Slouching towards the milleniumgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Link Wednesday, November 10, 1999 | Print this story
Slouching Toward the Millennium
By AL MARTINEZ
A friend who is deeply, almost religiously, into the Y2K phenomenon has warned me that on Jan. 1 of the year 2000, my computer might disappear. He is urging me to seek written confirmation from the Dell Corp. that my machine is Y2K compliant. If it isn't, he says, its dating mechanism will revert to 1900 at 12:01 a.m. of the new millennium. "So what?" I said. "I don't care what my computer thinks. Sometimes I forget what year it is." "You don't understand," my friend said, a note of urgency creeping into his voice. "There were no computers in 1900! Your machine will realize that and cease to exist!" "You're saying it will vanish? Poof?" "Yes!" That is the latest doomsday scenario I have been made aware of regarding the coming of the year 2000. A bit extreme, you say? True. But the approaching millennium has taken on a significance beyond the possible collapse of Starbucks or the Bank of America due to the so-called Y2K bug. For instance, a message from one Robert Lavelle, received over the Internet, warns that on Jan. 1 "the survival of the fittest will become the law until the Antichrist takes over the world." He didn't say exactly who the Antichrist might be, but I'm keeping my eye on you. * * * As we draw closer to the end of this millennium, the tempo of concern among those certain of calamity increases. A grocer told me he has never sold so much bottled water, beans, rice and pasta in his life. Canned food is also flying off his shelves. Readers and people I know personally are stocking up for the day when everything will cease to function due to what one e-mailer refers to, in all of the word's awesome significance, as The Collapse. As he uses it, the term is analogous to the end of the world, or at least to the world we know. He sees us dressed in rags and maybe even in animal furs (except, of course, for the PETA people, who will be dressed in hemp) and living in houses gone to ruin or, worse, condos without operational spas. He anticipates war over the remaining food and water and possibly even instances of cannibalism, oh my! Sort of the Donner Party meets the Antichrist. But forget for the moment, if you can, the lack of food and water and fights to the death over a pork chop. What about scavenging lawyers who will be roaming the wilderness in packs, looking for victims to feed upon? Well, the House of Representatives has passed a measure that would clamp a 60-day waiting period on Y2K-related lawsuits, cap punitive damages and restrict class action litigation. In the words of one congressman, the measure would be a precaution against lawyers "preparing to swoop down on the carcass of your dead toaster." * * * Encouraging a deeper concern over the Y2K phenomenon is a report by a computer monitoring company that only about 23% of all industries throughout the world have even begun a year 2000 conversion effort. Among the least prepared sectors in the United States, says the report, are education, health care and government. But since they haven't been functioning efficiently for years, their Y2K collapse shouldn't pose any new problems. What bothers me the most isn't the possibility of famine, food wars, water shortages, the Antichrist or even simultaneous failure of all of L.A.'s cell phones. What concerns me is the potential effect of post- millennium stress syndrome on doomsday's apostles. I mean, all of these people who will greet Jan. 1 chanting and holding hands, what will become of them? How will they handle, well, normalcy? Like the experts at Caltech who salivate at the very mention of an earthquake, the Y2K-ites are betting their sanity on a kind of online apocalypse, and if it doesn't happen . . . there's going to be hell to pay. On Jan. 1, lacking the anticipated calamity, they will break down in tears, leave their jobs, abandon their families and create a whole new genre of homeless wanderers. The fact that the world didn't end will cause more trauma than if it had. Say what you will about chaos and cannibalism. The post-millennium stress syndrome will be a lot worse. * * *
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), November 10, 1999
Why are you so concerned about the 5% lunatic fringe? Most GI's don't think it's the end of the world. Who the hell cares about the rest? As long as they mind their own business, why do you give a damn what they think? If they don't mind their business, then have them arrested. Simple as that.
-- haha (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 10, 1999.
haha, if you enjoy Homer's style, may I recommend to you Jonathan Swift? His "A Modest Proposal" will delight you.
-- Old Git (email@example.com), November 10, 1999.
Hey! Your friend just might be on to something with that "dissapearing" computer when it's clock rolls back to 1900. Ever see the movie "A Moment in time?"....ever read much about quantum mechanics? If the computer was not around to know it didn't exist in 1900, would it still go "poof"? Or, because there was no "computer observer" in 1900, does that mean that this "silver bullet" of the dissapearing non-compliant computers won't save us all? Rats!
Oh well...back to work! Thanks for the story, Homer.
-- Genius (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 10, 1999.
Or perhaps you prefer the original from William Butler Yeats:
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
"Same as it ever was,....same as it ever was."
-- Donna (email@example.com), November 10, 1999.
Hi, Homer, thanks for the laugh. Was Martinez' friend Douglas Adams? The "disappearing computers" reminds me of Adams's acronym "SMEF" - Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure.
Sort of explains a few things . . .
-- Margaret J (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 10, 1999.
Thanks, Homer. The article brings up an interesting point: Considering how well government works today, would anyone even notice if it stopped functioning altogether?
-- I'm Here, I'm There (I'm Everywhere@so.beware), November 10, 1999.
Thank you all for the suggestions! Don't interrupt me while I snooze. I depend on the government to do my thinking, you know. :)
-- haha (email@example.com), November 11, 1999.
"You don't understand," my friend said, a note of urgency creeping into his voice. "There were no computers in 1900! Your machine will realize that and cease to exist!" "You're saying it will vanish? Poof?" "Yes!" That is the latest doomsday scenario I have been made aware of regarding the coming of the year 2000.
At last, pollies have made their best case. Once one realizes that this isn't about compouters all disappearing we can finally shed some light on the topic. If I had time I might fell sick. Donna, I also looked up the original Yeats reference.
-- PD (PaulDMaher@att.worldnet.com), November 11, 1999.
I'm not entirely convinced that my computer isn't fictional right now. Oh, I believe the Russkis have them, but I'm just hallucinating that we do, due to all the organo-phosphates the Men In Black put in my drinking water and the subliminal suggestion speaker that I think I can see though the crack in my ceiling tile.
-- Colin MacDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 11, 1999.