Putting Panic in Perspectivegreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
I want to address the whole issue of the panic being worse than the problem. It's not an issue of the panic being "better" or "worse" than the problem - because panic is part of the problem itself and can't be avoided.
Flashback to the 70's or 80's (ancient history in Y2K). Back then (still, actually) everyone was in deep denial about Y2K - the computer date problem. No one had really thought about the socio-economic consequences or ramifications - the most they were thinking of then were programs blowing up on date sorts or compares.
Move forward to the mid 90's. Organizations were begrudgingly realizing they had to deal with Y2K and began their remediation projects. The general population, of course, had no idea of what Y2K was at all.
Move up to 1997-1998. People started to understand Y2K, first "intellectually" - what it would do internally to computer systems, then "emotionally" - the impact of failed systems on the global infrastructure & supply chains, etc. It took forever for people to come to grips with Y2K and to realize that - even though it could and should have been avoided - it wasn't. And that it was not a hoax, it was a definite problem with far reaching ramifications and that it had to be addressed. Everyone had to go through the denial, anger, fear, etc.
Now it's 1999. Now that Y2K - the computer problem - is finally accepted as real - now all we hear about is the panic. Well the panic is just the next step in the evolution of the problem. It can't be avoided just like Y2K can't be avoided. People say, "if the people just don't panic, then ..... blah blah blah." Just like over the last five or more years people have been saying, "if the programmers just used 4 digits instead of 2 ..... blah blah blah." Well they didn't and it's taken years -- decades to finally accept it. Well now there's only 5 months left - not enough time to go through the denial, anger, fear, etc. regarding the panic.
PANIC IS AN UNAVOIDABLE PART OF THE PROBLEM - IT CANNOT BE WISHED OR THOUGHT AWAY ANY MORE THAN THE COMPUTER PROBLEM CAN.
-- Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 1999
yeah. Panic won't break out, because the public will continue to be "dumbed down" about the possible consequences of y2k.
when people like us realized the potential effects, there were no compliant companies... now, every electric company(is) claims compliance.
so the panic will never occur, because "joe q sixpack" won't think there is anything to "GET"
-- SuperLurker (email@example.com), July 19, 1999.
Absolutely. Just like the old geek heart attacks, the economic impact of preps, the stock market impact when people finally realize what the risks are, etc. These are all part of the Y2k problem; none of them would deviate at all from the norm, if not for Y2k.
Of the programmers I've talked with, who got it in 1997 or so, it was a given that we would see a panic in 1999. In 1997 we started talking about "horizon doubling". If a disruption is obvious, then others will start to prepare, and their preps will affect your ability to prep. They will start prepping when they think the time remaining is enough for whatever it is, whether buying food or shifting investments, and that becomes their horizon. So you double the horizon -- you start prepping far enough ahead that you are done when the others start. Of course, others do that too, but each doubled horizon should be "inhabited" by a tiny fraction of the horizon it precedes.
We also started warning people about the panic of 1999. I really didn't mind so much when people said they didn't think the computer failures would be no big problem. After all, we didn't KNOW it ourselves, we were just weighing the odds. But it was Twilight Zone to warn someone about the panic and they'd respond that they "just didn't think the computer failures would be a problem". No, no, read my lips, I'm not talking about the computer failures, I'm talking about the PANIC!
That was the disconnect that has been the most frustrating. If people don't think it's a problem, they seem unable to imagine that ANYONE might think it's a problem, and therefore there will be no panic. If 10 percent of the people think that our infrastructure is problematic at the end of this year, then there will be a panic. Thanks to the lack of information, most of us will be in that position.
-- bw (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 1999.
You hit on something here, the time compression of the different stages of y2k. The last stage, panic, is one in which we will be soon entering. One key aspect to panic is the public's sudden realization that there isn't any time left before the calamity. The analogy I use is the palor game, musical chairs. Imagine 100 people circling 2 chairs, and they know when the music is going to stop. There is a great advantage to being the first or second to sit down. This game represents the present status of our fractional reserve banking system, in that there is only $2 in cash for every $100 in bank deposits. There is almost a mathematical certainty that there will be a bank run. But what most haven't thought through is that when this happens, the economy will freeze up. Nothing will be undertaken until the system can be restarted and funds flowing again. Consider what happened during the bank closings of the 1930's. It wasn't until FDR closed all banks and then selectivily reopened the remaining strong ones that the economy started to functioning again. While the banks are closed, paper currency and coins were are all that will be accepted. The Federal Reserve does not make free gifts of money to member banks, they will have to liquidate assets to pay for the needed currency. A cascade type of problem, which will add to the panic. The Clinton administration will quickly step in and control all financial transactions, witness the series of DOD papers, FEMA position statments, Executive Orders issued lately. They are based on a 1 Sept. 1999 date. You have less time than you think to get ready.
-- Sure M. Worried (SureMWorried@about.Y2K.coming), July 19, 1999.
NOTHING WILL HAPPEN UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS!
-- David Butts (email@example.com), July 19, 1999.
Stop. No, I mean STOP, right now. Think what it will be like 10 days before New Year. Think about it. Every stinkin' news channel will be chatterin'. The countdown will be excrutiating. Each day will draaaaag....just waiting.
The compression of time will be incredible. No one will escape it.
-- br14 (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 1999.
Your Doomerism and fear is what is going to make each day draaaaag on. Personally for me I don't see the change of the new year any different from last year. Of course I'm not a paranoid doomer cultist so maybe I have an advantage over some of you. Why don't you get over your Y2K Salvation hopes and maybe you can join the real world again before the year 2000.
-- (email@example.com), July 19, 1999.
Didn't get that summer job, huh, creep. Too bad. Well, maybe mom will still give you your allowance, even though you screw around on the computer all day.
-- Squirrel (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 1999.
My panic began in January of 1998, when I discovered what the ramifications of a Y2K melt down could do. I stayed on the computer constantly trying to find answers and to become educated on the subject to help me decide what I must do to protect myself and my family IFSHTF. I took a break recently from the internet and from Y2K because I got caught up in all the doom and gloom and I was losing my perspective of the situation. Reflecting back, I am glad that I have prepared and I know that I won't be in a panic if TSHTF. Y2K will not be a problem for me, but what will be a problem for all are those people who refused to take care of themselves and they will expect others to take care of them. That's where the panic will be.
-- bardou (email@example.com), July 19, 1999.
"The analogy I use is the palor game, musical chairs. Imagine 100 people circling 2 chairs, and they know when the music is going to stop. There is a great advantage to being the first or second to sit down. This game represents the present status of our fractional reserve banking system, in that there is only $2 in cash for every $100 in bank deposits."
Well... at first it SEEMS like there is a great advantage to being one of the first to sit down.... until approximately 49 overweight Joe Sixpacks try to sit on top of you.
I guess that represents the music (i.e. the economy) coming to a screaching, crushing halt.
If the music keeps playing until a week or so before the end of the year?... good for the economy, but no one gets prepared. If everything has gotten fixed, then after rollover, even if there have been bank runs, the lights stayed on and everyone digs their cash out of their sock and puts it back in the bank and off the economy roars again. That's the gamble right?
If they started early (earlier than this) pushing preparation.. SERIOUS preparation, then PROBABLY people would have started stocking up on supplies.. but MAYBE wouldn't have pulled out all their cash just yet. Then by the end of this year we would have a much higher percent of the population prepared. But the risk was that if people DID pull out their cash early.. even 2% of them.. the whole system would crash, and remediation would stop along with everything else.
Quite a gamble.
Those of you in the chairs.. watch out when the music stops.. you are not out of danger yet.
-- Linda (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 1999.
You're wrong about the Federal Rserve. THe Federal Reserve has encouraged, is encouraging banks to borrow for liquidity. Someone posted the link. That's how they are going to try to stem the tide-- by providing the liquidity with no shame attached, no assets, I think. You see--just kkeep pumping out the cash until everyone cools down. What do you think?
-- Mara Wayne (MaraWAyne@aol.com), July 19, 1999.
My current opinion on whether the general public would panic or not is that it depends in large part, let's say for example, on what percentage of organizations started their Y2K projects in 1996 or 1997 vs. the percentage started in 1998 or 1999. A lot depends on what decisions were or were not made in the past, which will end up having a bearing on how many mission-critical systems are ready in the fourth quarter of this year.
If most organizations had finished their mission-critical remediation by December 1998, we probably wouldn't even be having this discussion today.
If there are a still quite a few non-compliant mission-critical systems across a range of businesses and organizations in the fourth quarter, some parts of the financial community would know this and might move to protect themselves. If the move were dramatic enough, it might make the general public worried about Y2K when they might not have been otherwise. The public is complacent at the moment.
There's one more angle to think about, too. This topic is usually discussed in terms of the U.S. only. There are other countries not as ready for Y2K as the United States for whom this topic could be relevant as well.
If there is going to be "panic," and I don't know if there will be or not, it could start overseas. I'd follow what actions financial markets and governments actually take in regards to Y2K, rather than what they have to say about Y2K in press releases.
Rob Michaels said it best recently: actions speak louder than...
-- Linkmeister (email@example.com), July 20, 1999.
"In 1997 we started talking about "horizon doubling". If a disruption is obvious, then others will start to prepare, and their preps will affect your ability to prep. They will start prepping when they think the time remaining is enough for whatever it is, whether buying food or shifting investments, and that becomes their horizon. So you double the horizon -- you start prepping far enough ahead that you are done when the others start."
Thanks, bw, I vaguely remember the term "horizon doubling" from somewhere (where?) and it's just right for our situation.
The public has been trying to figure out what's going on inside those pesky computers that have taken over everything everywhere (except of course for all the things we can "just do manually.")
Understandable. Imagine trying to imagine coding, debugging and testing computer programs if you've never done it. Is there anything else suggestive of it in normal life?
Meanwhile the paranoid among the geeks (knowing enough about computers to know we CAN'T know enough about what the computers will do) have been trying to figure out the public. (Those pesky social sciences, again.) What will THEY do, and WHEN?
Put it together and the rare certainty of a deadline date: December 31, 1999, for this particular crisis, is whisked away from you again and you are handed a new ultimatum: Prepare before others take away your option to prepare. Date uncertain.
-- jor-el (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 20, 1999.
One of the things that may save us is "there but for the grace ...".
The rest of the world seems to be trailing in preps, and some places are in extreme peril. Eastern Europe (getting electricity from Russia), Africa (where tribal rivalries are simmering, looking for any chance to explode), Southeast Asia (where Chinese expansionism might hit when the guard is down), India/Pakistan (nuking it out when major powers are distracted).
It's possible that their suffering will distract us from our own problems, that the overseas news will shame us into behaving at home. Roughly like WWII, where we set aside union ambitions, and even organized crime helped out, while the rest of the world burned.
Also, it's possible that overseas needs will drive our economy in spite of Y2k damage. That is, if millions are starving, we might find ways to strip our agriculture down to its essentials in order to raise and ship food. My recommendation has been to kill off meat crops, devote the arable land to foods that humans eat directly (instead of being processed into beef) and so double our output. We could also ship food in an unprocessed state - flour instead of breakfast cereal, potatoes instead of Pringles. These two steps could bypass huge numbers of embedded systems in food-processing plants, save fuel, and free resources.
If these happened - being distracted by overseas problems and becoming a leaner-meaner breadbasket to the world - we could escape the worst of it. We might even benefit.
It makes me sad to find value in this scenario.
-- bw (email@example.com), July 20, 1999.