I've run across a couple of items that I found fascinating. I hope some of you do, too.

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I've run across a couple of items that I found fascinating. I hope some of you do, too.

The first is a list of the presentation materials used at an NERC conference last week. I haven't reviewed any of them, but if we each look at a few, it might give an indication of what the nations utilites say when they are talking to themselves...


Preparing the Electric Systems of North America for the Year 2000


August 5-6, 1999

NERC, along with co-sponsors APPA, CEA, EEI, EPRI, EPSA, NEI, and NRECA, held a two-day workshop to discuss the Y2K readiness of electric power systems, to set industry priorities and targets, and to share information about Y2K. The workshop addressed critical issues for Y2K Program managers at organizations that own or operate power production, transmission, and distribution systems.

The second is the July issue of a DC area 'zine named iMP. This issue is devoted to Y2K, and it features as contributors some of the larger brains our species has produced. Well written and very thought provoking.


Here is the introductory editorial, but I recommend clicking through and spending an hour reading this entire issue.


A Few Words of Introduction

Richard P. O'Neill rpon@bellatlantic.net

(author's bio) Richard P. O'Neill is President of The Highlands Group, a consulting and analysis firm located in Bethesda, Maryland, with clients in both the public and private sector. He previously served in government, in his last position as Deputy for Strategy and Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. He created and directs The Highlands Forum, a nationally recognized cross-disciplinary forum of leaders from industry, academia, government, the arts and the professions, to support high level government policy and strategy development.

I ask you to read the thoughtful essays in this special edition of iMP at your own peril. Not because you will be subjected to horrific scenes of an apocalyptic millennial nightmare wrought by our dependence on an invisible technology. Not because you will know what will happen when the clocks strike midnight across the world this New Year's Eve. But because you won't know. Because the fault will lie not in our stars, but in ourselves. This collection of essays aims to focus on what Y2K says about us, as individuals, as a society, and as a small world of unmet neighbors. Some of your insights gained may be difficult to accept.

Asking a group of guest guessers to ponder the unknown as we approach the midnight countdown and then pass into action and reaction would be easy. Scores of experts are already telling us what to expect, and few of them agree. Some may be right, but which ones? We will likely choose the answer that validates our preconceived notions -- so when you choose, perhaps you should think about why you accept one answer and reject the others. That, and what you do about it, is what Y2K will say about you and us. Us, because after all, we are all interconnected in this ultimate globalized society.

My mother is approaching eighty years of age and lives alone in a three-floor house in New England. She is not a part of the technological world, except that she inhabits it unknowingly. She has too many remote controls to change television channels easily, operate the cable converter, record a videocassette, or turn on the stereo. It is all very daunting.

I visited her recently, and she opened my eyes to our central question. Arriving at her home in the midst of the July heat wave, I realized something was making me uneasy. The heat had just caused a power blackout throughout her entire region, meaning no electricity, no air conditioning. My mother was already thinking well ahead when she asked me, "What is this Y2K that everyone is talking about -- do I need to be concerned?" I flashed forward to thinking about her in a similar situation in mid-winter, when the power and perhaps other services might be interrupted. Her question forced me to think through what I really believed Y2K might mean for us. I didn't have a good answer for her then, but I promised her that I would think about it and we would talk about it soon.

In guest editing this release of iMP, I decided to ask a very diverse group of extraordinary thinkers to put their stamp on what Y2K means and what it might say about us. I asked for some thoughts on technology, on fear, on leadership, on human reaction. What you will read comprises an array of musings on that and more. Not only will you get to think about society's relationship to technology and our feelings about trust, reliance, and connectedness (hence the heart of the looming problem), but you will be encouraged to face your decisions and how and why you will respond. Head for the hills, be a loner; stay close to the homefires with kith and kin. Reach out to help locally or globally.

Our contributors cover those questions and then some. Hal Berghel of the University of Arkansas and a columnist for Communications of the ACM explains the inductive logic fallacy and expedience that put us in the position we now face. Ed Tenner, the author of Why Things Bite Back, continues that look and expands the playing field on the premise of connectedness and contagion. Marvin Langston, the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department of Defense, reflects on what technology means for our future, particularly as it relates to Tenner's points on connectedness and interdependence, but leaves us with a disturbing assertion about that dependence and national well-being. James Adams, an expert on infrastructure problems and CEO of Infrastructure Defense, overlays the three previous articles with an invitation to look in the "Mirror to Our Faults". Adams looks globally for impacts, and finds many possibilities; he looks for leaders to step forward and be counted, and his findings are surprising.

Adams provides a transition from technology to human response. In that vein, we feature one of the "fathers of the computer virus", Fred Cohen, who, with his experience considering outcomes of infected networks, demands your attention. Cohen, ever the technologist, warns, "Far more important are the sociological effects the high degree of trust that we, as a society, have recently placed and are continuing to place, in a very untrustworthy technology." You may be intrigued by Cohen's estimate and what he intends to do on New Year's Eve. Jerrold Post, our resident psychiatrist, looks at the madness of crowds, and offers some options on how people might act -- "in effect people act in accordance with their beliefs and perceptions." Harking back to Adams, Post tells us that reactions will "depend significantly on the effectiveness of leadership and the public education campaign". One example of how people may act is examined from the standpoint of identifiable groups and their buy-in or lack of buy-in to the technological society. Nat Irvin II is the founder and president of Future Focus 2020, a foundation which examines and stimulates futurist thinking within urban America. What he has to say will move you. His essay says a great deal about group values and survival. It also raises the serious attendant issue of inclusion and the "digital divide", and ends with a message of hope. Hope is the strength of David Brin. Brin is the author of the award winning science fiction novel The Postman, in which he chronicled how a post-apocalyptic society rebuilt itself through human networks. In his short essay, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Y2K", Brin points out the advantages society may reap as an unintended consequence. If you have been searching in vain for a contrarian point of view, look no further.

Our final installment wraps a bow on this present. It is a remarkable essay by John Hiles, a true Renaissance man: founder of Thinking Tools, astronomer, and literary essayist. Hiles poses the question "What Does Y2K Mean?" He casts his query about Y2K in the form of a four-play tetrology as might have been written by Aeschylus. Aeschylus explored the core issues surrounding man's application of reasoning to problem solving and the extension of his capabilities. "What were the ideals and values, what were the goals and follies that guided man as he applied the skill brought to him by Prometheus?"

I thought about the essays I had read in preparing this issue, and what Y2K says about us. Then I thought about my mother's question in light of those essays and found my answer.

Released: July 22, 1999

*end snip*

-- Lewis (aslanshow@yahoo.com), August 11, 1999


Whether or not Y2K, do we really need 3 page natural gas bills, 3 page electricity bills, ten page phone bills, all of which have at least one page of ten different itemized taxes, one page of surcharges, credits, rebates, geezer rates, lifeline rates, etc.

All that crap is economically USELESS and is only on the bills because of various laws and management decisions that would never have been made if the computer hadn't allowed the capability of doing that crap.

Do we really need just-in-time inventory of a whole grocery store aisle of "Great Pussy", "Fancy Eats" .... cat food?

Do we really need five different sizes and boy/girl differentiated disposable diapers? In three brands.

Do we need 1 oz, 1.5 oz, 1.63 oz, 2.01 oz, 3.4 oz, 4.5 oz sizes in various combinations of tartar control, whitening, hair growing, decay prevention toothpastes, by five different manufacturers, for 120 choices? Just to brush your frickin' teeth.

You can get 5000 different colors and patterns of sox nowadays, but none of them are in real sizes.

If Y2K bombs all this crap, no problemo.

-- A (A@AisA.com), August 11, 1999.

Yes A, but I'm gonna be pretty irritable without the seventeen brands of nine different flavors of bottled water in those nice hand pleasing shapes :)

-- a (a@a.a), August 11, 1999.

"Do we really need just-in-time inventory of a whole grocery store aisle of "Great Pussy", "Fancy Eats" .... cat food? "

...Aisle? Shoot, we in the 'burbs have half a dozen entire warehouses full of pet-related crap, competing with each other.

Problem is: If everyone stopped buying stuff for their pets, thousands -- possibly millions? -- of folks would be out of work.

Truth is -- Most of us in the west are simply redundant. We don't grow food or make useful items. We produce crap that no one needs, so we can earn money to buy crap we don't need. Ever been to a mall....? Entire warehouses full of crap. Hundreds of them all over the country.

At least for another 4 months or so.

-- here (kitty@kitty.kitty), August 11, 1999.

Yeah, but I really NEED my XXXLT aloha shirts!

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), August 11, 1999.

Hey! I work at night in our mall. You mean I should check my Tennant 9000 computer controlled automatic scrubber for a date function? It does have an elapsed active hourmeter.

Oh well maybe the flywheel effect will keep me working until theres no more people to clean up after...unless they close the schools and the gummi-brains return. Summer's bad enough.

Anyway, my four Concorde AGM batteries and Prosine 2.5 Sinewave inverter/charger are paid for. And we won't starve any time soon. The flight from securities and bonds to liquidity like money market cash equivalents will drive interest rates through the roof and the stock market through the floor before anything else happens.

-- Chekyni Toutman (chekyni@safety.net), August 11, 1999.

Once more to the top just in case there is anyone capable of a relevant response.

Interesting set of replies. Either they don't understand just who wrote the editorial above,

or they do.

-- Lewis (aslanshow@yahoo.com), August 12, 1999.

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