Y2K vis-a-vis AIDS vis-a-vis FLINT

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I was debating y2k with the IT Director of a key Central Bank in Latin America. I was describing to him how pervasive y2k had become for banking transactions and how important it was for the Central Bank itself to be y2k compliant. He basically agreed (as much as he could) and our conversation ran pretty smooth until, suddenly, this very kind gentleman interrupted our line of thought and asked:

"So what you are saying is like asking me to prove to you that I am not HIV positive?"

I answered: "Yes, exactly, particularly because you have lived in an AIDS-endemic area of the world for 35 years and you have led a promiscuous sex life without using condoms!"

We both laughed and, smiling, he acknowledged: "I know, I know..."

This reminded me of Flint's many attempts to downplay y2k risks until proven certain.

No, Flint. It's the other way around my friend. The burden of proof is on the other side because, after thirty five years of y2k pervasive infiltration throughout IT systems everywhere, compliance is what has to be proven.

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), June 26, 1999



This is only mildly amusing. Basically, you're saying that the burden of proving the future falls on whoever disagrees with you. Since proving the future is not possible, it's only reasonable to place the burden on someone else. This is called covering your ass.

I'm trying to assess the risks as accurately as I can. YOU and your ilk are doing all you can to exaggerate those risks. And anyone who refuses to exaggerate is accused of downplaying them. George, this isn't a child's game where anyone who opens their eyes is cheating. You'd do a lot better if you took off that blindfold with DOOM written on the inside, you know?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 26, 1999.

No, Flint, you completely misunderstand the reasoning behind why the burden of proof is on the "pollyannas".

Look, let me make it easy: When someone calls in a purported bomb threat, is the procedure to insist that the caller prove that he has planted a bomb? And if he can't (e.g., he just hangs up), do we just dismiss the call? Of course not! We assume that there in fact is a bomb until we prove otherwise. Why? Because lives are at stake.

I can't put it any simpler than this. Think of Y2K as a "bomb threat" that may turn out to be nothing, if it helps you understand why the burden of proof must be placed where it needs to be.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), June 26, 1999.


Very succint answer and excellent comparison. It's wasted. You are dealing with an individual that would need the make and model as well as the wiring diagrams for said bomb...and then still would be arguing as to the effectiveness, the blast radii and the potential shrapnel damage up to the point when the thing ............

-- Lobo (Atthelair@yahoo.com), June 26, 1999.

Just curious, can't remember. Has Flint ever advised against y2k prep?

-- Carlos (riffraff1@cybertime.net), June 26, 1999.


I'm well prepared, and I encourage everyone to prepare to the limit of their ability or their comfort level, whichever comes first.

However, unlike many here I refuse to accept speculation as fact, or to engage in circular reasoning, or to view contingencies as guarantees, or any of the other dubious techniques that pessimists use to talk themselves into cementing their fantasies in their minds. Therefore, I must not think y2k will happen. Therefore I must be 'arguing against preparation.'

We have plenty of indication that there are bad times ahead. Preparation is decidedly prudent. It is by no means irrational to prepare, it is irrational NOT to prepare. Just bear in mind that you are preparing because there is risk. There isn't risk just because you're preparing.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 26, 1999.

Rules of logic 101. The person making an assertion maintains the burden of proof. An unsupported assertion may be gratuitiously rejected, i.e. if you assert Y2K will be the "end of the world" without proving the assertion, I can dismiss it without "proving" you wrong.

For an everyday example, this rule of logic applies in the courtroom. If the prosector (the accuser) does not prove the case, the defendant is not obligated to make any defense. An unsupported assertion can be gratuitiously rejected. This is not true for the IRS, who can seize your assets without due process. The burden of proof is on the citizen... and is both illogical and unfair.

Returning to Y2K, the pessimists assert a change in the status quo due to computer problems. We can debate the evidence provided by the pessimists, i.e., software metrics and their application to Y2K remediation. This is relatively useful.

Challenging the optimists to "prove" Y2K will NOT end the world, however, turns logic on its head (and asks one to "prove the negative.") Proving the negative is an old trap for inquisitor. (And brings to mind the funny scene from "Holy Grail" where the proof of a witch is in question.)

The analysis of risk is different than logical proof. I do not have to prove the existence of a bomb to evacuate a building. An economist, however, would suggest we can determine if a "blanket" evacuation policy is "efficient" based on the risks and rewards,

A very small percentage of anonymous bomb threats actually have a real bomb involved. In fact, in 1996, only 23 people in the U.S. died due explosive incidents. Every time we evacuate a building or school, it costs money. In fact, it costs a tremendous amount of money. It's likely evacuations have saved some lives. It's also likely we will have some deaths whatever evacuation policy we follow. Some bombers apparently want to blow people up and don't have the common courtesy to call in a warning. In fact, evacuations only occur where there is a warning which suggests the intent of many bomb threats may be to disrupt the function of the building under threat rather than kill people.

The real question... how much money are we willing to spend as a society to save a relatively small number of lives by evacuating a building every time there is a bomb threat? I am reminded of the John Stossel special, "Are we scaring ourselves to death?"

In point of fact, evacuating a building for anonymous bomb threats may be grossly inefficient. We do not live in a perfectly safe world and a blanket evacuation policy may cost more than its worth. Every safety precaution has costs associated with it. Risk analysis focuses on an objective consideration of risk in light of those costs.

This is why I ask Y2K pessimists if they wear a helmet when they drive. The only costs are a modest fee for a helmet, the time to put it on and take it off, and the social cost of having other drivers laugh at you. Given the tremendous value placed on personal safety by the Y2K pessimists, I think this would be a small price to pay for reducing the chance of death due to automobile accident.

Unlike the "go, no-go" world of logic, risk analysis is about decision points. Flint is on one point in this continuum as it relates to Y2K. Is he internally consistent? Does he make modest Y2K preparation and then chain smoke and drink while driving... Flint? (laughter) Let's assume he doesn't. The reason for the "helmet" question is about internal consistency. If you are ultra- prepared and prudent in every aspect of your life... you have internal consistency. I can respect it, even if I don't understand it. The question I have is for those people who react to Y2K in a manner inconsistent with other risks.

This is why I posit that people worry too much about unfamiliar risks (like sharks) and too little about familiar risks (driving.)

Logical or not.


-- Mr. Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), June 26, 1999.

Apart from the Zzzzzzzzzz... zzzzzzzzzz... zzzzzzzzzz factor in Double-Shil's last post,

consider this for a prime piece of logic 101...

""Let's compare bankers with pilots. Are professional pilots "terrified" of crashing? No. They know it is an occupational risk where their life (not just their job) is at stake. They take reasonable precautions and generally act in a very prudent manner. To say they are "terrified" of crashing is misleading. Most pilots do not operate on a "fear" basis. The same is true for bankers. They accept financial disruptions as a possible, but unlikely, occurence. The act in reasonable ways to minimize risk. To say they are "terrified" is misleading... it implies a state of fear that simply does not exist. If pilots were "terrified," they'd take the train. If banker were terrified, they'd find another job. Regards,

-- Mr. Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), June 25, 1999."

This fool should be ashamed of himself for putting his name as the author of this drivel.

WHAT a pillock.

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), June 26, 1999.

""H" You are getting better. The answer is, "Yes." Bankers see Y2K much like pilots see a patch of bad weather. Since I actually work with regional bankers on a daily basis, I think I have reasonable access to the thought process. Not a single banker I know is "terrified." They know the Federal Reserve will have one hand firmly on the tiller. Not only is there enough currency, demand deposits, money order, cashier's checks, etc. are also money and the FR has the ability to give these quasi-currency instruments the weight of currency with the swipe of a pen. Unlike a plane, the system crashes only if the FR allows it to crash. By the way, are you going to drop me an email in January and apologize when we don't have bank runs? Regards,

-- Mr. Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), June 26, 1999."


I think I smell a paid Banking SHIL!!!

Logical? I think so.

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), June 26, 1999.

Carlos commented:

Carlos, IMO the majority of posts by Flint mislead the reader into believing that all is well or very close to being that way. Ocassionally he will throw out a carrot so that he can say "I Told You So".

I am not aware of an instance where he has contributed ANY information to ASSIST one in preparing, for instance a link or other prep info. His main objective is to OBFUSCATE the information and DETRACT others from the main objective of this forum.

He iis a PROFESSIONAL at his job.


-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), June 26, 1999.

Here is the comment:

"Just curious, can't remember. Has Flint ever advised against y2k prep? "


-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), June 26, 1999.


-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), June 26, 1999.

Let's see if Mr. Decker's bomb analogy holds up....

The police get a bomb threat, but instead of evacuating the building, they "analyze" the note. They determine (after two hours of EXHAUSTIVE study) that it's from the "Unabomber", who expert LEA's have classified as a "real" threat. But, rather than evacuate the building, they broadcast (over the building's public address system) "Ladies and gentlemen. We have determined that there may be a problem in the building. We are not sure what the problem IS, but if you choose, you may leave at your discretion."

Yup. Sounds like Y2K and the "authorities" to me....

-- Dennis (djolson@pressenter.com), June 26, 1999.

No, Mr. Decker, you too seem to have a big misconception about the criteria for determining where the "burden of proof" belongs. And you are quite wrong regarding the (U.S.) courtroom example that you present: the defense is never obligated to defend, since the burden of proof in a criminal trial is always on the prosecution.

And why is this? There are other countries that do not impose this heavy requirement on the prosecution, requiring that the defendant testify, present his version, etc., so that it can be scrutinized and evaluated. Many would like to see things changed in the U.S. judicial system so that the defendant has more accountability (I would not). The point that I am making is that there is not any hard, fast "Logic 101" rule that can be applied. That, in itself, is a huge falicy that you are making.

I maintain that Y2K problems are potentially a huge risk to life and limb. The question that must be answered is whether or not those Y2K areas that can cause such loss of life an limb have been fixed or not. Since lives are at stake, it is only reasonable that the burden of proof be placed on our utility companies, water and sewage plants, nuclear plants, etc., to prove (e.g., via third party independent verification) that they are ready for the Year 2000 rollover that will occur in six months. Maintaining that, unless it can be proven that they will not be ready, we must assume that they are, is ludicrous.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), June 26, 1999.

Along the lines of what Jack was saying and the burden of proof......I believe we can safely assume that the "y2k bug" actually exists. If in fact it does exist then I think that it can be safely assumed that if NOTHING was done to remediate the "y2k bug" we would all be in deep sh*t (my take on what "the end of the world AS WE KNOW IT" means).

With that out of the way, wouldn't it then become the responsibility of those claiming the "bump in the road" scenerio to "prove" that they are in fact correct? Until that has been proven to satisfaction then are we not right in assuming that we are still in deep sh*t?

Mr Decker's "courtroom" example seems to have a bit of a "polly" twist to it. I have yet to see anyone claim that y2k is going to result in "the end of the world". We can try to stick to the "courtroom" example but it might be a bit more appropriate to start at the beginning.

If we are going to use the courtroom scenerio maybe we should start with the accusers who say that the y2k bug exists and that it will cause massive failures if nothing is done to fix it and the defendants who say that it will be repaired to a fairly safe level of remediation.

In this case it seems to me that the accusers would have their case pretty much wrapped up. It is now up to the defendant to prove that sufficiant repair has been done if he wants to be found not guilty. The defendant has the right not to testify but he risks the chance of being found guilty by the overwhelming evidence of the accuser. If the defendant chooses to take the stand (which seems to be the case) to defend himself, then he is subject to cross examination by the accuser and must attempt to prove his innocence, which puts us where we are at now.

The "bug" DOES exist. If there is/was no attempt to fix it, there will/would be massive failure. The defendant has taken the stand and must prove his innocence. He is now in the process of being cross examined. Until it is proven to be fixed, the defendant is guilty.

Now all of the above is based on a criminal case. One might tend to base the y2k scenerio on a civil case where the burden of proof centers around the balancing point on the scales of justice. The accuser makes his case that the y2k bug exists and that if there is no attempt to fix it there will be mass failure. The defendant comes back and says that x,y and z has been done to fix the problem and it should only be a bump in the road. The defendant STILL has to PROVE that in fact x,y and z has been done and that as a result, y2k will only be a bump in the road. This has to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, or a tipping of the scales, in the favor of the defendant. Appearantly, this hasn't been accomplished yet.

With this particular case (y2k) and with so much at stake, I would have to believe that the scenerio tends to lean more towards the criminal case rather than a civil one.

Oh yeah, no fair using the excuse that the jury isn't intelligent enough to 'see the evidence'. The accuser would certainly object and it would surely be sustained (in other words, that's not something you say in a court of law).

-- Weed Whacker (just@say.no), June 26, 1999.

Good analysis, Weed Whacker. You did a major clean up job on the overgrown field that proceeded your post.

And indeed, in the ideal world that wish we lived in, given that Y2K is going to affect all of us, everyone should indeed be "presenting evidence" freely as to what we have discovered about Y2K, and honestly evaluating what is going to happen. The judicial system is based on the adversarial approach, of course, and is completely at odds with this kind of "discovery process".

6 months to go. Not only has Y2K compliance not been proven for anything that we depend on for our very lives, in the vast majority of cases the Y2K work is supposedly still in progress! "Riding on a smile and a shoe shine" into 2000....

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), June 26, 1999.

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