Y2K: It's not about computers

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is an oldie but a goodie. I'm not going to provide a link or date, but it is from this year. Still true today? <:)=

Systems expert urges people to think of big, interconnected picture

By Lisa Greim Everitt - News Staff Writer

Cathy Moyer's manner is low-key, but her coffee cup hints otherwise.

It says: "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

Moyer would like everybody to sit up and pay attention to the Year 2000 problem -- not from the perspective of bits and chips and lines of code, but as a big interconnected picture.

"It has been defined incorrectly in the public mind," she said. "This is not a computer problem. It is a systems problem. Everything is tied to everything else."

So this is a Year 2000 story that talks about real people's need for everyday stuff, not about computers.

Some examples:

 The dairy that produces your milk runs on optical sensors, information systems and various mechanical feed and milking devices. The power goes out for a week. Cows need to be milked every couple of days or they dry up. It takes two years for a dairy cow to cycle back through calving into milk production. What does this do to the price of milk? The dairy industry?

 You are a diabetic. Most insulin is produced by pharmaceutical firms in the Netherlands, then shipped to the United States. What is the impact on you if your neighborhood drugstore is closed for a week? If air cargo across the Atlantic is delayed? If your insurance company inexplicably denies your drug benefits?

 You run a hotel in Steamboat Springs. What happens to you if the lights go out or you can't provide food to your guests? What will you do if millennial worries keep people from planning vacations over the New Year's holiday, your most lucrative week of the year? What happens to Steamboat if Denver International Airport stops working?

"It's the standing wave effect, the downstream impact of small disruptions in a series," Moyer explains. We see this phenomenon on the freeway when a police cruiser doing 55 miles an hour causes the cars behind it to back off a little, which causes the cars just behind to back off a little more, and then somebody brakes and two miles back, you're barely moving and you don't know why.

"Taken as a whole, you look at all of this stuff and say, 'Oh my God,"' she says.

Ordinary people can't change the business practices of large corporations, but we can think about and prepare for their potential effects. They could range from the spotty annoyances of everyday life to big trouble: shortages of crucial goods, business failures that put people out of work.

To make things worse, companies mindful of their liability to shareholders and customers are saying very little about their preparations for Y2K.

"We're very careful not to guarantee anything, because you can't guarantee anything," said David Bailey, president of Norwest Bank Colorado and chairman of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. "I'm pretty sure our ATMs are going to work -- if we have telephone lines, and if we have power."

Telephone companies and utility companies have been assuring customers that their computer systems are ready for the date change. But they rely on vast, complex networks of interconnected machines with too many variables to predict.

About the only thing you can predict is that nothing ever works right the first time.

"The industry standard failure rate is 25 to 40 percent," she says. "We will not defy those rates."

Moyer stops for a moment, noticing a listener's frown lines.

"I'm real fun at parties," she says.

Moyer, a database programmer by trade, works in a cluttered office in a former warehouse building between the old Tivoli Brewery and the new Pepsi Center.

She travels the state on behalf of The Cassandra Project, a grassroots community preparedness organization based in Louisville.

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was pursued by the god Apollo, who tried to win her over by giving her the power of prophecy. But she scorned him, so he cursed her: She would speak the truth and no one would believe her.

The group's goal is to get people to organize within their communities to identify health and safety risks and interruptions in essential services that may arise from the Year 2000 date change.

"It's a tough line to walk," she says. "You want to scare people without precipitating a crisis."

Moyer's co-founder, Paloma O'Riley, is the group's primary spokeswoman.

They tread the fine line between advocating preparedness and promoting the kind of paranoia that is leading some Americans to buy remote real estate and stockpile guns and dried beans for millennial chaos.

Better to stay home and look out for yourself, your family and others who may need help, Moyer said. "The safest community is a community that pays attention to each other."

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), September 17, 1999


K.I.S.S. -- Ke-rist, It's the Systems, Stupid.
Good to be reminded, Sysman.
It reminds me of Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times" or one of the "I Love Lucy" episodes where she's also doing an assembly line bit. Pandemonium. Yes, J.I.T. and intimate interconnectness makes for "efficiency" -- the bean counters love it -- but what if a lot of stuff ISN'T on time, or a lot of conncetions get hosed? TSHTF.

-- A (A@AisA.com), September 17, 1999.

What kind of "community" to stick around and work with? Surely not New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.

-- A (A@AisA.com), September 17, 1999.

My personal equation - reduced and/or interupted imports = restricted cash flow = lay offs and failed businesses = rampant unemployment = bankruptcies and foreclosures. Get out of debt Get supplies Get out of the way

-- April (Alwzapril@home.com), September 17, 1999.

She sounds really convincing, if you aren't in the know. Two examples:

    It takes two years for a dairy cow to cycle back through
         calving into milk production.

not even close, The cycle for a cow is ONE year. I grew up on a farm.

     What happens to Steamboat if Denver International Airport 
          stops working?

When I worked for Breckenridge, and we wanted to know where our skiers were coming from, we didn't check the flights from Denver. We walked around in the parking lot and read the plates on the cars and busses.

All of these kinds of examples may serve to convince the ignorant, but if you want to know how something will affect Steamboat, ask THEM aboput their contingency plans. You will be surprised at how long and well they can operate without DIA

-- walt (walt@lcs.k12.ne.us), September 17, 1999.

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