"The Deniers" and "The Utopians"

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The Deniers

Is Y2K the biggest nonevent you've never imagined?

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

AMID THE mounting sturm und drang over the possible collapse of the U.S. and most of the known world at the turn of the "K," there are an unknown number of people who are following the old American tradition of saying "it ain't necessarily so."

And some who are not saying it.

Most Y2K skeptics are consumers voting with their feet, simply refusing to participate in the madness. They aren't taking their savings out of the bank, they aren't stocking up on water and canned goods, and they aren't priming the wicks on newly purchased kerosene lamps. They can be readily identified in public by a sort of tightening of the jaws and a glazed look that comes across their faces whenever they see another article about the millennium bug, such as this one. Others of this "silent brigade" are mainly business owners who don't want to put out the cash to Y2K fix-it consultants. "Eighty-five percent or more of small businesses have not done anything [about the Y2K problem]," a Y2K consultant told the Business Journal of San Jose last year. "There's a tremendous sense of denial among small businesses that this is going to impact them."

Though it may sound like an ostrich-in-the-sand approach, many knowledgeable people agree. Their comments reflect a large dose of skepticism about either the information technology industry itself or the government that regulates it.

"Despite mounting evidence that Y2K is unlikely to create major disruptions, either to the computing infrastructure or to society at large, the big numbers and dire forecasts are likely to continue being quoted," writes commentator Geoffrey James, author of Success Secrets From Silicon Valley. Calling much Y2K crisis commentary "disinformation" and "simply lies," James writes, "Let's face it, this won't be the first time that computer-industry hype has far outstripped reality, and to be sure, it probably won't be the last."

InfoWorld columnist Bob O'Donnell reported that at last year's Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, "analysts and other industry watchers ... were vehement in their critiques of those who claimed the Y2K sky was falling because of embedded systems [that is, a ROM-stored specialized computer system that is part of a larger system or machine]."

Critics charge that some predictors of a smooth turn of the century are actually making money off of their optimistic predictions. Earlier this year, brokerage firm PaineWebber issued a "Y2K O.K." report that said the banks won't fail, electrical power won't shut off, telephones will ring and trains and planes will run, and concluded that, in fact, "addressing the Y2K problem will likely benefit the economy in that it leads to greater information processing capabilities and ultimately boosts productivity." In reply, consultant William Ulrich told TechWeek that "PaineWebber has a vested interest in making everything sound rosy; their job is getting people to buy stocks." Such critics don't come into this fight with clean hands, though; Ulrich himself is co-author of The Year 2000 Software Crisis book series which, presumably, sells more books the more people believe there will be a year 2000 software crisis.

A seemingly odd addition to the naysayers concerning a Y2K meltdown is the John Birch Society. Speaking to the issue on their website, the Birchers declare that, "[d]espite the dire predictions from many corners proclaiming the advent of a new Dark Ages, a survey of the evidence indicates that no such disaster is about to befall the United States." But a closer inspection of their arguments shows that the poster children for conspiracy theorists have not given up their view that shadowy hands are seeking to shape mankind's future. Commenting on the prediction by an international economist that the millennium bug has a 60 percent chance of causing a worldwide recession, the Birchers said, "He uses his analysis of the Y2K problem to propose internationalist and collectivist policies," and accused Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of orchestrating "an attempt to create ... a sovereignty shredding international agency" using the bug "as a pretext."

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From the November 18-24, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.



The Utopians

To a happy breed of wide-eyed, hyper-idealistic utopians, Y2K will be the brave new world we've all been dreaming of

By David Templeton

'CHICKENS," intones author Shepherd Bliss, an admittedly "hopeful" Y2K Utopian. "Chickens," he repeats. "They will be a vital part of the solution after the Y2K collapse." Bliss has been carting some of his chickens around the state this year, as a visual aid to his fascinating, highly motivating Y2K preparation lectures.

"Think about it," he says calmly, convincingly. "Chickens are good for eggs, they're good for meat--and they're excellent for entertainment!

"Have you ever watched a chicken? They're hilarious! We'll need new forms of entertainment in the future--because there will be no more power source for our televisions and other entertainment devices."

Along with chickens, adds Bliss, we'll also need to stockpile plenty of books and stories, and all of our musical instruments.

"Music and books will be important for entertainment, of course," he says, laughing. "But if things get bad, you can't eat them."

Bliss--his original name--is a noted author, New Age philosopher, Sonoma County landowner and innovative organic farmer. While certain others await the year 2000 with varying degrees of dread or ambivalence, Bliss counts himself among the Utopian-idealists who--while fairly convinced that Y2K will spell the end of civilization as we've known it recently--have chosen to approach the new millennium not with fear but with joy and anticipation.

Utopians--ranging from guarded optimists like Bliss to the gleeful Luddites and anti-technology anarchists--tend to be Utne Reader subscribers and back-to-the-landers, fans of Ernest Callenbach's 1975 classic Ecotopia, in which Washington, Oregon and Northern California secede from the U.S. and form a perfect agrarian society without cars or advanced technology.

Since the culture at large seems wildly uneager to adopt such a lifestyle willingly, the Y2K Utopians are counting on the millennium bug to force the issue, yanking us, kicking and screaming if need be, back to a simpler and purer way of life.

"Y2K is a blessing," says Bliss. "I think it's a gift. It's what people have been praying for. We've been on a collision course with this planet for decades. Y2K will, potentially, reduce the level of human violation of the Earth--because we will no longer have the destructive technological tools that we've been using."

Of course, not everyone is going to be ready for such a back-to-nature shift. That's why the Utopians have been engaged, over the last several months, in a massive, well-organized, Internet-fueled educational effort, holding community meetings in libraries and churches, going door to door in some cases, spreading the word that times may be a-changin', and it's time to make plans. Such Y2K evangelists have been circulating handy how-to lists, gardening tips, practical suggestions about alternative energy sources for cooking and light, and the like. In addition to storing up supplies, developing agrarian skills and planning for emergencies, Bliss says he's reverted to an even more primitive way of life.

"I've been getting to know my neighbors," he laughs. "You don't want to wait till the middle of a crisis to make friends. You need to make friends before the crisis."

That community-building notion is perhaps the most energizing element of the Y2K Utopians, who--unlike their more singular survivalist cousins--are stressing that it will take an entire neighborhood or community, working as one, to combat the deadly dangers of Y2K.

"What we are witnessing is the beginning of a movement," Bliss enthuses. "Possibly the most significant social movement since the civil rights and women's movements.

"Frankly," he says, "I've never been more excited in my life."

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From the November 18-24, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), November 24, 1999


Thanks Homer. It was an interesting read.

Stan Faryna

Ready for Y2K? Got 14 days of water, food, way to keep warm and cook?
http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001o cf

Cooperative Preps : Have you checked out the deals we can get on  preps?

One time deal on a inexpensive grain mill
http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001q Sw

Water filters for less than suggested retail
http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001q T8

Gas masks, potassium iodide, solar ovens, etc
http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001q TK

Aladdins: the kerosene lamp for readers
http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001p 1v

-- Stan Faryna (faryna@groupmail.com), November 24, 1999.

Response to "The Deniers" and "The Utopians"

Interesting moment, all related to an obscure birth in Judea so many years ago. The question of man's true relationship with technology may be forced upon us in a few days. This has been, if nothing else, the century of electricity, and without it, we will be forced to confront our own weakness and mortality. Waking from the dream will be shocking to most, possibly terminal, but a brief glimpse of honesty is better than a lifetime of delusion. "What is Truth?" Pilate asked; society has done its best these past decades to avoid the question entirely, but in the End, Truth always outs.

-- Spidey (free@last.Amen), November 24, 1999.

Lemme see if I have this straight. The John Birch Society is composed of anti-covernment-conspiracy knee-jerks.

IF the gummint were hyping Y2K as a potential crisis, the JBS would disagree and claim it is no big deal. BUT, the gobmint is playing down Y2K and the JBS is AGREEING with them.


-- (God_is@iron.wtf), November 24, 1999.

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