Mitch Ratcliffe's Take on the Great Debate : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Today's Daily Fix: My Dinner With Westergaard, or Truman Defeats Dewey

I agree with Mitch. The important thing is that Westergaard finally admits that he uses so-called "inferential analysis" -- which basically means, if you get one unverified story, you might can ignore it; but if you get 10 or 20, you assume that there's something there.

In fact, most Y2K Doom and Gloom prophets do this. The few attempts at finding "hard" information almost always require that you believe that (A) the companies themselves are lying and covering up when they say they're fixing the problem, so that you must rely on (B) leftist-leaning organizations such as the European IEA and outdated government sources such as the GAO. They're the ones telling the REAL truth.

Don't miss the real significance of the numbers after the debate, either. 8 people changed their minds -- FROM THE DOOM TO THE NON-DOOM POINT OF VIEW. There was no mention of anyone leaving the debate with a WORSE opinion of Y2K.

I agree with Mitch. Have a look at the transcript, or listen to the debate on RealAudio.

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (, June 04, 1999


I'm sure mitch is soooooo glad you agree with him!

-- I don't want my family to die because I listen to you (You are, June 04, 1999.

Stephen -

I looked for links to a transcript or RAM file, but couldn't find any accompanying the article. Are they elsewhere on ZDY2K?

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), June 04, 1999.

How do you find the debate?

-- Bill Byars (, June 04, 1999.

By the bye, I'm not sure why you're dissing inferential analysis so much. Companies like Inferential Focus (NY) make very serious money using that type of information-synthesis technique.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), June 04, 1999.


Yes, the technique has its uses. Without question, there *is* something there. There have been too many reports from very knowledgeable, involved people to deny it.

What the technique doesn't do is let us quantify anything. We can assign a high probability to something being there, but we can't learn how *much* is there.

My favorite Heinlein quote (I think from Time Enough For Love) is: "differences are important. We know one horse can run faster than another, but *which one*?"

It's differences that fuel the y2k debate. We know problems are coming, but *how bad*? Very few optimists (if any) claim nothing will happen. Quite a few like Milne and his fellow travellers can't see the difference between all and nothing. To them, an extremely wide spectrum consists of only two points: Mine and wrong.

What we'll get, of course, is a little of everything.

-- Flint (, June 04, 1999.

I think I understand. We should dismiss stories unless they have hard, (independently) verifiable data.

Then we must dismiss (out of hand) virtually all of the good news stories, since they are self-reported PR pieces of self-tested systems "readiness". Oh, well, I was HOPING that some of it might be true...

-- Mad Monk (, June 05, 1999.

"What we'll get of course, is a little of everything". That's right, Flint. We'll have a little rioting, a little looting, a few bank runs, a little electricity, a little gasoline, a little food........and you are a "little" touched. Even if I honestly believed THAT, it would build to the boiling point of *what*? Do you need someone to hold your hand while you go potty? Can you figure this out? Or is the whole idea just a "little" scary?

-- Will continue (, June 05, 1999.

If you get one unverified story from one source, you have an unverified story. But if you get 10 or 20 unverified stories, from different sources which have no connection to one another, all saying the same thing about a particular subject, then you've got something that might be of interest.

In twenty-plus years of military service, often involve intelligence technical analysis, "unverified stories" have sometimes been the basis for serious discoveries. A certain ABM Treaty-violating radar site in Russia comes to mind.

But Stephen M. Poole, CET assures us that "Where there's smoke, there's fire." is not true. I guess my experience and training, and that of thousands of trained intel analysts around the world is no match for a mighty, Certified Electronics Technician.


-- Wildweasel (, June 05, 1999.

Sure, wildweasel. The same mighty intel "experts" who successfully predicted Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the current turn that the "troubles" in Ireland have taken, and so on, and so on ...

But lest we be too hard on them, I have friends who've made careers of intel. They'll tell you that the REAL problem is that their superiors rarely have a clue, especially in technological matters. They'll read what they want to see in a given report; by the time it makes it to the White House or Pentagon, it's a miracle if any of the original info survives intact.

There's also the fact that government reports are ALWAYS (without exception) written for political ends, but we can sidestep that one.

These intel folks will also tell you that unsubstantiated stories are absolutely worthless until you CAN substantiate them with hard facts that lead to a definite conclusion. There's also a world of different between colloquial reports of a radar dish or missile installation (which can be immediately verified by satellite imagery) and a report from a low-echelon worker bee/programmer who insists that his enterprise is going to crash and burn in 2000.

Many of the unsubstantiated stories circulating the Y2K talk boards are made up by bored trolls and teenagers who've grown tired of trying to hack Web sites and write macro viruses. I know this for a *FACT*.

I've debated privately with some friends about whether to anonymously release a TOTALLY FICTITIOUS story myself, just to see how many people would bite on it. It might make an interesting experiment, don't you think? :)

(Not that I'd ever do ANYTHING like that, of course .. .. .. )

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (, June 05, 1999.

Many of the unsubstantiated stories circulating the Y2K talk boards are made up by bored trolls and teenagers who've grown tired of trying to hack Web sites and write macro viruses. I know this for a *FACT*.

And you said your name is Paul Poole *VBG*, you know those little buggers are tring to infect your hard drive! They have no time for writing decadent material like canning info, storing water, community preps, security and bread in a jar.

And this is a *FACT*

-- Brian (, June 06, 1999.

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