Lane Core points out the most glaring flaw in pollyanna argumentsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
IEA, USS, GAO, DJN, NYT: Fear-Mongering, Panic-Baiting Y2K Money Grubbers? By E. L. Core June 2, 1999 Recently, I sent out some e-mail messages announcing that I had added David Palm's What Will You Do When the Chips Are Down? to my website; doing so, I called it "a sound Catholic perspective on Y2K".
Somebody replied on an e-mail list as follows, May 21, 1999:
"I'll have to disagree. Only half of that page provides a sound Catholic perspective -- that dealing with, in general, doing without, caring for neighbor, etc. The other half, which covers Y2K, indicates he has been snared by those who stir up fear for personal gain (assuming his own intentions are honest)." Look at that. At the end of May 1999, a lengthy, in-depth, well-documented account of Y2K is dismissed with bald ad hominem attacks that impugn the intelligence and integrity of the author just because he doesn't say Y2K will be "a bump in the road." This, at the end of May 1999. (I know, I know: I was stupid to have been surprised at the response.)
The e-mail writer's assumption -- not, I assure you, his conclusion, but his assumption -- is this: Y2K is a "myth," a "hoax," a "gimmick," the product of feverish imaginations inflamed by fear-mongering, panic-baiting Y2K money grubbers. Let's look at some facts instead.
IEA: International Energy Agency First, some facts from the International Energy Agency (IEA). What is the IEA?
"The International Energy Agency is the energy forum for 24 Member countries. IEA Member governments are committed to taking joint measures to meet oil supply emergencies. They have also agreed to share energy information, to co-ordinate their energy policies and to co-operate in the development of rational energy programmes. These provisions are embodied in the Agreement on an International Energy Program, which established the Agency in 1974." (from What is the IEA?) IEA's Assessment of Y2K and Oil Refineries In Y2K Progress: Reality Check, I have already quoted briefly from the IEA Working Paper: The Year 2000 Problem and the Oil Industry - Refining; here is a more lengthy quotation:
"An extensive survey of a refinery in the UK identified 94 systems requiring investigation for Y2K compliance. Of the systems assessed it was found that three would fail and that two of these three failures would cause a shutdown. Attempting to trace even a small number of potential Y2K problems at a refinery is undeniably a major undertaking... "A pilot inventory and assessment of a catalytic cracker and co-generation plant in the US revealed 1,035 systems of which 21% were not Y2K compliant and 6% that would lead to serious plant shutdowns or reduced production capabilities. The catalytic cracker would fail, rendering the refinery incapable of making gasoline. Given the widespread use of catalytic crackers in modern refineries, questions must inevitably be raised about their reliability in other refineries. For the co-generation plant 19% of the hardware, 36% of the software and 24% of the custom code was found to be non-compliant. "In late 1997 one oil company's engineers testing valve control equipment in their refineries discovered thousands of terminals controlling the dispensation of oil to have microchips with Y2K problems. All of the chips required replacement, however it was discovered that the replacement chips would not fit on the existing motherboards. It was therefore necessary to order both new chips and motherboards. Worse still, the replacement motherboards were found not to fit the old valves so the valves themselves had to be replaced. This example demonstrates how a Y2K problem can escalate beyond the original fault to include systems that may actually be compliant. An item's Y2K compliancy is therefore no guarantee that its replacement will not be necessitated by problems arising in other equipment." So, here are some facts from the International Energy Agency:
one oil refinery in the United Kingdom discovered two systems that required Y2K remediation to prevent failures that "would cause a shutdown"; one oil refinery in the United States discovered roughly sixty systems liable to Y2K failure that "would lead to serious plant shutdowns or reduced production capabilities," and, that a mechanism would fail, "rendering the refinery incapable of making gasoline"; also, one oil company discovered that it first had to replace microchips, then motherboards, and then even valves at thousands of terminals "controlling the dispensation of oil." Look at the facts. They were empirical discoveries based on actual investigation and testing by engineers -- not fantasies based on speculation and theorizing by writers.
USS, GAO, DJN: "It appears they started too late." The general public perception about Y2K remediation, including that of the oil industry, is "they're working on it." True. They are working on it. But that simple statement ignores some elementary questions:
did they start working on it early enough? are they working on it quickly enough? is the work getting done properly? Don't even tell me they are stupid questions. Our genius computer scientists and visionary corporate tycoons and governmental bureaucratic hot-shots let the Y2K situation develop as they have: by neglect, by incompetence, by ineptitude, by procrastination, by myopic tunnel-vision -- our experts and leaders, as a group, have let the Y2K situation develop as they have. That indisputable fact itself is sufficient proof that it would be difficult to find a question too stupid to ask about the conduct of Y2K projects.
Indeed, according to the chairman and vice chairman of the United States Senate (USS) Y2K committee, and the General Accounting Office (GAO), they are precisely the questions we need to be asking of the oil industry. And the answers don't look very good, as indicated in this Dow Jones Newswires (DJN) article, U.S. Senate Panel Worried On Oil Sector Y2K Readiness, May 24, 1999:
"WASHINGTON -- Leaders of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on the year 2000, or Y2K, computer problem said Monday they're worried that the oil and natural gas industries are lagging in preparing for potential Y2K problems. "'The oil and gas industry is highly automated and the task to remediate all critical systems is enormous,' said committee Chairman Robert Bennett, R-Utah. 'It appears they started too late.' "Bennett and committee vice chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., cited findings of a General Accounting Office report released last week...The GAO report says that because the U.S. imports more than half its oil, it's vulnerable to Y2K problems of other countries... "The report also says that domestic companies haven't established a cooperative nationwide contingency plan for Y2K problems, such as supply shortages or disruptions. It questions whether the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve would be available or sufficient in case of shortages..." The GAO's findings are bad enough news; put it together with this news, from a May 26 Reuters article at Yahoo News, though, and it gets worse:
"CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela needs to spend $1.5 billion in an effort to prevent possible computer chaos coinciding with the change to the year 2000, with the nation's electrical system particularly vulnerable, senior officials said Wednesday... "'Public services could be paralyzed, mainly because of problems with electricity,' he [Presidential Chief of Staff Alfredo Pena] said. The head of the government Central Office of Statistics and Computing, Gustavo Mendez, said Venezuela was one of the least well-prepared countries in the world. The World Bank and InterAmerican Development Bank have just $200 million in loans available worldwide to help solve the problem, Mendez added." What's that got to do with anything? Nine percent of the oil consumed in the USA is imported from Venezuela, that's what.
NYT: Y2K Projects Falling Behind Schedule Now, I can almost hear somebody objecting, "Hey, we've got seven whole months left in which to get everything fixed -- in the oil industry and in all the important sectors of our economy. Or at least the important things." Meaning, "Don't worry. Be happy."
Unfortunately, seven months is probably not going to be enough time, at least for some, according to the people in charge of Y2K projects at the largest companies in the U.S. As reported in a New York Times (NYT) article, Big Companies Falling Behind in Year 2000 Repairs, Survey Says (the link is dead already), May 17, 1999:
"The largest companies in the nation continue to fall behind their schedules for Year 2000 repairs, and most suspect that their budget estimates for the remaining work are too low, according to a survey in April that was the latest in a closely watched series that began in 1994. "About 22 percent say they do not expect to have all of their critical systems tested and ready to adjust when the clock ticks over to Jan. 1, 2000. That is up from 16 percent in November and 12 percent last August... "The surveys, which are sponsored by CAP Gemini America, a New York consulting firm, are carried out by Howard A. Rubin, an information technology researcher based in Pound Ridge, N.Y. The respondents are typically chief information officers or project managers. "'Everyone agrees there will be some sort of disruptions,' Rubin said. 'The real issue is going to be how you maintain business continuity...' Projects are slipping past their expected deadlines at 92 percent of the companies... "'It's typical information technology,' said Prof. Leon A. Kappelman, a software management expert at the University of North Texas. 'You don't get any recognition until the last 30 days that your project is going to be late...' "For all the problems, the respondents seem confident in their ability to manage their way through Year 2000 disruptions. Three out of four said that their Year 2000 programs will give them a competitive advantage, the survey found. "Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company" Whoa. The Y2K project management at almost one in four of large U.S. companies don't expect to get all their critical systems "tested and ready" in time. Moreover, that percentage has nearly doubled since last August.
Maybe they're wrong. Maybe. But there are good reasons for thinking that they might be more right than wrong. "Projects are slipping past their expected deadlines at 92 percent of the companies," for one thing. And, as Prof. Kappelman notes, most software projects that come in late are either unrecognized or unacknowledged as behind schedule until the last month before the deadline: "typical information technology," he calls it. I think he's right.
Indeed, as Capers Jones' research has demonstrated, virtually every large software project that fails to meet its deadline is reported to be on schedule 90 days beforehand:
"Our company and others such as Standish Group have discovered over the years that about fifty percent of large software projects either run late or are cancelled. We know that, and you probably know it, too. But if you looked at the reported status of these projects ninety days before the nominal delivery date, you would reach the impression that none of them were going to run late, because they were all supposed to be under control and moving right along... but in fact, half of them didn't make it." By the way, I am not assuming that the kinds of software projects to which Jones is referring (development of new systems) are necessarily comparable to Y2K remediation projects (for the most part, maintenance of existing systems). Such an assumption is quite unnecessary when one is considering estimations and expectations about project completion. For Jones' research demonstrates that software projects which eventually fail their deadlines are invariably reported as "under control and moving right along" three months beforehand. I am unaware of any evidence, or even of any indications, that Y2K projects are by and large breaking the mold here.
("Under control and moving right along..." If you hear or read anything about Y2K press releases -- a.k.a. "readiness disclosures" -- that sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?)
So, I think it is more likely that many of those who now think they are on schedule are wrong, not those who think they're behind schedule. And just look at the percentage -- 22 percent -- of large Y2K projects that are already acknowledged as behind schedule -- seven months ahead of time. Remember, that's up -- up -- from 12 percent last summer.
What Kind of Alphabet Soup Is This? So, what do we have here? The IEA says that investigation and testing have discovered Y2K problems that, unless remediated, would shut down an oil refinery or inhibit production. The USS, GAO, and DJN tell us that the oil industry got a late start getting ready for Y2K. And the NYT tells us that a survey indicates that Y2K projects at an alarming percentage of large U.S. companies are already acknowledged by management as falling behind schedule. (And, supposedly, large companies are ahead of small companies. And, supposedly, the USA is ahead of other countries.)
What is this? IEA, USS, GAO, DJN, NYT. An alphabet soup of fear-mongering, panic-baiting Y2K money grubbers? I don't think so. I think they are, more likely, groups of real scientists, serious professionals, and capable researchers who are reporting the facts as they have found them.
Maybe you disagree. Maybe you do think that IEA, USS, GAO, DJN, and NYT are an alphabet soup of fear-mongering, panic-baiting Y2K money grubbers. Who's closer to the truth? Time will tell. The real question, then, is this: are you -- and your family, and your company, and your community, and your nation -- are you prepared to find out the real answer?
What's the Real Y2K Problem? The problem isn't Gary North selling newsletter subscriptions. The problem isn't Michael S. Hyatt or Ed Yourdon selling books. The problem isn't survivalism companies peddling their wares.
Here are the Y2K problems:
computers that demonstrably won't work right unless they're fixed; computerized mechanisms that demonstrably won't work right unless they're fixed; critical functions in essential industries all over the world that depend on computers and computerized mechanisms that demonstrably won't work right unless they're fixed; and, livelihoods, businesses, and economies that depend on critical functions in essential industries that depend on computers and computerized mechanisms that demonstrably won't work right unless they're fixed. Here are the Y2K problems that are making those Y2K problems harder to fix:
professionals who are more interested in finding some quick-and-easy way of dismissing the problem out-of-hand than in researching to see if there is a problem and how big it might be; corporate and political leaders who are more interested in keeping the status quo for as long as possible instead of doing what they can to get people -- industries, companies, communities, families, and individuals -- to find and fix problems and to prepare for troubles if problems aren't fixed; editors, writers, anchors, and reporters who would rather take the quick-and-easy route of sensationalism and of journalism by press release rather than invest the time, effort, and money to conduct a serious investigation and present a responsible appraisal of the situation; and, individuals who find it much easier to attack motivations than to examine evidence lest they might have to change their vision of the future, and act accordingly. And here are the biggest Y2K problems:
"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined", according to the software-project management classic The Mythical Man-Month; and, it's now the beginning of June 1999.
-- Arlin H. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 02, 1999
Thank you Arlin
-- Rickjohn (email@example.com), June 02, 1999.
sounds like someone has a glaring hole in their head.
-- (`.`.@`.`.), June 02, 1999.
and it ain't the "pollyannas"
-- (`.`.@`.`.), June 02, 1999.
" "Bug Years": Get Wired or Get Squished -- The value derived from Y2K initiatives to future organizational efforts is a long-discussed issue in IT and management circles. Not long ago, it was unclear that more than 40 years of software development "bugs" could be fixed in the time remaining before next year.
While the jury is still out, one thing is clear: our Herculean efforts are drawing to a close rapidly. While the industry is making the world "safe" for the new millennium, one other thing is becoming clear: IT has finally not only brought a project in on time, but in many cases has finished ahead of time. " (Copyright 1999 Scott M. Shemwell. All Rights Reserved. Permission to copy is provided as long as the appropriate authorship is acknowledged.)
-- Mild Mannered Reporter (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 02, 1999.
Is this the polly version of "The code is broken." Is the polly mantra now simply, "The code is fixed!"?
-- David Palm (email@example.com), June 02, 1999.
Mild-mannered myoptician gives us:
"While the industry is making the world "safe" for the new millennium, one other thing is becoming clear: IT has finally not only brought a project in on time, but in many cases has finished ahead of time."
You may want to print this out and tape it to your refrigerator or something. It appears that you may need some help deciphering what all the fuss is circa March, 2000.
-- Lisa (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 02, 1999.
"one oil refinery in the United Kingdom discovered two systems that required Y2K remediation to prevent failures that "would cause a shutdown"; one oil refinery in the United States discovered roughly sixty systems liable to Y2K failure that "would lead to serious plant shutdowns or reduced production capabilities," and, that a mechanism would fail, "rendering the refinery incapable of making gasoline"; also, one oil company discovered that it first had to replace microchips, then motherboards, and then even valves at thousands of terminals "controlling the dispensation of oil."
And there was this lady who put her chihuahua in a microwave to dry it off ... But the lady never has a name, address, and telephone number and the story never seems to check out ...
-- cd (email@example.com), June 02, 1999.
The only thing that can explain the illogical refuting to all of the factual information that is available, is the fact that some minds just cannot deal with the facts. They are terrified to look at the potential circumstances that may result, so in order to assuage their fear they refute the mountain of factual information. Kind of reminds me of "God created the world in 6 days" don't show me any evolutionary signs of dinosaurs, I'll have to refute it!! Respectfully, DB.
-- David Butts (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 03, 1999.
It is human nature to laugh at something that scares the hell out of them...
needing to go outside,
-- The Dog (email@example.com), June 03, 1999.