temperature. The teleconference with Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and MSFC started with a history of O-ring damage in field joints. Data was presented showing a major concern with seal resiliency and the change to the sealing timing function and the criticality of this on the ability to seal. I was asked several times during my portion of the presentation to quantify my concerns, but I said I could not since the only data I had was what I had presented and that I had been trying to get more data since last October. At this comment, the general manager of Morton Thiokol gave me a scolding look as if to say, "Why are you telling that to them?" The presentation ended with the recommendation not to launch below 53 degrees. This was not well received by NASA. The Vice President of Space Booster Programs, Joe Kilminster, was then asked by NASA for his launch decision. He said he did not recommend launching, based upon the engineering position just presented. Then Larry Mulloy of NASA (who was at KSC) asked George Hardy of NASA (who was at MSFC) for his launch decision. George responded that he was appalled at Thiokol's recommendation but said he would not launch over the contractor's objection. Then Larry Mulloy spent some time giving his interpretation of the data with his conclusion that the data presented was inconclusive.

"Just as he finished his conclusion, Joe Kilminster asked for a five minute off-line caucus to re-evaluate the data, and as soon as the mute button was pushed our general manager, Jerry Mason, said in a soft voice, "We have to make a management decision." I became furious when I heard this because I knew that an attempt would be made by management to reverse our recommendation not to launch.

"Some discussion had started between the managers when Arnie Thompson moved from his position down the table to a position in front of the managers and once again tried to explain our position by sketching the joint and discussing the problem with the seals at low temperature. Arnie stopped when he saw the unfriendly look in Mason's eyes and also realized that no one was listening to him. I then grabbed the photographic evidence showing the hot gas blow-by and placed it on the table and, somewhat angered, admonished them to look and not ignore what the photos were telling us, namely, that low temperature indeed caused more hot gas blow-by in the joints. I too received the same cold stares as Arnie with looks as if to say, "Go away and don't bother us with the facts." At that moment I felt totally helpless and felt that further argument was fruitless, so I, too, stopped pressing my case.

"What followed made me both sad and angry. The managers who were struggling to make a pro-launch list of supporting data actually supported a decision not to launch. During the closed managers' discussion, Jerry Mason asked in a low voice if he was the only one who wanted to fly. The discussion continued, then Mason turned to Bob Lund, the vice-president of engineering, and told him to take off his engineering hat and put on his management hat. The decision to launch resulted from the yes vote of only the four senior executives since the rest of us were excluded from both the final decision and the vote poll. The telecon resumed, and Joe Kilminster read the launch support rationale from a handwritten list and recommended that the launch proceed. NASA promptly accepted the recommendation to launch without any probing discussion and asked Joe to send a signed copy of the chart."

A grim example, confirming what earlier posts have noted.

-- Tom Carey (, April 14, 1999.

"Men love their ideas more than their lives. And the more preposterous the idea, the more eager they are to die for it." (Edward Abbey)

Hallyx, that was a great topic. I'm printing it for some of my friends, who are part of the business world, and who are still in the "extreme denial-fest" stage.

"A pessimist is simply an optimist in full possession of the facts." (Edward Abbey)

-- gilda jessie (, April 14, 1999.

Tom --- "We have to make a management decision." That how I know what you posted was authentic, I've heard it too many times. Lots of "management" decisions have been made about Y2K ......

-- BigDog (, April 14, 1999.

To sum it up:

"A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest..."

(Paul Simon)

-- Novacop (, April 14, 1999.

BTW in the "Credit Where Credit is Due" Dept--- that article is by PNG. cr

-- chuck, a Night Driver (, April 14, 1999.

"Thinking within a fixed circle of ideas tends to restrict the questions to a limited field. And, if one's questions stay in that limited field, so also do the answers." ~ David Bohm, Physicist

"We live our lives entirely inside an illusion--a virtual reality far more convincing than any yet created by computer. So mesmerized are we by it that we find the greatest difficulty in imagining that the world could be any other way." --David Darling, Astronomer, Writer

-- Donna Barthuley (, April 14, 1999.

>>They aren't 'real' conspiracies -- no big group could be that all-pervasive or organized.

No, not any more than a herd of sheep is "organized." But there are "shepherds" - and "dogs." The sheep are not cognizant of these entities for what they are. The sheep are only cognizant of their own impulses, and their identity with the herd. Their coming and going appears to them to be simply What The Herd Does: their own brilliant and resourceful adaptation to their surroundings.

Still less might they understand the concept of "wool," or "mutton"...


-- Dano (bookem@blacksand.srf), April 14, 1999.

Hey bdb, pretty weird! I wish I could have heard that lecture-- sounded fascinating to me....

"People only see what they are prepared to see." Emerson

-- Preparing (, April 14, 1999.

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