How bad will y2k be? : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread

I just wanted to know how bad this y2k thing will be. The most things I have heard is that 1 It will just be a glitch, 2., It will be catastrophic,or 3., We just won't know till the time comes.

-- Roberta Jean Wall (, January 18, 1999


No one knows for sure just how bad the Y2K will be. However, in the Y2K Resource Guide, it encourages people to stock food, water, and have at least 3 months of cash on hand to live on since they feel that ATM's will be affected by the Y2K. The Resource guide sure is helpful and informative. It can be obtained for $10 from: Direct Response P.O. Box 250 Delano, CA 93216

-- Dave (, January 19, 1999.

Roberta, study, study, study, come to your own conclusions. When someone says there is no way to know how bad y2k will be, know that they are using a linguistic device that shuts down thinking power. Very little about _anything is actually "known", most of our actions and views about the world are habit patterns based upon macro repeatability, education based upon non-verifiable assumptions, and pure faith that "things will remain the same".

Re y2k - if you study broadly every day for 2 hours for 2 weeks, going thru the GAO reports, reading Yardeni's Reporter archives, reading Gary North's links archives, you will be able to get quite a detailed idea of "How bad is it going to be" - all without that unreachable burden of "knowing".

I always find it quite ironic that those who say we can't "know" re y2k, immediately follow it up with - it won't be bad because..., it will be bad because..., use my services, buy my goods. The bald implication is that the speaker _has come to a conclusion one the degree of y2k impact, hence we need to listen to the opinion, or we need their services or goods because it is in our best interest in _their opinion. It is disingenuous.

There is nothing wrong with offering opinions or services or goods, but lets do it in a semantically and rhetorically cleaner environment.

-- Mitchell Barnes (, January 31, 1999.

Here is my recent thinking on the subject:


I propose to demonstrate conclusively that right now in the decisions you are making about your response to the Y2K threat you are in fact playing Russian Roulette. The lives of yourself and your loved ones hang in the balance. Only in this case the odds are worse than in the classic Russian Roulette one in six. The chances are 50-50 that you will die.

If you follow my reasoning you can improve your odds to the point where you will have 2 in 3 chances of survival. There really isnt one six-chambered gun with one bullet. You get to choose between two revolvers having three chambers each. One gun contains one bullet the other gun contains two. If you had to make such a choice wouldnt you give yourself two chances to live out of three rather than only one chance to live out of three?

Consider the following possible outcomes.

A. Y2K is a brief mild phenomenon. It causes some inconvenience. Some rich people lose some money. Within a few weeks or months everything goes back to business as usual.

B. Y2K is a prolonged and severe phenomenon. Most of the planets life sustaining systems fail; and this causes massive loss of life. High-tech becomes unavailable. Human lifestyles are set back two hundred years.

C. Y2K causes large numbers of nuclear power-plant melt-downs. Vast clouds of radioactive dust are thrown into the sky. Nuclear winter ensues. Most people die of radiation poisoning. The rest starve to death.

Notice that outcomes A, B, and C cover the entire spectrum from mild inconvenience to universal extinction. All other possible outcomes appear somewhere on this spectrum. No exceptions.

Now imagine your "Uncle Bob" comes along and says, "Since no one can prepare adequately for C, my advice is lets all prepare for outcome B. Lets sell our city homes, move to the country, and equip ourselves for complete self-sufficiency." Is this good advice or bad advice? Either way we really only have two choices. We can follow Uncle Bobs advice and prepare as best we can for outcome B. Or we can stock up our pantries, kick back and hope that Outcome A turns out to represent reality. Notice that again these two options really cover all the possibilities. If A, B, and C cover the entire spectrum of outcomes, then preparations for these outcomes must cover the entire spectrum of possible response levels. There really are no other choices.

Now lets see what these assumptions imply concerning the effect of our choice of preparation level.

Table 1: Consequences of Choices Actual Outcome A = Mild B = Severe C = Lethal 1. Prepare for B Inconvenient, Satisfactory Fatal Expensive, and Embarrassing 2. Prepare for A Pleasant and Fatal Fatal

Table 1 indicates all the possible results of the choices we are making with respect to Y2K. Across the top we have the possible actual severities that we had defined above representing the spectrum of Y2K possibilities. Down the first column we see the spectrum of both available choices: Prepare for severe Y2K outcome or prepare for mild/negligible Y2K outcome. No preparation for C is available.

Now lets consider the probabilities associated with actual outcomes A, B, and C. Many arguments have been set forth by credible analysts that B is the most likely outcome. There are those that believe C to be the most likely; and many people are expecting A although there are few reasons to adopt such an expectation if you are informed about the nature of the problem. The reality is that no one knows which outcome will occur. In fact no one even knows what the probabilities are of the three outcomes. Everyone has some opinion on this matter; but opinions dont really matter. What really matters is that one of these three outcomes will represent reality; and the a priori probabilities of the three outcomes are equal. Therefor an objective analysis of the situation would treat all six consequence boxes in Table 1 as equally likely.

Now comes the Russian Roulette. If you chose to prepare for B and A is the reality, you will have suffered needless inconvenience, expense, and embarrassment. If B is the reality you will be glad you went to the trouble to prepare, and you will have a viable shot at survival. In this row only reality C is lethal. So preparing for B is like Russian roulette with three chambers and one bullet. This gives you two chances in three of surviving.

Lets look at Row 2 of the Table 1. In this case your preparation is minimal. You spared yourself the inconvenience, expense, and possible embarrassment of preparing for B. But now we see that only outcome A is survivable. If either conditions B or C turn out to be reality you die. So does your family and all the friends and relatives who looked up to you and decided to do it your way. With this choice you only have one chance in three of surviving and two chances in three of dying.

If you have been following the reasoning above you see that your life is a gamble. You can choose the revolver with one bullet and three cylinders or the revolver with two bullets and three cylinders. You dont get any other choices and you dont get to abstain from the game unless you commit suicide. Either way you are aiming your gun not only at your own head but at the heads of all those people (adults, children, elderly) whose lives are influenced by your choice. Be sure to make your choice wisely.

APPENDIX It has been pointed out to me (correctly) that there are not just three possible outcomes. One could add any number of possible outcomes between A and B which would improve the a priori odds of survival. One could also add any number of outcomes between severities B and C which would diminish the chances of survival. The mathematical example given above is indeed oversimplified in the interests of easy comprehension. To perform the analysis quite rigorously requires the use of calculus. I assume most readers would not be prepared to follow the ensuing argument. However the final result of such analysis is much the same as the result described above.

Suppose we arrange all possible outcomes along a continuum of severity from the least severe to the most severe. There are an infinite number of outcomes along the continuum, each one differing only slightly from those on either side of it. Now each reader can divide the outcomes into three contiguous groups labeled "Trivial to Mild", "Severe but Survivable", and "Universally Fatal". Since there are an infinite number of outcomes in each group and since we dont have any way to really know into which group reality will fall, on an a priori basis we must treat each group as equally likely. Now the original analysis applies to the likelihood that any one group will represent reality rather than that one of three specific outcomes represents reality. The odds dont change. This analysis too is not rigorous but it shows that the existence of infinite possibilities doesnt have to change the odds.

The result of completely rigorous analysis confirms the above results as demonstrative of the fact that vigorous preparation for survival will enhance ones chances of surviving; and that failure to prepare vigorously substantially diminishes those chances. This should come as no surprise since most peoples intuitive reactions will come to the same conclusion once they stop denying the validity of the premise that the continuum of possible outcomes extends all the way to the extreme of "Universally Fatal".

-- Bob Podolsky (, February 03, 1999.

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