Re: Y2K once more

Dan Fabulich (
Wed, 08 Apr 1998 18:27:50 -0400


Arjen Kamphuis wrote:
>How long can Alcor last without power?

- From

"Alcor patient dewars do not rely on electric power for refrigeration.
Instead, low-temperature storage is achieved by continuous submersion of
each patient in liquid nitrogen. Due to the low boiloff, a large patient
need be replenished only every 8-10 days to maintain an adequate liquid
level. At -196 degrees C, all metabolic and biochemical activity has
effectively ceased. Patients stored at this temperature can be maintained
with very little change for decades, centuries or even millennia if

>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 ;-).

<sigh> Do you remember when the government shut down for a while, because
the politicians couldn't agree on a budget? Did you manage to get your
paycheck that month? Did the economy crash as a result?

Yeah, well this is even LESS of an issue. If/when the IRS goes down, the
US government will borrow money to cover the temporary downtime. And yes,
it will be temporary, because the government will make the IRS its top
priority until it is up and running again, if it goes down at all.

All of the above horror scenarios are dependent on the government being
unable to collect taxes, which, to be perfectly blunt, won't happen, even
if the IRS WAS shut down for a few weeks.

Before I hear "Yeah, well, you're in denial," we had best keep in mind that
I would also be "in denial" if you told me the sun wouldn't rise tomorrow.

To answer a few of your specific questions:

>How do you repair a mainframe if the power is
>out? How do you assemble a team if the phones don't work?

The utilities will only go out if the banking system is in shambles...

>How do you pay people if the banking system is in shambles?

... and the banking system will only find itself in shambles if the
aforementioned "tax revolt" happens and/or FDIC insurance runs out.

But unfortunately, a tax-revolt will be no easier two years from now than
it would be any other year. The IRS is not monitoring your transactions
day-to-day; it only does so year to year, and even then only on those whom
it audits. It keeps little of this data on hand; that data which is on
hand is either saved to disk, (and backed up daily,) or kept on paper.
Moreover, it COLLECTS the data it does have from your bank, employer, etc.,
so imagining that it DID lose all of its data, it could have it all
replaced as necessary.

The FDIC would only stop if the government went bankrupt; which won't
happen, because the IRS will not go down permanently. And fortunately for
the banks, they're closed Jan. 1. It's a national holiday. :)

>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?

This kind of attitude, however, is the sort that could cause some real
damage. If everyone, afraid that the US economy is going to crash, pulls
all their money out, they CAN cause it to crash. But this will not be due
to a technical error, only due to people spreading horror stories like these.

>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 ;-).

Don't bother. You're frustratingly safe, this time.

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