Y2K Psychology: "Nothing can go wrong"

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Re the psychology of warning and denial:

This book review of "Isaac's Storm" by Erik Larson was discussed and excerpted as part of a recent "open and frank exchange of views" in the c.s.y2k newsgroup (is there any other kind?). The book chronicles the famous Galveston Storm of 1900, which left thousands dead, and the actions of the head of the Galveston bureau of the U.S. Weather Service, Isaac Cline.

Couple of those excerpts:

...But the lesson of Larson's book is that Galvestonians had plenty of obvious warning that a big storm was coming. They knew what hurricanes could do. Like passengers on a sand-spit Titanic, they just refused to believe they could be in any danger. They caught streetcars to the beach to thrill at the sight of pier-perched bath houses the size of hotels being consumed by enormous waves. They could hear--and even feel--the stunning impact of those waves all the way across town. Boys and girls sailed washtubs delightedly in the wind-whipped streets as they flooded. The first intimation of what the storm would do, one survivor wrote, "came when the body of a child floated into the [railroad] station."

By then it was too late to leave...

...But to Larson, Cline is not so much a villain as the personification of the intellectual self-certainty of the turn of the century--an attitude that a dozen years later would collide with a celebrated iceberg in the North Atlantic, and two years after that meet its death on the battlefields of France. Cline had plenty of company in ignoring the storm warnings, including his Weather Bureau colleagues in Washington and Havana, who refused to permit seasoned forecasters in Cuba (dismissed as excitable Latins) access to the bureau's West Indies reporting network.

Even as Galveston was counting its dead, a disdainful Weather Bureau official claimed that the hurricane could not have been the one the Cubans warned about when it passed over that island, because, he said, hurricanes never turned left. It had to have been another storm altogether...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), August 06, 1999


It's not a big deal and nothing can possibly can go wrong...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), August 06, 1999.

Yeah hey Mac, it's not a hurricane, it's a design flaw. Or maybe you'd understand better if I ranted in the Doomer native tongue:

It's still Y2K stupid!

Get it? Lines drawn between a hurricane in Texas and an inherit design flaw are bound to be misconstrued. Why do you even post that drivel here? To *remind* us that sometimes shit happens?

Thanks for the heads up Professor.

-- (Caution@Doomers. Ahead), August 06, 1999.

Yeah mac, you know there can be no link between people denying a disaster is about to occur, and people denying a disaster is about to occur.

oh wait, let me put it in native polly. tongue:

The Media has not officially declared y2k a problem, so it can't be.

-- Caution@Polly. ahead (pray4theirkids@home.com), August 06, 1999.


Actually I rather liked your post. Since nothing exactly like Y2k has ever happened before we have to reach into the "bag" for any analogy that might give us some valuable information or insight. I love the way the Weather Bureau tried to slip out of this disaster. Maybe the best of the Polly posters will try the same thing. "It couldn't have been a Y2k problem that caused all the screw-ups because that was reported as basically fixed and can't turn around and become unfixed. It must have been something else that created all the problems."

-- Gordon (gpconnolly@aol.com), August 06, 1999.

Yeah, it was just a bad storm on the horizon,

Yeah, the Titanic was just a ship.

Yeah the Hindenburg was just a blimp.

Yeah Neville Chamberlain was just a political stooge.

Yeah the O-rings on the Challenger were just gaskets.

Yeah Y2K is just a design flaw.

What do these all have in common?

They all ignored impending warnings of disaster to stay the course and all but the last have resulted in the deaths of innocents.

Y2K may be about broken code, but the ramifications are life- altering...to quote Sen. Robert Bennet.

-- INVAR (gundark@sw.net), August 06, 1999.

"Yeah the Hindenburg was just a blimp".

Errrr-, sorry. ZEPPELIN.

-- INVAR (gundark@sw.net), August 06, 1999.

Caution@Doomers -

I thank you for the honorific of "Professor". One of my favorite fictional characters is Professor Bernardo de la Paz in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:

"A managed democracy is a wonderful thing, Manuel, for the managers... and its greatest strength is a 'free press' when 'free' is defined as 'responsible' and the managers define what is 'irresponsible.'"

I apologize for my lack of clarity in posting the review. The parallel between the two situations, only one of which we can view with the benefit of hindsight, seemed obvious enough, but apparently was not.

Calling the Y2K problem "a design flaw" does not lessen its potential impacts in the least. Stating that a bridge collapsed due to a "design flaw" is cold comfort to anyone standing on said bridge.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), August 06, 1999.

E-Bay will not crash again, if it did we'd use a warm back-up and have it up in two hours. . . by the way is it still down from 7:00 am this morning?

-- Puddintame (achillesg@hotmail.com), August 06, 1999.

Thanks Mac. Just a "three day storm". Everywhere, at the same time.

Mt Washington is a bump in the road.

Darwin's productivity will increase.

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), August 06, 1999.

Abstract concepts that involve 1) thinking, 2) sacrifices in the here-and-now, 3) benefits only in the future, and 4) admitting that one is wrong about somthing fundamental - this is always a hard sell. Y2K is like Hurricane Camille is coming to YOUR town, when there has never been a hurricane before, and you are trying to convince people to evacuate. Y2K currently is simply beyond the mental abilities of most people. When the power shuts off and stays off, then the masses will have a longer attention span for Y2K than a hyperactive 6-year-old the morning after Halloween, but not until then.

www.y2ksafeminnesota.com (recently reworked, with some new stuff)

-- MinnesotaSmith (y2ksafeminnesota@hotmail.com), August 07, 1999.

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