how to answer the visiting programmer brother from away? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Here is how I responded to him _ 1) - as to your comments that people in Central America and third world countries saying they live it every day. This is true to some extent. The extrapolation that we therefore will have no big problem is conclusory: *Temperatures in Detroit are not 70 degrees in February like it is in Guatemala. *People in Detroit do not have the agricultural skills and local fish markets that Guatemalans daily rely on. *People in Detroit are much more used to government running to the rescue whenever they get a runny nose, whereas Guatemalans just curl up and die from the fever if no international aid is forthcoming (which it may not be!)

2)the two big economic dangers are to CHEAP energy and CHEAP capital. Our economy runs on these. As to the former, that energy supply system is run by fatalistic Muslims, and I lived among them long enough to know about their lackadaisical attitude when things go wrong. It is a known fact that remediation overseas is way behind schedule and those guys won't go on the death march to bail out some greedy Americans. As to the latter, think Japanese banks and savers. If the latter start going down, Jap holders of US govt. debt (they hold about half of it) will sell that debt to repatriate their money and our little party will be over. Interest rates will go thru the roof and business reinvestment will end. Unemployment will go thru the roof.

3)the winter storm or hurricane analogy is not apposite. Meteorological phenomena are localized, have definite ends and are not self propagating in the long term (unlike bad data). Also they are regional and help can be sent in from outside the affected area. If one wants a natural example, the more appropriate example is a worldwide meteor shower. We do not know the intensity or longevity or where the meteors will hit. If sufficient targets of the right type are hit (or their human repairers are removed from action in a need to take care of their own families) then things go down.

4)the thing that bugs me the most is the rampant evidence that agencies and companies are lying about compliance. PR flaks put out the good news, and programmers down in the belly of the beast come out on the internet and say that it is just not so. The Dept. of Defense and the FAA have been caught multiple times lying by Congress. A NERC affiliate posted in mid 1998 on its website the text (to be published in Sept 1999!!!!!) for its having achieved compliance when they hadn't even completed initial assessment. (Where did they get the crystal ball?) Most importantly, there is NO sanction for lying to one's superiors. In most cases management wants to hear that it's ok. If it is not and you tell them so, they figure they have to replace you! I.e. get some one in who can "do the job" (read give me the reports I want and thus not drive the stock price down). This all adds up to us not being able to know what is really going on, good or bad.

5)In some cases people honestly report that they're compliant but are not. In our town hall our Unix box was all remediated and tested. Looked great. Then the auditors couldn't get year end to balance. After much digging it was found that 7 tax payers had prepayed their taxes into the year 2000 and their credit was wiped out on one side of the books. We honestly thought we were compliant, but reality told a different story. Why does this sort of thing happen? Because, according to the Gartner Group, a new error is introduced for every thousand lines of remediated code.

Time fails to discuss wacko terrorists and virus writers, stock market speculation and velocity of capital, fractional reserve banking and the lack of legacy code documentation, fragility of the rail system and even the law of unintended consequences. Maybe some other time.

Do I think I know what is going to happen? No. If anyone believes that they know what is going to happen, then they do not understand the complexity of the problem. My current GUESS (and that is all it is) is that big unemployment is the thing to worry about most. How's a guy gonna pay for that van, that SUV, that MEAL, and answer his wife when she looks questioningly in his eye?

All I'd say is that you do SOMETHING and do it now. Put away some of the canned stuff as you suggested and rig up a propane stove and put aside some kerosene for that heater. If nothing happens you can use it (better than auto insurance) and if things do go wrong, at least you know you've done something and you won't be kicking yourself.

-- robert a. konczal (, August 18, 1999


Good post, robert. Hopefully he heard the logical arguement through the emotional haze most feel about this (those who wish not to see a problem). Unfortunately he is part of the elite who have created the problem and ensconced in a subculture which has been beaten into a rude shape by those who 'manage' them. It is very possible that though a programmer he does not have room to think.

Keep at him. Don't let the fish get away!

-- ..- (dit@dot.dash), August 18, 1999.

Good post, Robert. Why not give him/push him to buy some of the few good/useful books related to the subject? My suggestions:

The Millennium Michael Hyatt (1998)

TimeBomb2000... by Edward Yourdon (1997) or the second edition (1999)

Man and Society in Calamity P.A. Sorokin (1942)

What Will Become of Us...Counting Down to Y2K Julian Gregori (1998)

-- MinnesotaSmith (, August 19, 1999.

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