Stakes versus Odds -- Paul Milne -- : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Borrowed from csy2k...

" **Low** risk is not the same as **no** risk. Especially for those at risk. And the stakes can be high - very high - even when the risk is truly low."

Lane Core


Above everything else conected with Y2k, THIS is probably the most UNIVERSAL misunderstanding of the pollyannas. It is part and parcel of what makes the pollyannas.

Frank Ney has recently stated it too, in other terms. It is NOT the odds. It is the 'stakes'.

What is at stake are the lives of your family members. Their lives are 'at stake' no matter what you think the odds' are. Big brained pollyannas can not fathom that. It must be genetic.

Over and over and over you have heard ALL but the most invincibly ignorant Pollyannas (read- dechert) claim that first and foremost they do NOT know what will happen. And in the SAME breath, they add, "But it will not be bad".

This is NOT rational.

And thus, they wantonly, brazenly, carelessly, INTENTIONALLY expose their families. Most of these people would not put a child in a car without a seat belt on. But, they will remain in populated areas, merely hoping it will not be bad.

If you believe that you are a human being, and at the same time, you tell the 'competency' hearing that you also believe that you are a soft-boiled egg, they would lock you up. But if you say that you do not know what will happen, and you do NOTHING to prepare, you are 'sane', 'rational', 'moderate' or the laughable, 'balanced'. That view is the epitome of unbalanced.

There have been a myriad of experts, pundits, Government officials etc etc, who have openly admitted that EVEN with the work that has 'alledgedly' been done, that catastrophe can strike. Total catastrophe.

That is where the stakes vs odds picture comes in. You DELUDE yourself to maitain that the 'odds' are low, so you do not have to do anything out of the ordinary.

The odds are low that you house will burn down, and yet you have had fire insurance on your house for years and years, to a tune far far far more than you have spent on Y2k preparations. And the stakes are not nearly so high there either. After all, it is just a house. So with relatively low odds and stakes that are really not about loss of human life, you buy fire insurance.

But you do NOTHING to safegurd your family in the event that Y2k is a catastrophe. You do nothing to insure that the stakes, the lives of your kids, are 'hedged'.

If you are alan dechert, you ignore your kids and call Y2k a hoax. If you are echristi, you conspicuously **BRAG** that you are not preparing for your newborn. If you are bks, you lie, slander, ridicule, minmize, dissuade, obfuscate, blather, equivocate, and rationalize your children into a position of extreme vulnerability, if you are WRONG.

You do not understand the simplest of distictions between the odds and the stakes.

You won't be around much longer. Too bad for your kids. They depend on you to ensure their safety, not just when you are right, but MORE importantly, even in the event that you are WRONG.

You are irresponsible. You are 'fathers' who are also 'soft-boiled' eggs.

-- Paul Milne "If you live within 5 miles of a 7-11, you're toast"

-- not much time left (, October 31, 1999


The difference between pollyannas and Paul Milne is that Paul Milne is will have "If you live within 5 miles of a 7-11 you're toast" written on his gravestone. Pollyanns won't. That is the way everyone will remember Milne, as a loudmouth, fear mongering pig farmer.

This one's for you buddy...cheers.

-- only another 5,000,000,000 years (before@the.sun supernovas...better get ready now.), October 31, 1999.

The Oil Chat thread says it all. Paul and I are pollys.

-- a (a@a.a), October 31, 1999.

About 2 1/2 years ago, people were becoming aware that the date bugs problem was extremely broad, but nobody really understood how deep it might be. Around that time, a lot of noteworthy people expressed very sincere concerns of catastrophic problems. These concerns were entirely valid, since we just didn't have the data to know any better at the time.

In the interim, we've found that in some cases the problems were as bad as we'd feared, while in other areas (especially in embeddeds) the actual incidence of functional problems was much lower than feared. Further digging (and a massive remediation campaign) has taught us that, by and large, date problems have been both less virulent and more easily repaired than our worst fears originally held. Of course, there remain significant exceptions to this trend.

This experience has had a profound effect on both the odds and the stakes, at least among those who examine the situation with an open mind, and prefer analysis to ranting. The odds of some problems can now be seen to approach unity -- we *will* have problems. The scope and nature of those problems has been narrowed significantly. Only the lunatic fringe continues to talk about hiding in the hills from the spiky haired mutants, while most rational concern now focuses on economic impacts -- unemployment, higher prices, lowered productivity. The "overnight collapse" vision (like something out of Asimov's "Nightfall") has been replaced by the "grinding inefficiency" vision. The threat is no longer to your life, but to the quality of your life. The stakes have changed considerably.

Milne's logical error lies in equating not knowing what will happen, with the notion that *anything* can happen. Like if you don't know which team will win the game, you don't know what will happen, and therefore (Milne claims) it is NOT RATIONAL to believe that all the players won't drop dead. Since you "don't know" what will happen, the sudden death of all the players is *just as likely* as the favored team winning.

I don't know what will happen when I flip a coin, but I know it won't explode. This subtle distinction of knowledge is beyond Milne's grasp.

-- Flint (, October 31, 1999.

And note that Flint's post goes into a detail level examination and consideration of the ODDS, but completely ignores the issue of the STAKES! Thus illustrating Milne's argument precisely!!!!

As Diane would say, "Amazable"!!!

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), October 31, 1999.


Are you kidding??? I spent almost the entire post addressing the stakes, and why they are no longer considered what they once were. Did you read the post? Or do I need to use the word "stakes" as a label, before you understand what stakes are? Try again.

-- Flint (, October 31, 1999.

Wow, Flint, this is really enlightening. I think that maybe your mind has sprung.

Look, dude, the stakes have NOT changed. There is still the POSSIBILITY that the electricity could cut off, and the STAKES are now what existed a year ago. No change there, got it???

Now, many would claim that the ODDS have changed significantly. Take Sen. Bennett, for instance, who in the Summer of '98 said that there was a 40% chance that the power grid would shutdown if Y2K were to occur back then. He now thinks that the odds that this will happen on Jan 1 are teeny-weeny. So, according to him, the ODDS have changed. (But NOT the stakes. The odds. Odds have changed. Stakes remain the same.)

But, being a polly, of course you can't make heads or tail of what I just wrote, can you? Of course not. Which means that you have YET AGAIN verified Milne's point.

One more time: "Amazable!"

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), October 31, 1999.

Flint, I for one thought you were quite clear regarding your position on stakes. I understand your assertion to be that most Y2K problems capable of causing the downfall of civilization have been adequately addressed, and that there it is therefore illogical to prepare against the infinitesimally small chance of such an event occurring... as the chances of an untoward event diminish, so also does the the need to prepare for such an exingency diminish. Such an argument seems reasonable, but it fails to change the stakes. If the event does transpire in spite of its improbability, , the stakes will have remained unchanged. I submit that your contention that "the stakes" are reduced by the odds of a given situation's occurence is illogical.

It is up to the individual to decide for themselves just how improbable an event is, and direct their resources towards mitigating its effects on them as they see fit. That is the very essence of freedom. You are for freedom, are you not?

-- PKM (.@...), October 31, 1999.

Flint --

I would have to agree to disagree with you. From where you sit, perhaps the odds have reduced. From where I sit, and what I am seeing, I have increased the probability steadily since the first of the year.

My original assessment of the possibility of a major problem was about 5%. I am up to 40% or even a coin flip. In too many cases, the work has not been done. And those responsible are crying 'due diligence', as a CYA battlecry. And even in some cases where the work has been done, it has been shown to be ineffective.

Somehow, this doesn't raise by confidence. And the stakes have *not* changed. Only the possibilities.

-- just another (, October 31, 1999.

note that flint doesn't rbeak out a bucket of evidence for the "infintesimal odds' thing.... Ok so lets' say 90% of all medium + sized organizations in the US are compliant right now... if we lose SSA or the IRS we could seee serious problems (even if they are only "functioning at diminished capacity" as teh polly chant.. ie how long will it take to send out the 2000 tax returns by hand? where's the manual to do it? the staff? minor concerns of course) Anyway, even in the event of isolated frustrating failures resulting in local outages and/or bankruptcies... prepping is still a good idea... maybe the extra cans of beans i don't need for teotwawki I can make 20% profit on... better than the market right?

-- jeremiah (, November 01, 1999.

Apparently it's not easy to separate odds and stakes. I said the odds are essentially unity. This means guaranteed. 100%. Where did this "infinitesimal" come from?

I believe the stakes have been lowered. No, that does *not* mean that the worst we can imagine has changed a bit. Our imaginations haven't changed at all. Our "stakes focus" has been changing from infrastructure breakdown to a reduction in economic health. A food stash looks less likely to be necessary. Savings in case of unemployment look more useful. Only the Milne-class loonies are still talking about saving your families from immediate death; most observers are now thinking in terms of *providing* for those families instead. This is a change in stakes.

-- Flint (, November 01, 1999.

Point well taken, Flint. Thank you for the clarification.

-- PKM (.@...), November 01, 1999.

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