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The Final Chapter?
By Chuck Lanza
January 5, 1999
I, like many that have been involved with Y2K mitigation activities, have freely accepted the kudos from the media and the public. I believe, when all is considered, Y2K posed a threat that could not be minimized. On the other hand, I question the initial "logic" which brought Y2K to the forefront. If, as many people suggest, we prepared ourselves right out of a Y2K catastrophe: How is it so many countries and businesses throughout the world did little if anything in terms of preparation and faired just as well? I'm not trying to lessen the efforts or minimize the need to mobilize billions of dollars and untold resources to mitigate and prepare for Y2K, but I'm calling into question the initial threat.
When the threat of Y2K related failures was presented, it seemed so logical and inevitable, but in the final analysis, may have been based on a false assumption which perpetuated the drain of valuable resources. My point is we need to dig deeper and determine how and why we were persuaded into accepting Y2K as a reality when it may have been a myth. I am not trying to affix blame or to engage in finger pointing, but to make every effort to avoid future abuses of the resources of citizens and nations.
We need to evaluate the logic which brought us to the perceived brink of disruptions, while computers, computer systems, and embedded chips seemed to work in spite of what was done. Is there another Y2K waiting around the corner? Maybe, but next time I may not be as apt to immediately accept the logic in the argument and commit my heart and soul into it's demise until I am certain it is a real threat.
How will we ever know? I am not sure, as Y2K appeared to be an enormous threat that could not be taken lightly. In fact, massive failures were the most logical outcome of unprepared systems of many businesses and countries. Believe me I have not turned against my fellow Y2K crusaders, but I am presently at odds with the assumption that catastrophe was averted by our massive efforts. It is impossible to reconcile the fact many countries and businesses, prepared and unprepared, faired the same. We must for that reason research the origin to see how so many of us could have bought into an argument that in retrospect may have been false.
If given the same set of variables today, I would once again prepare and mobilize resources to combat the problem. I want us to review the variables presented and determine which ones falsely triggered our actions; not to cast blame, but to learn so we can avoid future Y2Ks.
We need to consider Y2K as a breach of national security and determine how it happened. If in another scenario, a foreign government or a computer hacker caused us to spend the resources we did, we certainly would investigate and close whatever breach was found. Was there a breach that can be found for Y2K? Is there the possibility we will commit resources again when similar variables are encountered?
A valuable lesson I learned is that no matter how logical an argument may sound, it may not be. As has happened many times in electing our leaders, a person is elected who appears to have all the talents and abilities. Then low and behold, after the election, the leader becomes a tyrant and exhibits behavior completely opposite of what was expected. The political scientist will dissect the process and look at every variable to identify how, what, and whether it was logical or illogical. We need to undertake a similar examination of Y2K. We must immediately return to the roots of Y2K and see where in its development it took a wrong and expensive turn.
For all of you who have recently dedicated a great deal of your time, to mitigate and prepare for the effects of Y2K, I salute you and thank you.
I will be writing a series of articles titled, How Did We Get Here? The Definitive Story of Y2K, the Threat and the Myth. Please join me in my endeavor by reviewing and contributing to the articles at www.ChuckLanza.com.
-- John Whitley (email@example.com), January 05, 2000
It looks like we really did bomb the Chinese embassy by mistake!
-- Puddintame (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 05, 2000.
I don't agree with these articles - I just post them to maintain some balance...:)
-- John Whitley (email@example.com), January 05, 2000.
I simply urge any who are declaring victory to please read Dale Way's comments and observations pre and post rollover. I am as delighted as everyone else at the uneventful transition but will withold judgment until the big legacy systems have successfully completed their weekly and monthly batch jobs. Can you say buffer overflow?
-- Blew5M (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 05, 2000.
Thank you for this post. I'd like to encourage myself to bring this kind of balance to my posts. Perhaps I'll try harder. I agree wholeheartedly that the self-congratulatory accolades heaped on the Y2K mitigators doesn't hold up to scrutiny, but there is no question some problems were avoided by the hard work. I disagree with the assertion that *massive* failures were the most logical outcome. I never thought so. I may be an old curmudgeon, but never an illogical one. Y2K doom scenarios were a combination of escalating hype (a contest of who could paint the most extreme scenario based on a given point failure) and failure to understand that crashes would occur over a broad period of time, spreading out the opportunity to effect work-arounds, and fix systems.
-- Jim Thompson (email@example.com), January 05, 2000.
I believe that y2k has highlighted some important issues.
(1) It took a perceived crisis for business to get down and inventory what systems they had and how those systems were inter-related; (2) Many businesses had no idea all the functions they were performing; (3) Many businesses had no idea of the layers and languages of programs that comprised systems; (4) Documentation in IT seems to suck; (5) Because of inter-relationship, the structures upon which modern life is dependent are so complex that few can begin to understand them on a level where potential impacts from changes can be projected. (6) We began to examine whether the systems we had created were still within our understanding and control; (7) For some, crisis was the impetus for an examination of life-priorities and resultant action in making lifestyle changes; (8) Some of us now know a great deal more about ourselves, our fears and our character from our behaviors in response to a life-threatening crisis; and (9) Some of us know more about ourselves from the choices we made in relating to others - as to whether we displayed the qualities of courage, graciousness, humility, generosity, etc.
-- anon (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 05, 2000.
'I may be an old curmudgeon'
Hey, Jim, I didn't realise that you were an old curmudgeon; in which case I unreservedly withdraw anything unkind I may have said about you, since I'll get to be one of those myself someday :)!
-- John Whitley (email@example.com), January 05, 2000.
Well said, Anon. I just hope it isn't back to business as usual. I recall reading a post several months ago that said "the worst thing that could happen would be nothing at all". Technology took us to the edge of the cliff - I don't know what kept us from falling over.
-- M (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 05, 2000.