Fear Leader: "A Decade of Depression"greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread
ANOTHER CROCK OF FEAR FROM THE HEAD CO-FEAR LEADER (funny but he never sub-titled this "I don't know what I don't know")..
My Y2K Outlook: A Year of Disruptions, a Decade of DepressionMost of us who work in the Y2K field have an instinctive answer when asked, "How bad do you think it will be?" For various reasons, we almost always say, "I don't know." That's been my answer for nearly four years, and even today, as we move further into 1999, I have to repeat: I don't know. For a more elaborate version of this answer, you might want to take a look at another of my essays, entitled The Y2K Crystal Ball: What's Going to Happen on 1 Jan 2000?
But sooner or later, we all have to "bite the bullet" and make some firm decisions about Y2K, based on our best guess and whatever information we've been able to collect. I'm sure there will be some people who abdicate such a firm decision, because it can be pretty scary: if you really think Y2K is going to cause major disruptions, it requires some expensive, unpleasant, unpopular, and potentially risky actions on your part. Thus, many people will continue singing the Y2K folk song, "I don't know," right up to the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999. Some are convinced that they can wait until the summer or fall, by which time they hope to have a more definitive picture of the Y2K situation, before committing themselves to a course of action.
For some of us, though, the moment of truth has already arrived. For some of us, there is an epiphany, a light bulb that goes off in our mind, in which we say, "Even if I don't know how bad Y2K is going to be, I have to make some plans." Almost all of us have family members we love; many of us have both young children and older parents, for whom we feel responsible. Most of us have assets to protect, though young people just entering the work force may be less concerned about this issue. But those of us in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s may have a house that represents the majority of our net worth; we may have retirement funds, a stock-market account, or perhaps just a couple thousand dollars in a savings account. Not making a decision about all of this is, in itself, a decision: it means that we've decided to subject ourselves to the fickle finger of Fate. If we're lucky, Y2K will turn out to be only a minor bump in the road, and we'll sigh a huge breath of relief. If we're not lucky ... well, those who abdicate making a decision would rather not think about it, or would prefer to amass as many arguments as possible to "prove" that Y2K won't cause major disruptions.
I've been pretty careful to avoid making any specific predictions about Y2K, because I, too, don't know. And I'm concerned about the people who send me e-mail, or who read our Time Bomb 2000 book, who often seem intellectually lazy: rather than doing the homework to make an informed decision, they want someone else to tell them. In a world of information overload, this is understandable: we depend on restaurant critics to tell us whether that new French restaurant is any good, we depend on movie critics to tell us whether that latest action thriller is too bloody, and we even seem to depend on the "talking heads" on television talk-shows to make up our minds for us about the outcome of the President's impeachment hearings. Analysts and commentators serve a useful role for such purposes, but when it comes to really serious issues, it seems to me that every responsible adult should do enough homework to make up his or her mind; thus, I wanted to avoid creating a situation where someone might complain, somewhere down the road, "Well, I made all of my decisions based on Ed Yourdon's recommendations, and he turned out to be totally wrong -- and as far as I'm concerned, all the problems I'm having now are entirely his fault!"
Nevertheless, it turns out that people have been making Y2K decisions based on my comments, books, articles, speeches, and essays. A friend with 30+ years of experience in the computer field recently wrote to me to say that our Time Bomb 2000 book had been the catalyst in his family's decision to retire from the computer field and move to Belize. Others have made somewhat less radical decisions, but it's clear that at least a small percentage of thoughtful people across the country (if not around the world) are changing jobs, re-distributing their assets, stockpiling necessities, and occasionally moving from what they perceive to be a high-risk geographical location to someplace they hope will be safer. Meanwhile, a much larger majority has internalized all of the information they've seen and heard about Y2K, and have decided to either (a) ignore it, or (b) postpone their decision until sometime in the summer or fall of 1999. For those in category (a), I wish you well and hope that you turn out to be right; for those in category (b), I fear that your options may have vanished by the time you decide to take action, in which case my opinions on Y2K won't matter very much to you.
Thus, I don't think I'll be exerting an inappropriate influence on most of the population if I publish my opinion on the likely consequences of Y2K. After all, I'm just one of many voices in the Y2K field: Peter de Jager has published his opinion in Scientific American, the Gartner Group has published its opinion in a number of recent press reports, the President's Y2K Conversion Council has offered its assessment that the consequences of Y2K will probably be no worse than a winter snowstorm. My opinion, as you'll see below, is substantially different.
How Bad Will Y2K Be?As the title of this essay has already informed you, my opinion is that we're going to suffer a year of technological disruptions, followed by a decade of depression. It may turn out to be less severe, it may turn out to be more severe; it may turn out that I'm totally wrong in my conclusions. But this is my assessment, and it forms the basis of my own plans for coping with Y2K; if it turns out that I'm wrong, I'll be spending a lot more time apologizing to my family members than to everyone else who should have been evaluating the same data that I've been evaluating, in order to reach their own opinions.
-- cpr (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 24, 2000
Then comes 1/1/2000 and the first of months of giant "head fakes" for the fans (err: fanatics). Jan 1, 2000 Assessment of the Y2K SituationLINK
- Potential Y2K problems were exaggerated. This has been a common theme on the part of many Y2K "optimists," and I am one of many people who has been accused of exaggerating the nature, degree, and potential severity of Y2K problems. As I'll suggest below, I think it's premature to make this conclusion about software-related Y2K problems -- but I must confess that I'm beginning to wonder whether terrorist problems, and cyber-terrorism problems, might have been exaggerated. I have absolutely zero expertise when it comes to terrorism, so I simply don't know whether the intense media focus on potential terrorist attacks on New Year's celebrations, which we heard repeatedly for the final two weeks of December, was over-done. Indeed, several media reporters and anchor-persons seemed concerned about this possibility, and asked government authorities whether the constant coverage was creating more of a problem than there really was. Given the nature of this problem, there's a good chance that we'll never know how many threats really existed, how many were nipped in the bud, or how many were foiled at the last moment. In a similar vein, I'm amazed to see that there have been almost no reports of viruses or other cyber-attacks; this was perceived to be such a major problem that many corporate and government web sites have been shut down for the weekend; I was so nervous about it that I used a backup machine to access the Internet and pick up my email on the morning of January 1st -- just in case there were such virulent viruses that everything on my computer would somehow be deleted.
It's also possible that the embedded-system threat was exaggerated, though I feel strongly that it's far too early to make such a statement. But one of the frustrating things about the Y2K problem has been that (a) no one is precisely sure how many chips and/or embedded systems actually exist in the world, or (b) how many of these actually have a real-time clock with date-awareness, or (c) what percentage of the date-aware chips and embedded systems might fail on Jan 1, 2000 even if the "official" use of that chip did not involve any date calculations, or (d) what percentage of the "official" date-sensitive applications were actually non-compliant, and thus subject to failure, or (e) what percentage had actually been fixed, or (f) what degree of testing would be sufficient for an organization to confidently predict that it had actually solved the problem. The estimates for all six of these categories varied widely from one industry to another, and from one expert to another. My personal belief had been that even if the optimistic estimates were ten times too pessimistic, there was still such an enormous quantity of embedded systems that we would surely encounter some serious problems ... but perhaps we will eventually conclude that a large number of well- meaning computer experts exaggerated the extent of the problem.
Could we also have exaggerated the extent of the software problem? Again, it's too early to tell; but it's hard to argue with the statistics that have been reported by Y2K IV&V vendors who have examined code that had been remediated, tested, and put back into production. Typically, the IV&V vendors have found between 100 and 1,000 undiscovered Y2K errors per million lines of code, and typically 30-40% of these errors have been judged as "moderate" to "serious" in terms of their potential impact. The reports from the first 10-12 hours of the new millennium suggest that no "serious" software-related Y2K bugs have occurred. Did we exaggerate the problem? I don't think so, but time will tell.
- Many potentially faulty systems were turned
-- cpr (email@example.com), July 24, 2000.