Thu, 11 Feb 1999 05:04:14 -0800 (PST)

Since we're back on the subject, here are my predictions of what we're up against:

  1. Government systems failure: A large fraction of these systems are not going to work, and they will not be able to just hire people to replace computers as others have suggested. If they were to admit defeat and switch back to a paper system now, that might work. But not on Jan 1st 2000.
  2. Riots: these are pretty much inevitable around the millenium anyway, and the bugs will just make them worse. Lack of government handouts due to broken computer systems will make them doubly worse. I won't be surprised to see troops patrolling the streets by the end of the year.
  3. Bank runs: these are pretty much inevitable late this year. The government can shut down the banks to stop them, but that will make matters worse. They're already printing out more money and that's not going to solve the problem. Fractional reserve banking is in deep doodoo, and people's faith in it will drop even further when the Euro conversion problems become more widely known (e.g. a Dutch bank just admitted that it's failing to process about 10% of all Euro transactions, and claim that most other banks are the same). If they can't get that right, they're unlikely to get their Y2K fixes right either.
  4. Stock market collapse: this is pretty much inevitable late this year. How low it will go is another question, but I don't think the bottom will completely drop out of the market because many will take advantage of the situation to buy up shares at low, low prices.
  5. Foreign problems: most of this message is about the US, Canada and Europe; outside of those areas, well, Russia is doomed, Japan is doomed, China is in big trouble, and so are many other Asian countries. That's a big problem for the rest of us, because we rely on a lot of imports from Asia: see Sun's recent comments on Asian Y2K problems and their implications for computer manufacture. The semiconductor industry itself is extremely reliant on Asian suppliers.

I won't even mention oil; the Middle East is almost as doomed as Asia. Luckily Canada and Europe have plenty of oil and the US could bring new wells on-line if it has time to do so.

6. War: with many US military systems out of action and most of the US armed forces trying to keep 'order' at home, North Korea, Iraq and other coutries will take advantage of it to settle old scores.

7. Civil war: given the general level of chaos, various groups are going to take advantage of it to settle old scores; I wouldn't want to be in DC in Jan 2000. If martial law lasts too long it will turn into a civil war in the US and possibly the more extreme European states.

8. Big business collapse: at least a few big organisations are going to collapse, either because they're just broken or they're no longer able to make enough money producing non-essential items to survive. Hundreds of thousands or millions of new unemployed will just add to the general problems.

So even if 90% of Western computer systems are actually fixed -- and I expect they will be in the private sector -- we're still in for a hell of a time. I'd be surprised if we're back to anything close to 'normal' life before the middle of next year.