Why people don't get it.greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Being a consultant I get exposed to many situations where technology has gotten a tad out of hand. Invariably, the first day I walk in to a customer site I am told about a certain application that "Bob So-and-so" is in charge of. Bob has evidently found a better opportunity at another company and they need someone to take over administration of the system that this application runs on. Bob will fill me in on what's going on. Bob proceeds to give me the password to the system, the user manual, the vendors phone number, and then spends the next two weeks showing me where all the good places to eat are. During the two-week transition phase I follow Bob around for a day to verify that he is, indeed clueless as to how this application works, and then read the manual, speak with the vendor, and buy Bob lunch on his last day. (Note: Bob was able to find a better opportunity because, through no fault of his own, he was assigned to the Application from Hell and all other opportunities became suddenly more appealing.)
Having inherited the Application, I quickly get to work collecting system performance data and error logs and consulting the vendor for the meaning of any errors messages not printed in the manual. Eventually, the application either runs on the system it is installed on, or the customer has to buy something that it will run on. The app' is then documented, an employee of the client is trained, and I ride off in to the sun set, another problem solved. Who was that umasked man?
So what's the big deal? Well, when most specialists are asked to fix a problem, normally there is something that you can point to that contains said problem. That HP K 460 running Ash Tray. manager for X11. A starting point is presented. However, when our community leaders are presented with "Become Y2K compliant by 06/01/99, what exactly do they look at? What contains the problem? Most likely, they are accountants or lawyers. I, at least, am an expert on the systems I get called in for. Mayor Bob (I told you he got a better job) isn't even sure whom to call to find out who is an expert on what's likely to break. The problem starts with 'The fabric of society", which means you have a thousand starting points in your own town alone, and only three of them are obvious. There is no economic underlying technological nexus administrator to contact. There are no consulting agencies that specialize in world financial systems and automated business interactions and dependencies.
Basically, in order to be aware of the problem, you have to be able to see "The Big Picture". ALL of the Big Picture. And in order to do that, you have to have at least a working knowledge of most of its components. And the components are the transportation infrastructure (air, ground, rail and shipping), banking and finance, energy production, small business, defense, law enforcement, communications And each one of those components breaks down in to many levels of their own components. The Big Pictures components are actually the top of many other organizational hierarchies.
Now do you see why people don't get it?
-- eyes_open (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 17, 1999
Those few lucky enough to have the wisdom to see the Big Picture of their own age, typically end up as exiles, prisoners, or revolutionaries.
-- Forrest Covington (email@example.com), August 17, 1999.
Ah-yes we have another winner. Its always so refreshing to here a tech-ie when they take there blinders off..Thankyou eyes
-- Les (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 17, 1999.
Excellent perspective, eyes_open. And if you think about it, there really are no Y2K "experts" anyway. Even power industry experts really don't have much more than a working knowlege about the importance of communications, the railway system that delivers coal that is needed, etc., etc. Never before has a single "problem" emerged that will affect virtually everything at the same time. The notion that "the application" has a problem will be meaningless in a environment that might see Y2K problems affecting operating systems, electricity, food supply, etc.
-- King of Spain (email@example.com), August 17, 1999.
(Amen, Forrest. By the way, I once knew a family named Hills who named their son Forrest and their daughter Beverly. Now THAT is child abuse!)
Yes, eyes open, the vastness and the complexity of the intertwined strands of the problem do make it difficult to explain. And most people are interested neither in the Big Picture nor in the details of its unfamiliar components.
You know, sometimes I think about all I have learned about the world and its workings since I turned my attention to y2k. I can be grateful for that, if for nothing else. But I had the luxury of time. If the problem had been openly addressed a few years ago, I muse, what a magnificent, motivating, educational tool it might have been. (And if wishes were horses, poor men would ride, huh?) But I digress. We were agreeing that understanding the y2k problem requires a possession of more information that the brain of a single human bean cares to, or can, contain.
But that doesnt absolve us from the responsibility to communicate to them that we may all be facing imminent and potentially devastating events.
If complexity is a roadblock to understanding the problem, then we need to find analogies that can get the essential concept across: the strands of the spider web, or a pile of pick-up sticks as high as the Sears Tower, with each stick or wispy segment representing a different industry, for example.
The reasons people dont get it are, really, as many and complex as the reasons for the problem, too. I literally watched as my best friend got it, the understanding flashing across his face like a bolt of lightning. Then, in the next nanosecond I saw him reject it and lock all of his psyches doors. To get it, after all, really is to open Pandoras box. Getting It is a life-altering event, sort of in the same way as getting hit by a truck. This late in the game, if youre trying to help somebody understand, it's helpful to realize that you are the one driving the truck. I figure the best we who sit behind the wheel can do is hit em hard and as square-on as possible, gently tell them that they have irreversibly entered the Land of Uncertainty, and start showing them the way of the compassionate warrior as quickly and as well as we can.
It's a twilight zone reality, built on shifting sands. We would all do well to keep our eyes open, and to remain centered in our hearts.
-- Faith Weaver (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 17, 1999.
Good post. This topic has been touched on many times (including by me), so I will just give a quick list of some reasons that IMHO people don't "get it." 1) Difficulty in thinking abstractly. 2) Do not generally think very far ahead. 3) Little knowledge of history. 4) Do not have a basic knowledge of human psychology, economics, politics, or any of the sciences. 5) Do not understand how routinely governments (and corporations) lie to their people. 6) Difficulty in accepting any concept that would result in mandating deferral of gratification. 7) They do not go on the Internet, where almost all of the good information on Y2K is found. 8) They do not read serious books. 9) They have learned almost everything they will ever know (have stopped learning). 10) They believe that what their mood is, or what they think about, has a significant influence on the events in the Universe. If they are optimistic, nothing bad can happen. If they do not think about Y2K, there cannot possibly be such a thing.
You get the idea. www.y2ksafeminnesota.com
-- MinnesotaSmith (email@example.com), August 17, 1999.
You just identified my situation..
-- flierdude (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 17, 1999.
I've been puzzled by the harshness that Y2K has created in some circles. Why is this a political issue ? None of the normal logic one should expect, considering the possible ramifications, is present in either camp of leaders. It seems that GI leaders have not separated themselves sufficiently from the abusive money makers and that the Polly leaders have resorted to name calling and demonizing. In talking to the official local Y2K guru, she sounded like a PR ad for the Department of Public Works. Why would she discourage me from offering the use of my business copy machine to elderly people, to copy thier important documents ? What possible harm could be done? Most of these people have lived through two world wars and a serious depression !! Are we going to get them upset ? When I went to a local Y2K meeting, someone there was selling metal pyramids for separating the oxygen from hydrogen which allowed one's furnace to run more effeciently. When it was suggested that this was nonsense, one would have thought that I was questioning the Virgin Birth. I no longer wonder why people have moved to the hills.
-- Ken G. (Hoosier@Indyhome.com), August 17, 1999.
It's genetic. Some of us think that Y2k is going to be a small roadbump, but can't stand to be without a plan "b" in case it goes "off the chart - bad". So we squirrel stuff away, make our preps, and move on to other interesting things in our lives.
Oh and we check back in here once in a while to see if we ought to buy a little more of "plan b".
It's genetic. Some people are sure its going to be an 8+ and figure there's nothing they can do anyhow... so they do nothing.
Got a bucket?
Got "the humanure handbook" from amazon.com?
-- Berry Picker (BerryPicking@yahoo.com), August 17, 1999.
One aspect is that our society has a poor tolerance for dynamic tension or, if you prefer, for dialectics. For example, everything seems normal right now AND there are some y2k problems that are going on that are terribly abnormal. People would prefer that situations be simple, obvious, and someone clearly responsible or to blame.
Y2k is too big, too systemic, there is too much discontinuity between what is currently perceived and desired, and what is frighteningly possible. A lot of people are so close to overload already that they just can't deal with the threat. There is a strong societal impulse to simplicity of understanding.
-- seraphima (email@example.com), August 17, 1999.
In order to contemplate a fix, one must see the Big Picture.
I believe that Big Picture is relatively easy to grasp: many of the systems that need fixing are interconnected, and these interconnections form an order n**2 fixing and testing problem.
I've wasted countless hours trying to connect with relatives, friends, colleagues, and others on Y2K. I soon realized that even once I converted someone, they would soon revert back to the Polly state. Why? Because, I believe, I am a drop in the bucket of their experience. What good does it do when 99.9% of the input says "Go" and 0.01% of the input says "Stop"? As has been observed before, the media almost consistently says "Go" on Y2k issues and powerful institutions (eg banking) have a vested interest that they continue to do so. A GI constantly battles the neuro-linguistic programming of the current culture. The person of average or sub-average intelligence is swamped with information of questionable veracity. And there's no smoking gun, no unadulterated frame-by-frame Zapruder film, to show that the media is wrong. It is a trivial, but abstract, intellectual exercise that most people are carefully primed to avoid by the media.
Combine this Y2K variant of MindSpeak with the media's propensity to favor an ever increasing number of government "solutions", especially in the wake of crises, misfortunes and disasters, and the situation becomes clear: it looks like it may get a lot worse before it gets better.
(Got a white rose?)
-- Ann Y Body (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 18, 1999.
Ah, good thread, good thread...so many readily identifiable factors go into denial. I still use Kubler-Ross' "Stages of Dying" as a template for understanding, but really, it is simpler. People have become detached from self-sufficiency, and been reattached, this past century, to a dozen life-sustaining umbilical cords--an overspecialized job that provides a piece of paper, or electronic deposit, which allows the person to receive the food, electricity, car, water, garbage pickup and mall goods that enable modern life. When told that one or all of the umbilical cords may be disconnected, people have no frame of reference in which to interpret that event: most people, myself included, long ago gave up any coherent idea of being self-sufficient. My, how Jefferson would blush if he saw what a bunch of dependents we've (almost) all become. Technology, like it or not, has weakened our muscles as well as our minds: welfare governments have emerged to manage technology-dependent populaces. Our education systems have evolved simply to train techno-specialists--in Heinlein's word, 'insects.'
-- Spidey (email@example.com), August 18, 1999.
Specialization is going to be difficult to avoid as technology advances. It's a trade off with a dangerous side effect, that being the more advanced your technology becomes the more specialized tasks you have to maintain it. The human being becomes less able to do a significant number of these tasks as we progress. It's seems our brains let us discover and invent things faster than it can evolve to keep up with them.
The danger here is that the "system" of technology grows and becomes more complex, which in turn allows society to also become more complex and dependant on things that fewer people can understand. The big picture becomes that much more unattainable. Once the human ability to understand the whole system is surpassed, we have the infrastructual equivalant of a run away train. How can you steer what you can't understand?
All is not lost, however. We can continue to advance our technology safely so long as we recognize our limitations and plan for the eventual failure. And the means a civil defense program that includes individuals doing alot of what GIs are doing right here. Prepareing to replace services normally provided by the society around us. Sort of like a survivalist milita or national guard. People could volunteer to keep certain less complex "fall back technologies" available by learning them as a hobby. One person could know water purification, another how to make charcoal, all of us could have a working knowledge of farming. This gives us time to fix a broken critical failure in our infrastructure and staves off the panic that comes when the food, water and warmth is suddenly taken away.
We can also learn from this (Yeah, sure) and steer future macro-systems away from the incomprhesible mess ours has become.
Specialization will become more necessary as technology advances. That can be compensated for with planning.
Watch six and keep your...
-- eyes_open (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 18, 1999.