Y2K is not the end of the world, it's the end of an era.

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It's the end of an era powered by a massive inventory of finely honed software.

Much of the software must be discarded or rebuilt. Much of the efficiencies of today will be swept away.

But what will happen? Who loses and who wins? How many additional hours will you have to work to make up for the lost computer power? Who goes hungry?

I don't have the answers to these questions. The Pollys don't believe that these questions must be asked.

They don't believe that 30-40 years of software accomplishes anything or will break. If it does, why of course, we'll fix it in a twinkling of any eye.

If we make prudent, sensible preparations, we can minimize the effect of the disruptions.

-- cory (Kiyoinc@ibm.XOUT.net), April 29, 1999


Cory, there are not a few of us who believe that we'll experience some drastic changes in our way of life, Y2K or not. And I'm not talking about religion. But it's pretty much of a given that even if the US and other industrialized countries (with some exceptions) manage to scrape through, those underdeveloped countries whence much of our imports originate are going to have serious breakdowns.

Anyone who's been to Mexico and stayed in the local hotels (as opposed to the resorts), shopped at the local shops and dined at the local restaurants will know that the hot water sometimes goes out for weeks, that electricity is terribly unreliable, and that larger restaurants have their own generators. Do you really think that underdeveloped countries like this will weather Y2K without a problem?

Sure, we used to manufacture lots of commodities here, and we might be able to do it again. But even if the machinery can be tooled to make them (like shoes, clothing, electronics, plastics, for instance), very few people will be able to afford the price. Supply and demand, folks, supply and demand.

Better learn to live without those fabrics that require dry-cleaning. Better load up on comfortable clothing, shoes, socks and underwear, cold-weather clothing, all those things you buy with "Made in _____" (flll in the blank with China, Mexico, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Philippines, etc.).

And even if it turns out you don't need your stash because of Y2K, it's not as if you won't use all of it at some point. And you bought it at 1998/9 prices--look at all the money you'll save later. Cory, your "prudent, sensible preparations" constitute a win-win situation.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), April 29, 1999.

Hopefully, we will find that we can get along without a lot of government mandated busywork programs -- I estimate that is probably at least 30% (WAG) of software. Like the VP of Carpooling and Ridesharing for Megacorp's software.

Then, there are a lot a business programs that are done just because they can. Like 10 page phone bills for a $30 phone bill. Probably 60% (WAG) falls into that category.

Leaving 10%? (WAG=Wild Ass Guess)

-- vbProg (vbProg@MicrosoftAndIntelSuck.com), April 29, 1999.

End of an era. We can only hope. This is tax time in Canada and we can all reflect on the amount we pay the government. Add to this, property tax, gst, provincial sales tax, booze tax, cigarette tax, I guess we are lucky in Canada to keep 25% of our wages.

Fear and greed have been with us too long. I have taken the advice of the so-called experts, but since we have not been through this before, who knows what will happen? Myself, I now feel a peace since I have executed a plan. It won't be perfect, none will be. If the converted here could just act as a multilplier with others in their sphere of influence, orderly preparation could proceed, but I fear it is too late for that. I cannot provide an answer of why we have heard nothing about any foul-ups in Canada or NY State as a result of them moving into fiscal 2000. Should we expect problems in the future? If the Canadian Federal bureaucracy can avoid y2k problems, then anyone can.

Our Statistics Canada released a glowing report of how well prepared Canada is for y2k. Frankly, I think they are spreading falsehoods. It is the end of an era alright one of gross manipulation of people, markets and morality.

-- Rick (taxpayer@forrevenuecanada.ca), April 30, 1999.


Knowing Corperations these programs head the list as mission critical. :) Most people in corps, including the guys evaluating the mission critical systems are more concerned with the success of their career rather than the success of the company. And most people's careers seem to amount to "Take paper B, put in slot A, Collect payc

-- Alison Tieman (typhonblue@hotmail.com), April 30, 1999.

As a former history major, I cannot help but see parallels with the era of the fall of Rome. As the Empire got bigger and more dependent upon a multi-national economy, it became unweildy to attempt to maintain central Roman control. The more unweildy it became, the more Rome's response was to increase bureaucracy, regulation and micromanagement. The more Rome tightened its grip, the more energy was drawn away from productivity of the average, non-bureaucratic person and the creation of wealth. Finaly, the bureaucracy collapsed under its own weight.

The computer boom has supported and insulated the bureaucracy, enabling the federal government to intrude further and further into controling every aspect of our daily lives and micromanaging the economy. In my industry, computer models drive regulatory mandates and bureaucratic decisions, rather than practical, real experience. Sort of like instrument landing in an airplane without actually looking out the window.

It is interesting to me to observe that the media places so much weight on the readiness of the federal bureaucracy and the large corporations. This reflects the modern trend toward top-down command and control systems enabled by the support of computerization.

I believe we are about to face the fact in the next few months that the only effective response to any serious y2k problem will be from the "bottom-up" - through combined neighborhood and community efforts. Barring force, without the support of an effective computer information network, the federal government will be unable to "govern" and control what happens in the four corners of the US. Should that be the case, we may see a resurgence of local, regional and state collaboration instead of looking to Washington for central solutions.

-- marsh (armstrng@sisqtel.net), April 30, 1999.

Rome didn't collapse overnight, nor even in a lifetime.

Historians may argue over exactly when the rot set in, but Rome was declining by 100AD. However, it was another 200 years at least before this was very obvious and a further century before Rome was sacked.

Also many forget the more-or-less voluntary split into Eastern and Western empires. The eastern empire (based in Constantinople) survived the fall of Rome by many centuries. In terms of continuity of civilisation as opposed to continuity of religion or of rulers, it arguably never fell at all (in the sense of declining into a dark age).

Hostorians will argue about causes until the cows come home. Poor political structures were clearly one problem, and IMHO climate change was clearly another. Europe was cooling, and the Romans hadn't invented hay. Therefore, agriculture failed from the North southwards over a few hundred years, and the crumbling of the empire follows pretty much the same pattern.

There's absolutely no connection that I can see between what happened to Rome and what may happen with Y2K. The timescales are orders of magnitude different.

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), April 30, 1999.

Back to Cory's post, "many of the efficiencies of today will be swept away". Every cloud has a silver lining, and the first time I read this I thought it said "many of the inefficiencies of today will be swept away". Both are probably true.

Some organisations have used computers to become much more efficient. Others, I suspect, have used them to immovably codify ways of doing business that become ever more inappropriate with the passing of time. I can't help thinking that the ones in the former category will be the survivors (and also the ones most likely to have remediated or made workable contingency plans).

End of an era: almost certainly, but that's not necessarily all bad in the long term. We will be living in interesting times.

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), April 30, 1999.

That should have been "ever less appropriate with the passing of time". Funny how brains misfire sometimes!

-- Nigel Arnot (nra@maxwell.ph.kcl.ac.uk), April 30, 1999.

how many people will feel robbed of those convienentes and efficiencies? potential and buddha-nature not withstanding,people lash out in our society pretty quickly when deprived of their chosen pleasure and distraction.We are a soft,spoiled people with a heck of a lot of guns(I like guns,don't flame me),troubling...

-- zoobie (zoobie@zoob.zab), April 30, 1999.

Nigel - Re Rome - I was thinking of the era of Diocletian (end of 3rd cent. A.D.) In that time: (1) the edict of the ruler became law at once, without Senate sanction; (2) a managed economy was instituted with nationalization of resources, the issuance of highly detailed industry regulation and the regimentation of labor; (3) bureaucracy and taxation were increased, quashing small private industry - By 301 A.D. administrative costs were astonomical, requiring a bureaucracy of almost half the population. The state organized a special force of revenue police to examine every man's property and income. This period immediately preceded the final institutionalization of serfdom under Constantine, the final collapse of Roman England, early Viking influence and rise of Saxon forms. (Source for information is Will Durant.)

Admittedly, the specifics are slightly different, but my loose analogy was to the trend. Perhaps I will stop here before I get in over my head - lol.

-- marsh (armstrng@sisqtel.net), April 30, 1999.

Nigel & Marsh--I, too have noticed parallels between our times and the decline of the Roman Empire, but my kowledge of it is only superficial. Besides the things you mentioned, Marsh,wasn't there a problem with the Roman citizens not wanting to perform military duty resulting in an army of...how shall I say?...employees? or mercenaries? And a problem with citizens not wanting to work at their professions? That sort of thing seems to be happening in US (I don't have first hand knowledge of UK). With the HMO's and Medicare taking over medical profession, many MD's are quitting. I'm a lawyer who quit, and I know many more like me.

Roman Empire took...what?...300 years of declining before it fell apart. But things move faster now. US Republic has been in decline since FDR eroded the Constitution in the 40's.

History never exactly repeats itself, just as weather patterns are never the same twice. But the following things about US seem ominous to me: 1. erosion, salting up of top soil; declining water tables (eg Oglalla Aquifer) 2. Lack of enthusiasm of citizens for military decisions of their leaders 3. Loss of religious beliefs with nothing else to replace them 4. dependence on imported goods 5. stifling govt intervention in almost every aspect of citizens' lives 6. few consistently held moral values 7. complacency of citizens; most people believe that someone else will take care of them if they screw up; lack of personal responsibility.

The Y2K bug alone wouldn't worry me so much. It is when I take it into consideration together with everything else that I entertain the idea that we're in for some big changes in the next few years.

Personally, I would prefer to live in a world with many small, locally controlled governments rather than a few large, highly centralized ones. I am sorry to see Europe headed into centralization with EU. My feeling is that there's a slim chance of using the momentum of the changes we're going through to make things better. --GG

-- Gal Gardner (altamira@ecpi.com), April 30, 1999.


i love your WRP's, i'm a hardcopy subscriber, illegitimi non carborundum.

virtually every day i check your site for member's only info, and, yes, i'm looking for ways to help. we've got a (very) small county group going right now trying to get people to pay attention.

i don't know if you or someone else coined the term 'the hamasaki alternative,' but if you could expound on it i'd appreciate it very much. if things actually go to hell in the next 6-8 months, what do we need to be doing to speed recovery (i'm not talking re-writing code, i'm talking work-arounds, new, simpler systems, local efforts to set up viable communities).

any input from anyone would be appreciated.


-- Cowardly Lion (cl0001@hotmail.com), April 30, 1999.

me again. i forgot to mention i'm on the local library board, so i have at least *some* capacity to increase local viability/preparedness.

-- Cowardly Lion (cl0001@hotmail.com), April 30, 1999.

Re: Parallel with the Fall of Rome read the following quote, it is hanging on my office wall:

"We tried hard - but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up teams, we would be reorganized. I was too learn later in life that we tend to meet new situations by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."


-- Bill P (porterwn@one.net), April 30, 1999.

Nigel...well said.

-- PNG (png@gol.com), April 30, 1999.


The new millennium is going to be a time of great challenge and progress. In the next twenty years, computers will become even faster, smaller, and smarter, eventually culminating in real honest-to-goodness artificial intelligence.

We will colonize space. I can imagine the day -- though I doubt I'll live to see it personally -- that entire generations will have be born off-planet, and will have spent their entire lives without setting foot on Earth once.

Some of your funk derives from the realization that the old IT/IS approach is outdated methodology, headed the way of the dinosaur. The SOHO is the wave of the future. Last year alone, countless thousands of Americans declared independence from the Dilbert(tm) workplace and decided to either work at home or even start their own small home businesses. The SOHO is the fastest-growing sector of the economy.

(Virtually all of the contract programming that I've done, for example, has been from home.)

Yes, tons of old code is going to be discarded; but it SHOULD be. Too inflexible, too rigid, too unyielding. It's time to move on to bigger and better things. The days of propeller heads overseeing rooms full of humming equipment belong with the internal combustion engine (which is also headed the way of the dinosaur; it's inevitable).

In fact, I can see the day that huge factories will eventually become obsolete; maybe not for everything, but certainly for some items. One of the most fascinating aspects of our economy has been the boom in small industries -- from the local brewer who has successfully taken on Anheiser-Busch to the local leatherworker who makes a good living in the teeth of cheap goods from Taiwan and Malaysia.

Re: the comments here about the Roman Empire. I too, have thought this in the past. (In fact, I would've put us at the late Republican stage, ripe for our first Caesar, just a few years ago.) I've changed my mind. The Internet has powerfully revolutionized everything, because THE GOVERNMENT CAN'T CONTROL THE FLOW OF INFORMATION.

(When it tries, someone like a Matt Drudge comes along and throws a wrench in the works.[g] Compare this to the former Soviet Union, where mere ownership of an unlicensed mimeograph machine could win you a trip to prison.)

Note that I'm not even getting into the Y2K thing here. This is all a matter of attitude, and I'm talking about individual independence. The future looks bright to me. There will be problems, but we'll work around them.

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), April 30, 1999.

To the Lion, I'm dependent on others for information on small scale solutions. I have a prep essay from a minister that I will toss up shortly.

To CET, I like your optimism but you miss a couple items, some micro breweries are sell-outs. Sam Adams is contact-brewed "to Sam's original recipe" by mega-chem-cheap brew factories. Take some time to polish your thoughts and I'll run it as a Polly-piece in a WRP.

As before, the offer is to run it uncut with editorializing on my part.

-- cory (kiyoinc@ibm.XOUT.net), April 30, 1999.

Cowardly Lion --- this post-Y2K approach is the kind of stuff I'm working on with the moniker "Intentional Technology" (someone let me know if they've got a better name). Will post a thread next week when short first draft is accessible for MAD (mutually assured destruction).

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), April 30, 1999.

Big Dog

*very* interested! if i'm reading you correctly, i'm also interested in what you might call 'intentional commerce,' or 'intentional education.' i believe *many* of the posters here would be valuable assets in the development of recovery plans *if* things do in fact go south. i'd like to think we can contribute to a rapid recovery if we have common goals and plans in mind.

will your post be titled 'intentional technology,' or do i need to look for something else?

-- Cowardly Lion (cl0001@hotmail.com), April 30, 1999.


You said we can minimize the effect of the disruptions.

I can't count on that happening based on the scale of the problem as you have illustrated it and the response we see in the media presented by business and government officials. At best we can only attempt to prepare for the effect of the disruptions.

This quote from Poole is representative of the current public acknowledgement of the year 2000 set of problems:

"Note that I'm not even getting into the Y2K thing here. This is all a matter of attitude, and I'm talking about individual independence. The future looks bright to me. There will be problems, but we'll work around them.

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (smpoole7@bellsouth.net), April 30, 1999."

Proclamations such as this sound like the "Amelia Earhart" prescription for success.

The Poole's could counter that yes, Earhart failed but look at all the successful flights that have followed.

Historians have argued that she was not adequately prepared for the undertaking, but bravely forged ahead. That is commendable.

How many companies in the S & P 500 have completed remediation and testing? How many of their vendors?

My contention is that being not yet prepared, they collectively face the Amelia Earhart outcome and we need to prepare for the effects.

One ray of light is that we stand to lose the productivity, but most of the assets will still be in place. With luck and the grace of God, maybe in five years we will have been able to build our way back to the nineteen sixties level of effeciency.

The next eighteen months will be dangerous and will tell the story.

I share the statement by Poole that there will be problems and we will deal with them, but we will not be able to avoid (get around) them. They stand as a brick wall in the middle of the road, and should no longer be denied.

-- Tom Beckner (tbeckner@eros.com), May 01, 1999.

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