Y2K once more

Arjen Kamphuis (mountain@knoware.nl)
Wed, 08 Apr 1998 22:12:19 +0100

Dear fellow Transhumanists/Extropians,

In spite of the fact that many of us are involved with information
technology the millenium problem has only received limited attention here.
Since the potential ramifications are... well _huge_ to say the least I
felt it merits some more discussion.

I know this is 'old news' but many people (companies/governement agencies)
seem to be blisfully unaware of the major hangover that we face after a
long weekend of partying (1-1-2000 is a saturday).

On this site some basics for those unfamiliar with the problem:
this is a wake-up call: http://www.garynorth.com

It seems pretty fatalistic and I'm not at all sure if it has to be this
bad, on the other hand: most nuclearpowerplants, aiports, utility
companies, armies are not yet year-2000 certified. Fireworks ;-). The same
goes for many logistical systems that supply supermarkets and such. No-one
can tell for sure what the extent of the damage wil be. Maybe your company
has been y2K-certified, but have all it's supliers? And if the bankng
system goes bust how wil anyone buy your product?

Or, strictly economically speaking (Gary North):

What happens to T-bills and T-bonds if the
IRS computer breaks down and a tax revolt spreads
because taxpayers know the IRS will never find
them, and that if they pay their taxes, they
won't get their refunds?

What happens to money market funds and bond
funds that invest heavily in government debt when
investors realize that if the IRS can't collect
taxes, the government will default on its debt?

What happens to the banks when depositors
figure out that the FDIC is bankrupt and that
nobody insures their accounts any more?

What happens to your job when the banks
close because of bank runs, and no business can
borrow money or even write a check to its

What happens to the delivery of food into
cities when money fails because the banks are

What happens to the delivery of public
utilities when money fails because the banks are

What happens to your retirement fund when
ERISA, the government pension guarantee program,
goes bankrupt?

What happens to the 38 million people in
the U.S. who are dependent on Medicare?

What happens to 42 million people on Social

What happens to every state government?

What happens to crime rates when the state
cannot imprison violent criminals and may have to
release those who are locked up because they
can't be fed?

What happens to the world economy when this
scenario is multiplied across every government?

Let's not discuss how great it would be if the IRS died (we can agree to
disagree or now, I think), but which research institutions could be
damaged. How long can Alcor last without power? How can they rescue
patients if the phones are out? If only a fraction of what Gary North
predicts is true some transhuman goals could very well go down the drain or
quite some time.

Mr. North also describes the psychology-of-denial that is being practiced
by many managers and governement officials "don't worry, we've got it under
control". The idea that everything could come to a grinding halt is so
fanatastic that it is dismissed "they will find a solution". If you did not
hear about the Y2K-problem untill now you might have the same reaction (I
still have it - a little ;-).

I have a lot of trust in our ability to rebuild, after all, western Europe
and Japan managed to do so after WWII. But they did get some (in fact,
quite some) help for a big, undamaged country. This time there might not be
big, undamaged countries. How do you repair a mainframe if the power is
out? How do you assemble a team if the phones don't work? How do pay people
if the banking system is in shambles?

Is anyone planing for what could happen? If so, how? Convert your money to
something with stable value? What? How are you going to enforce your
ownership? Can you distribute these goods? Should you learn new (old) skills?

I think I'll do some minor stuff like extra shopping, getting a fair amount
of ca$h and securing some alternative heating/lighting. Then again, if
utility's really go down so goes the rest of civilization after a while and
a supply of candles won't help. The Netherlands of course wil be flooded if
our electrical pumps fail for a long time (there are diesel backups but
there might not be any diesel ;-).

I'm not ready to start looking for another job as Mr Norh advises, maybe
I'll get myself a book on cobol (maybe I'm in denial too ;-).

Not totally unrelated: What if the general populace does not trust
computers anymore after a big crash? What would the impact be on future
adavancement in AI-research? This could have serious impact on things like
a singularity and technical advances in general (quite difficult to design
or run a spaceship without computers).

Greetings & sleep well (it's still 631 nights away)

Arjen Kamphuis | "Here Be Dragons", read the ancient maps
mountain@knoware.nl | in all the white spots that seemed large
enough to hold the fabled creatures.

let's go dragon hunting.

Transcedo, the Dutch Transhumanist site: