Crosspost: Granny mode on -- Tackling the issue of lying.greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
I'm away from the computer for a few days and what a wonderful mix of posts and comments I find upon my return! There were a lot of thoughts running through my head after a quick perusal of Rick's assessment of the most recent NERC report, and Tom Benjamin's straightforward posts are always a pleasure to read. [I do a lot of affirmative head nodding with nearly every sentence I read of yours, Tom.]
I'm a little frustrated at the moment because my time is limited today, likely will be through the weekend, too, and there are lots of comments I'd like to make. There's one thing which was foremost in my mind after my catch-up reading, however, so that's what I'll go with now -- the issue of LYING.
I'll bet just seeing the word in caps gave you a tiny little cringe inside. Most everyone swings out around the issue; there are discrepancies, padding of the truth, good intentioned fudging, upward chain distortion of facts and, of course, different definitions -- but never _lying_ about issues. Confrontations about lying have tended to be avoided in polite society for well over a century. [ Taking a wide stance, pushing the coat back and patting the holster, "Them thar's fightin' words, pardner." ]
While this has, and does, help keep people from getting bullet holes shot in them or teeth loosened in a fist fight, it's also enabled society to fall into a courteous trap of indirection. Nowadays there are lies..and not-really-lies.
"I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.." That's the court ritual anybody who watches television has heard many times. Ever ask yourself why our legal system determined that just a promise to "tell the truth" was not enough?
It's because there are lies of commission ("tell the truth"), lies of omission ("the whole truth"), and lies mixed in with truth ("nothing but the truth"). Unlike the legal parameters, most people only think of lying in the first commission mode - a straight out bald faced deliberate non-truth. We don't like to think about the other kinds, because we all practice those types of lying ALL the time.
"Have you been eating the frosting on this cake, Sarah?"
Hanging her head, "Grandma, I....I....only did it a LITTLE." [finger holes all over the cake]
And about those tax returns, everybody.... or those resumes...or the expense accounts... "But it was only a little"..."Everybody does it"....."It wasn't much at all,"..."It was technically the truth...."
Now let's get to Y2K. In the middle of last year, the IT manager of a small/medium business, whom I know well, called and said he'd gotten "these letters" from people wanting to know what the company's Y2K status was. The Year 2000 problem had just been entering his company's awareness and he complained to me, "What the hell am I supposed to do about these things?" It was a rhetorical question, because he had already decided. He sent them back a "we're working on it" and "we'll be ready in time" letter. Then he actually started working on it a few weeks later, _hoping_ he'd be ready in time. And he's worked his butt off, but is stalled in complications from the first integrated tests he's done.
Did he lie? YES. Hopeful thinking, no matter how good the intentions for the future, does not equate with as-of-now truth.
My local bank announced they were "Y2K Ready" at the end of June. The tellers all had "Ready" buttons on, etc. This week there's an announcement that the first of the bank's three ATM machines will be out of service on such and such days because they are being replaced with the most brand new up-to-date machines. [Even though the "old" machines were only put in about three to four years ago.] The bank was ready because...well, this was _scheduled_, even if it wasn't exactly implemented yet....
Then there is the lying by definition. We've all had lots of laughs over the "It depends on what is, is, " line used by our President. As funny and ridiculous as it appears to most people, it's far from an unusual position nowadays. That's exactly why a business of any size has a lawyer or lawyers on staff. Wording is everything when it comes to a determination of lying. If a word definition exists whereby a statement may be later defended as truthful, even though the overall falsehood stands out clearly, well....then it's not _really_ a lie.
Months ago, I sent an e-mail to the appropriate person listed on the NERC website as the one to address questions to about the NERC survey forms. I politely asked, concerning the "Rmd/Tst" category on the survey, if a component was assessment-tested and then fixed but had not undergone any validation or integration testing, did it qualify to be counted in the "Rmd/Tst" category, or was the testing part for post-remediation testing only? I never did get an answer to my e-mail. I did get an answer from NERC in a roundabout way, however. In the April report to the DOE I came across:
"NERC has adopted the use of three phases: "Inventory," "Assessment," and "Remediation and Testing". NERC has deliberately avoided placing a strict definition on these three phases, so as to prevent conflicts with previously existing internal project definitions."
So the definitions of what could be reported in the NERC survey categorys was left up to each individual utility.
How about the "whole truth"? There are a lot of SEC filings in which a company states they began their Y2K project in 1997. Sounds good, gives them three years to get ready, right? If you do some research, you can often discover that the company's first meeting to begin to organize a Y2K project occurred on December 15th, 1997, or a similar end of the year date, and the formal project didn't actually get under way until well into 1998. We say "technically" they didn't lie -- but they didn't tell the whole truth either.
If you're still hanging in there with me, now think about PEOPLE. Humanity. Then you might understand why I can affirm my complete conviction that there is a percentage of people involved in Y2K work and reporting who have flat out lied -- by commission. There is a much bigger percentage of people who have lied by omission (not told the whole truth) and by mixing lies with some truth (indirection).
From this Grandma's perspective, there is undoubtedly a LOT of lying going on in the Y2K arena. Ever go apartment or house hunting? The ads sound so great, until you see the place for yourself. The idea that Y2K has somehow become disassociated from human nature is balderdash. Lying is an endemic part of life. Society is now so immersed in "not exactly the truth" that we often no longer even equate it with lies. If you don't recognize this, I think you're either naive and haven't lived long enough, or you're an incurable romantic. The predilictions of human nature should be factored into _every_ Y2K status report you read.
No niceties here, no beating around the bush. Lies are lies. The Y2K issue is frought with them. Think I'm being too hardnosed? "Humph" So shoot me. Better yet, go try to explain why lies aren't really lies to your kids.
-- Bonnie Camp (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 1999
Excellent essay, as usual. however, this time you have touched on a subject dear to my heart, lying and schedule status reports. As a retired Project Planner with over 35 years of project management experience I can attest to the fact that many, many, games are played with schedule status reports.
A favorite one is blame someone else, like I never said that activity was complete, the planner must of mis-understood me. Or there is the game of not using expected activity completion dates, but rather to show % complete and let the computer based scheduling software program calculate an expected completion date. That way one can always say " I never said that activity would complete two weeks from now, all I said was that it was 85% complete." Or the more subtle ploy, asking the planner what his best guess is, thereby shirkling any responsibility for the schedule. I can'nt tell you how many times someone who is responsible for an activity has told me that he really did'nt know the schedule status and for me to just use my own best estimate.
Nobody likes thier work to be scheduled. They are being pinned-down to make a commitment regarding thier work activities. Most people find this to be very uncomformtable. Those that are new to this effort are really astounded after you have wrung a schedule out of them that now you want schedule status??? You never told me that!! You mean you want me to tell you if I'm going to finish that activity on time?
So in time, a good planner learns how to get schedule status with a minimum amount of game playing. I learned to print out a schedule with the past due and upcoming activities circled. I then would ask the responsible party (in writing) to denote actual schedule completion dates by noting the date and a (a) next to it, and to reflect expected completion dates for those activities not yet started or complete. I expressly asked them not to use per cent complete in lieu of expected completion dates. I then asked them to sign and date the status report. I can'nt begin to tell you the arm wringing I usually had to employ to get this.
So how does all of this play into lying and Y2K? I think from a project managment viewpoint and human nature nothing has really changed. I'm worried.
-- Bill Watt (email@example.com), August 13, 1999.
As usual, all your facts and figures are well documented. But on the issue of lying,or various shades of the truth, I think we've all seen ample examples of it. So, Bonnie, to use an old saying "you're preaching to the choir" :)
-- Kelly Meek (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 1999.
-- Critt Jarvis (email@example.com), August 13, 1999
Your check is in the mail!
I just want to .........
-- red (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 1999.
How about the lies we tell ourselves. I was out on the edge of the prairie yesterday, buying gas, when the temperature out was about 100 Far. I know that there is a good chance that the hotter than normal temperatures that we have had for most of the last decade are probably caused by human-induced global warming. I'm sure many of my fellow gas-station patrons have heard this too. But here we are in our large vehicles, adding heaven-knows how many tons of new greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, filling up our tanks. John and his family over there are on vacation. Bob and his crew are going to the lake. Sally is driving up to the city to go shopping. My excuse is that I'm going home from work (35 miles away--gag.) Several of the cars are left running while people go inside to pay (this is the country--where it's still safe to do that.)
My point is that we collectively know, on some level of consciousness, that we are changing the environment in a dramatically negative way, using up the petroleum that our children and grandchildren may need, driving vehicles twice as big and heavy as people in other countries use, and we almost all make excuses, tell ourselves lies, as to why its ok.
As long as were on this planet, what goes up must come down.
-- Alexi (Alexi@not-in-the-dark.com), August 13, 1999.
Good essay Bonnie. but I think you need to add one more catagory.. lying by compilation or magnification (or some such nomenclature). Like the movie title - "hope floats" - so these various catagories of lies float up the organizational charts getting enhanced and inflated just a bit... so that each level can present to the next level up a situation just a little bit better than has *actually* been presented to them.
-- Linda (email@example.com), August 13, 1999.
As Bill Watt indicated in his posting, the situation you've described is unfortunately all too common in computer projects. That's why some of us began to be worried about this years ago -- for we simply asked ourselves, "Why should we believe there will be a greater degree of honesty and forthright disclosure with Y2K projects than there has been with other computer projects that we've seen for the past X number of years?"
And for those of us who are actually working on Y2K projects -- either as tech-weenie programmers, or QA analysts, or consultants, or whatever -- the sobering reality is that the lying is WORSE with Y2K, if only because there is so much more attention and focus on the problem than with your normal run-of-the-mill computer projects.
Unfortunately, as others have observed on this forum, the lying won't stop on January 1st, either. Y2K glitches will be denied or attributed to something/someone else. And paradoxically, things that have nothing to do with Y2K will be blamed on Y2K, just the way we've blamed every bit of bad weather on El Nino.
C'est la vie.
-- Ed Yourdon (HumptyDumptyY2K@yourdon.com), August 13, 1999.
Bonnie, You just put into words the thoughts I have carried with me for a long time but was unable to so eloquently express.
-- Ray (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 1999.
-- Living in (email@example.com), August 13, 1999.
I agree that truth has become an extremely elastic thing, over the last 50 years. Everyone's got an opinion about why, from liberal education methods to the excesses of the military-industrial complex, but it's hard to find a person that doesn't believe the phenomena exists.
However, in this Y2K debate why is it only possible for one side to be guilty of all the things enumerated above. I've heard the charges of lying and distortions leveled by pollies against doomers and doomers against pollies, but no where have I seen a convincing argument for why one side or the other holds a monopoly on truth.
I'm someone who believes we're in for a hell of a time, next year, but I don't take every doomer post as gospel. No one's ever been able to convince me that there's some magic that makes doomers incapable of lying, half truths, distortions, etc.
Time is getting short, and if someone has a convincing argument for that, they better make it soon.
-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), August 13, 1999.
There are more than a few lies floating around in the "human-induced global warming" hype that abounds in print and broadcast media. But there are other fora for that.
-- Jerry B (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 1999.
The leader of our country, the man who calls out the troops at his own whim (Klinton), says it's okay to lie, there's honor in it, and you will never get punished for lying. Even if you think you will be hearing the truth, there's always another side to the story, another truth and another lie. There's a 50-50 chance that Y2K will be a BTW, I heard this somewhere, but then again don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.
-- hear no evil see no evil (email@example.com), August 13, 1999.
Bonnie, it's good to see you again, I've always enjoyed your well thought out essays.
On an earlier thread, someone who was deemed Polly by others made a sneering and sarcastic remark at "doomers" thinking they're so smart because they can "read between the lines" and hence come to gloomy conclusions.
You've just explained the reasons of the importance of knowing how to "read between the lines". Reading between the lines is a skill that's acquired as one matures. Kids are naive because they can't yet do this. They think concretely and they trust "authorities", that is anyone that is older and who they view as more knowledgable and/or smarter then they are. They don't have enough experience yet nor have the mental skills to question a given "fact" by an "authority" figure.
We all start out this way. Age and maturity is as much an important factor in understanding what is really going on in the world around us as intelligence.
We're doomed to have endless "polly/doomer" debates because there are infinit combinations of maturity-intelligence with people discussing the Y2K issue, and most dire, with people responsible for fixing it.
-- Chris (%$^&^@pond.com), August 13, 1999.
Critt, you're cutting into my sleep! _smile_ Thanks for letting me know you'd posted this here, or I would have completely missed all the thoughtful and kind (thank you!) responses.
Bokonon, you made a very good point. There is no "magic that makes doomers incapable of lying, half truths, distortions, etc." Humans are human no matter what side of the fence they're on. However, it's simplicity itself to cut to the chase and arrive at a midpoint where the truth will most likely be found. Take the extreme poles of opinion, which in this case is often expressed as a one (1) and a ten (10), and go for the middle -- a five (5). That would certainly indicate enough potential problems to warrant preparations, and cancels out lies and exaggerations on both sides.
As individuals, we all judge the truthfulness of various sources by our own experience and methods, and can obviously come to different conclusions. And certainly any affects of Y2K failures will not be evenly distributed across the nation or the globe. However, I've personally always found that what I humorously call my "Macro Simplicity Method" has tended to be rather accurate when I've used it to get a baseline to begin any past decision making. So even if I didn't have other input to base a decision on (which fortunately I think I do) I'd assume a 5 disruption level as a matter of course. Time will tell, huh?
-- Bonnie Camp (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 14, 1999.
To be honest, I was to some degree "extremist-baiting", with my post. On the other hand, though, there is nothing that says reality can't be extreme. Granted, reality is 99% of the time more mundane than we want to believe, but every once in a great while, a giant ball of rock and ice from space really does whack the planet, or some other such calamity happens.
So if either side has a really good reason for us to believe that their side never lies, then this is no time to be holding back.
-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), August 14, 1999.
But what's a "5" Bonnie? Is it closer to a bump-in-the-road event, such as an ice storm/hurricane that inconvenience us for a few days, or one that will disrupt our lives as we know it for months maybe years to come? Is a 5 a safe mental position to be in so that I don't have to worry that it could tip the balance and trigger a domino effect that would become a 6, 7, 8, 9 then 10 over months/years?
Numbers, numbers. What do they mean? I've been trying to pin a number to my state of mind about y2k since I've got on this board over a year ago. 5 would be so easy and simple.
-- Chris (%$^&^@pond.com), August 14, 1999.
The recent Cap Gemini report says it all-- 75% of respondents have already experienced a y2k failure. And will these be reported? Of course not! Let's not do anything bad for business!
-- seraphima (email@example.com), August 14, 1999.
Oh, but Y2K status reports are just "white" lies (with various twinges of grey)... so that's okay. Our corporate executives, IT managers and government bureaucrats 'n leaders would NEVER tell us "black" lies. That would be "unetheical."
Really... they're NOT lying! Just bending somewhat... for our own good. There are NO vested interests. That's the Truth with a capital "T." You can bank on it. Really.
Ever wonder why there are so many asprin products sold in this country?
Diane, still a "5" (for what it's worth)
(Chris... in my assesment a "10" is global thermalnuclear war... so it's up to each person to figure out what their own 5 equals).
-- Diane J. Squire (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 14, 1999.
Bokonon: "I agree that truth has become an extremely elastic thing, over the last 50 years."
Try 500,000 years. Ever since we've been socialised and been able to express ourselves in the most rudimentary language, we've tried to influence our family and our clan to think the way we'd like them to. It has to do with the first priority of survival (personal) and its corollary benefit (prestige or power).
And, of course, the best way to be convincing is to have convinced yourself. Thus does self-deception make a claim as a survival trait, Alexi.
Nothing new under the sun. The major difference between this and aboriginal societies, or even early civilizations, is that it mattered less then if a clan, tribe or even an entire civilization was wiped out. There were plenty more to fill their niche. In this current one-world monoculture, wired together as we approach the cliff, a lie has a much greater impact than we have ever known before.
"Truth and lies are Siamese twins, joined at the lips."---Richard Thieme
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."---George Orwell
-- (Hallyx@aol.com), August 14, 1999.
Have to admit, I had to chew on that one, for awhile.
I think we've become more aware of the elasticity of reality, in the last half century. THE TRUTH depends on where you are viewing things from. I think mass media has had the greatest influence on that. We can now send someone over to the "other side" and get their views and have that beamed right into our living rooms. Suddenly, it's not so easy to think in black and white terms. Everything gets mushed into shades of grey.
I found the whole Yugoslavia affair to be a great example of that. At first, I felt our actions were just. But night after night of live video from Belgrade began to make me lose some of that "holy cause" feeling and, in the end, my attitudes towards the war became very muddled. Images of suffering Kosovars and suffering Serbs began to vie for dominance in my mind. I guess what I feel has really changed is that those people with a vested interest in the opinions of others have recognized this wider acceptance of flexible reality and found bigger and better ways to exploit it.
You are, of course, right. Lies are not an invention of the post-war world.
-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), August 15, 1999.
Bokonon: "THE TRUTH depends on where you are viewing things from....Suddenly, it's not so easy to think in black and white terms. Everything gets mushed into shades of grey."
Better watch out there, my friend. The black&white "absolute truth squad" will be after us for stuff like that. And we have only the consensus realists guarding our backs---and you know what a shadey (shades of grey) bunch they are.
Garrett Hardin repeatedly makes the point that morality varies with circumstances, also time (as in eras) and timing, as well as scale and criticality of a situation. (Excuse me while I duck the situational ethics diatribe that is headed my way.)I wish it were quite as simple and clear as religious moralists would like us to believe. It sure would help me sleep.
I also wish political and religious conservatives on this forum would familiarize themselves with Hardin. His arguments seemingly derive from their worldview. But then, they'd have to deal with his conclusions. Oh well, they'd never understand his linking of Christianity with Marxism anyway. LoL
Bokonon: "I guess what I feel has really changed is that those people with a vested interest in the opinions of others have recognized this wider acceptance of flexible reality and found bigger and better ways to exploit it."
See, this is what happens when people start thinking for themselves. They become vulnerable to the influences of those who would would encourage that mindset all the while seeking power over the thinkers. Lucrative careers await in PR and politics for those whose self-delusionment is complete, or those who positively enjoy kneading and stretching that daffy, taffy reality. Closed minds, on the other hand, rarely change; their non-adaptive brittleness condemns them to the epistemological ash-heap of history.
What may be disturbing you (it sure does me) is that, within the last fifty years, lying is simultaneously more blatant and more covert. Before this spinning era of prevarication, power understood more completely that it was lying---either that or, blinded by self-deception, was more convinced that what it was telling the truth. In a time of more flexible reality, I'm not sure that either the liars or the gullible know whether or to what degree they are participating in a lie. It is even more frightening to think that neither party cares.
"'Truth' is a working hypothesis most suitable to pave the way to that other hypothesis which is able to explain more."---Konrad Lorenz
-- (Hallyx@aol.com), August 15, 1999.
For those who missed this excellent essay by Bonnie Camp, thought I would bring it back to the top for your perusal.
-- Ray (email@example.com), August 27, 1999.
People lie. That not news.
You speculate there's a lot of lying about Y2K.
The best example of Y2K lying you've provided is an IT manager telling someone he was working on Y2K several weeks before he actually started working. Ho, hum. That's not much of an anecdote to prove there's a lot of Y2K lying. Not very convincing to me.
-- Richard Greene (Rgreene2@ford.com), December 12, 1999.
Richard Greene commented:
"You speculate there's a lot of lying about Y2K. "
Richard, you have permission to take your head out of the sand now!!
Your Pal, Ray
-- Ray (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 12, 1999.
Interesting read.... thanx for putting it on top again Ray, seems very appropriate in these times... 19 days, 2 hours, 57 minutes, 53 seconds
-- CT (email@example.com), December 12, 1999.