The SPEED of things.greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
One reason I'm still as pessimistic as ever, is one aspect I've not heard much talk about. We've all heard the Fix on Failure, "we're handling our problems up to now" arguments. We've heard some talk of contingency plans and doing things manually. What seems to be disregarded is how FAST we do things now. In five minutes I can conduct a transaction that would have taken a couple of hours just a few years ago. The SPEED at which things get done today is a very big reason our markets and economy are doing well - (let's leave out the inflow of money in this for right now). It's like a Formula One race car, the SPEED is what makes it so great. But that very speed can also be it's most treacherous downfall. A small error is magnified because of it, and can cause a crash very easily. There is NO contingency plan that I can think of or have heard about, that if there are problems with computers, will allow things to continue at their present SPEED. Gary North touched on this when he talked about the VELOCITY of money, but it is also the VELOCITY of the bought services/products that accompanies that purchase. Therefore, my argument is, that if a company has to go to it's Contingency Plan, whatever it might be, then we have hit the Bump in the Road, and at our current SPEED, will crash into the wall very quickly soon after.(i.e. things might start off slow, but quickly move to the more drastic phases - this could happen in a couple of DAYS from the first buckling of the hull. Who is going to work on a Power Plant, when they know that if they fail, there will be no banks, and therefore they will not get paid? At what point do they stop thinking about the FUTURE money they are going to get, and start worrying about the PRESENT condition of their own family? You say, but only some outfits might have a problem. Well, lets analogize our society as a fabric (web). How many threads of the fabric have to be broken, or have a "hole" in them before the fabric is no longer whole, and becomes torn? Once it's torn, because of the current speed, that will escalate into a gigantic RIP. (No pun intended) We've all seen the stats on small business and the large number of big Corps that are just now finishing up their critical systems. We've also started to see the failures of companies that are implementing their "fixed" computers. I'd say that the reason we haven't seen more is because most companies haven't gotten to the stage of implementation.
Have you tried being without phone service for a day or two. Mine was out for three, and it's still amazing to me how much I rely on plain phone service to do anything important re: business. I was basically dead in the water.
I'm not saying a person can't do without some of these things, but if some of these things are available, it will be because a section or sections of or civilization have SLOWED down, which will obviously ripple very quickly across the fabric of our world.
-- Gregg (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 03, 1999
I believe the main thrust of what you are saying is related to Fracture Tolerance. The ability of an item, structure, system, entity, company, corperation, town, city, state, country, person, place, thing, etc.etc.etc. to continue after reaching a point to which its internal systems, what ever they may be, without external intervention, has no longer the ability to continue. A simpler understanding perhaps is in the area of supply. But no to ways about it, failure in anything can aid in the failure of the next thing. Dominos/Casscading. Im sure that most of these things are understood, in there indiviual way. It may however be impossible, when you link failures together, to understand were it becomes a non-stop-able Freight train, infecting and affecting everything in its path...---...
-- Les (email@example.com), November 03, 1999.
A computer can make more mistakes in 10 seconds than 100 men in 50 years.
-- a (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 03, 1999.
A few of Murphy's Laws of the Office that seem to fit here:
To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.
If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.
After all is said and done, a hell of a lot more is said than done.
A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.
Tick... Tock... <:00=
-- Sysman (email@example.com), November 03, 1999.
At the grocery store last night the machine malfunctioned when someone needed to use a card, didn't have any cash. It was the only register open, so within minutes there were about 20 angry people in line. After about 15 minutes of trying they finally had to tell the guy they could only accept cash, and he went home with no groceries. The manger told the cashier to give everyone $1 off for waiting. The whole time I couldn't help thinking this was a preview of things to come, and if this sort of thing starts to happen frequently on a large scale, we are in deep doo-doo.
-- Hawk (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 03, 1999.
All day today can scarcely (and now not at all!) make travel arrangements for our division Vice President. Why? Major travel industry firm having terrific problems with their computers, locally and national office I tried. Lost VP's travel profile, my name, etc. Three agents frantic trying to make sense of their work. Had to make one hotel reservation myself when they had problem with another. This VP extraordinarily-frequent traveller and "his/her" work is vital to big contract negotiations. If this is a foretaste of what businesses will face down the road, it isn't a pretty picture.
-- A Regular (CantSay@this.tim), November 03, 1999.
Sorry about the huge paragraph. Yes, look at our GDP circa 1965 - a little lower than now? Guess those computers do add a little something to the sauce.
-- Gregg (email@example.com), November 03, 1999.
A very important train of thought here, Gregg. Thanks.
One of the basic assumptions about Y2K we all make is that date-related processing failures can disrupt not only obvious dependencies, but other *hidden* interdependencies.
But if you stipulate the existence of hidden dependencies, isn't the corrolary as likely to be true? That there are hidden *redundancies*?
This, is the point of coningency planning, IMHO. There are unrealized alternatives to many (most?) processes. The problem is: if you don't think about them, document them and test the alernative paths, you may not have time to slap it together when you need them. Remember that Impact=Severity x Duration...
So contingency planning is a process of discovering and testing hidden redundancies.
It requires the attention and time investment of those in senior management.
Mighty difficult, since "everybody knows Y2K is no big deal".
Man. I am NOT looking forward to this...
-- Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 03, 1999.
How much actual redundancy exists in the system-as-a-whole?
Not a great deal, I think. Our threshold of tolerance for simultaneous faults is very low, now that the integrity of any subsystem depends on all the rest.
Even a hundred years ago there were still many blacksmiths, coopers, tinkers, cabinet makers, reeves, wheelwrights, saddlers and farriers. And most of these had apprentices learning the trade. There were coach horses, draft horses, donkeys, mules, even oxen. There were enough veterinarians to care for all the livestock. Truck farms surrounded every city and town. Most produce was local. That system was fault tolerant.
-- Tom Carey (email@example.com), November 04, 1999.
You're right Tom. It was fault tolerant, but realize how everyone was involved in a job that fairly directly had to do with producing something that actually made SURVIVAL possible.
Look at all the jobs today that in reality, have no inherent worth as they don't aid in core survival. Only a small fraction of the population could surive on their own, and they'd need cooperation from a few neighbors probably.
What will everyone else DO?????
Back then, most everyone was employed in a survival related job.
-- Gregg (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 04, 1999.
You make such an excellent point. I'm reminded of a woman I know who says "if it's not in a box, I don't know how to make it." How many of you can name the ingredients in a loaf of bread? I mean real bread, not from a package. it's a sad state of affairs when the basic methods of feeding oneself are not part of the general society. People have traded that knowledge for the offices that are only able to support such a vast multitude because of the speed of our transactions. We have transfered that addiction to "speed" into everything we rely on, hence, microwave ovens, ready-made meals, drive thru windows, prepackaged gift items, personal shoppers, even internet shopping, and I'm sure everyone in this forum could add another item. This addiction is transferred into greater impatience, stress, confrontations, selfishness, and a host of other damaging issues. What a pickle we're in.
-- jhollander (email@example.com), November 04, 1999.