Y2K -- Y!
For those of you who se habla C, you can read that is as 'Y2K -- Why not'.
Now, like most prophets, I prefer to make my predictions after the fact. It increases your success rate dramatically. However, I'm going to take some chances here and make a prediction before the fact, where it will haunt me for the rest of my life. (Which, if I'm wrong, will be so short it won't matter.)
The prediction is this:Subject to some qualifiers ennumerated below (always qualify everything, they taught me at consultant school), the "Year 2000 Disaster" will be another in an endless series of "Apocalypse Not", a total non-event from the "End Of The World As We Know It" perspective.
Why? Read on...
First off, the qualifiers:I'm speaking almost entirely of the United States, here, not other countries which are a lot further behind the curve. I'm also speaking of direct effects, not economic repercussions due to failures in foreign countries or the effects of milennial panic. Lastly, I'm not claiming a '0 percent failure' rate. There will be bills missed, air traffic snarled, random weirdness of all sorts. Life will be...interesting...in those first few weeks.
But the lights will stay on over most of the country (to make this precise, let me state that 95% of America will have power on 1/3/2000. This allows a few days for the predicted domino effects to have knocked out the grid.). The supermarkets will have food. The stores will have merchandise. And if they don't, it will be due entirely or almost entirely to panic over the presumed failure of the system, not the failure itself. Which won't happen.
So why do I believe this? I'll give you the reasons.
- Human resilience, adaptability, and cleverness. I'm down on the human race in general, most of the time, and most of the time, they deserve it. But if there's one thing we're good at, as a species, it's dealing with disaster. We suck at planning, but we're good at recovery. The 'planning' phase is long since past on Y2K;this is the recovery phase,and we're moving. Businesses were slow
getting started, too slow, but now they have no choice, and the resources,
human and otherwise, will be committed. Also, most people don't work much
harder than is necessary, which is usually a fraction of their full
capacity. To survive this, people will have to work to their full capacity
-- and they will. The drive to survive won't let them slack. The key
systems, the systems that matter, will be running on 1/1/2000.
- Look at the prophets. Ayn Rand, as usual, said it best:"Do not bother to examine a folly. Just ask yourself what it accomplishes." The leading prophet of Y2K doom, Gary North, has a long history of apocalyptic predictions which never came true, including a global economic collapse in the 80s and massive AIDS plagues in the 90s. This is his latest gimmick. He wants society to end. So
do most of the predictors of disaster. Listen to them. Listen to them
carefully. Hear them talk of how the Y2K bug will bring people together, how
survival in the powerless nights and hungry days will restore a lost
sense of community. They want this. They want a world where what they perceive as 'lost values' will be restored.
Technology is liberating. It frees us not only from
our dependance on nature, but our dependance on other people. The people in
the 'dependance business' -- pastors, social workers, busybodies of all
stripes -- yearn for the days when 'community' was all, when the handful of
people who decided the direction the herd would take could wield virtually
unlimited power over the outcast, the different, the radical, merely by
denying them access to the community they needed to survive. Technology, and
our mobile, dispersed culture took that power from them. They want it back.
- Sorry, fellow libertarians. While the 'retreat to a
cabin in the woods with John Galt and wait for them to beg for us to come
back' meme is powerful among our kind, it's also false -- and dangerous.
False, because if society collapses it won't be reborn in freedom and
liberty, but in slavery and tyranny, and we'll have to fight the long fight
all over again. Dangerous, because, it perpetuates the stereotype of
libertarians as borderline loons whose ideas can't work in the 'real world'.
- The people who are right don't need to lie. This is the most important thing to realize. I can 'reality check' a lot of what comes out of the Y2K camp, and the reality check is bouncing. People who have the truth on their side don't rely on distortion, sin-by-omission, and outright fibbing. Here are some examples of the lies, damned lies, and statistics:
Again -- those with the truth on their side don't need to lie or
distort. Gary North and his cronies lie and distort. End of argument.
- "There are umtpy-zillion lines of code!" Yes, there are. But only a tiny percentage of those lines need to be checked, and it's easy enough to find the 'choke points' where date routines exist. There are oddities, exceptions, and unexplained weirdnesses, which is why you do 90% of the work in the first 10% of the time -- but it's not true that each and every line of code must be hand checked.
- "No one can decipher those ancient programs!" Reading someone elses' code is a pain, but if the code in fact works, it can be traced, comprehended, and fixed. It's not easy and requires a particular temperament, but that's why programmers earn so much money -- because they can do this sort of thing.
- "Programmers name variables after their
girlfriend!" This is my favorite Northist Untruth. There is no
'law' to variable naming -- a date variable might be named
"dDate","DD", "date1", or any of a number of other variants, but with the exception, in theory, of one or two rare psychotics, no one will name a variable containing the date something is due "Doris" or "Gertrude". I've been a programmer for a long time, seen a lot of strange things, but nothing like that.
- The government of thus-and-such is planning to
mobilize the National Guard! Yes, if disaster happens, the local police,
army,etc, will be called out to quell riots. Likewise, if there is a
major earthquake, this will occur. That plans exist to deal
with a disaster is not evidence the disaster will occur. Ignoring
of disaster is often the best way
to cause it. A lot of National Guardsman, police officer, firefighters, etc, will spend
New Years Eve 1999 in readiness, and I suspect most of them
will be happy when morning comes and it
was no worse, or only slightly worse, than the dozens of previous New Years.
- "If" is not "when",
"Unless" is not "Will". If everyone sits on their butts from now until next December, then society will collapse. If the embedded chips in the oil fields fail and if the switching circuits which control the coal trains fail and if the nuclear plants are shut down, then we will have the
collapse of the power grid and all that goes with it. And each of those
"ifs" contains a multitude of other ifs. The panicmongers assume
the 'ifs' are fait accompli.
- The prophets have already failed. Gary North wrote
in 1997 that you would know Apocalypse was at hand when the creditcard
companies wouldn't issue post-99 credit cards. Well, since July, I've been
using a card with an '00' date. I've used it at Chinese restauraunts and
Blockbusters and little corner delis. It always works. Prediction failed.
And for it to work, an awful lot of other systems had to have been upgraded,
too. They work.
- Too much money is riding on this. Point blank, there is one thing I have true faith in -- GREED. The people who run the banks, the stock exchanges, the
corporations, the system, do not want to be live in the 13th century. They
want electric power, working railroads. They'll spend what it takes in the
name of preserving their cushy lifestyles.
- And last: There are two types of people leading the
Y2K=EOTWAWKI charge - the luddites and the technophiles. The luddite reasons
are obvious, so let's look at the technophiles. They genuinely can't imagine
society working, even for a day, without computers. They believe in their
own propaganda, always a dangerous mistake. They also tend to be among the
elite of programmers, worship their own cleverness too much, and assume that
a bunch of 'suits' and 'code grinders' can't possibly get the systems
working in time. Their egos rely on the failure of 'inferiors' to fix the
mistakes they made. Prepare to hear the hiss of egos deflating come 1/1/00.< /LI>
I have often exhorted those who believe in God or Communism to put their money where their mouth is, and I shall not shirk from this duty. Come the end of the year 1999, barring some major change in my employment, lifestyle, or the like, I'll be right here, on the 16th floor of a building in the heart of San Francisco. If the power fails, if the welfare and social security systems collapse, if the grain trains stop running and the elevators crash, I will be dead in short order. Period. I'm betting my life I'm right, and my life isn't something I gamble with lightly.
For more fun, from a self-professed member of the 'Religious Right', check out The Gary North Is A Big Fat Idiot page.
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