I called my mutual fund broker today and instructed him to liquidate about 85%, to send me the check. The catalyst? Reading Edward Yourdon's reaction to the Y2K crisis, what I sometimes see called the "millennium bug" <2> in the mainstream media. I remember, growing up, how we had such high hopes for the year 2000 - it seemed by then all would be a Jetsonian ideal... but now, with this date less than two years away, I look forward to it with jittery fear and dreadful trepidation. The problem, of course, is that many computer applications won't be able to handle the rollover - at midnight of December 31st they'll think it's January 1900, or else they won't know what to think, and will turn into pumpkins. Yourdon points out in his new book that most power stations (including all of our nuclears), the railway control computers and most of the DoD's weapons system aren't going to be able to handle this, that the efforts at correction won't make it in time (by a long shot). His new book is called Time Bomb 2000 and it details various scenarios and possible survival strategies. The author is very well known <3> in computer circles for excellent books on programming and software projects. He's been studying the upgrade work being performed to handle this turnover, and his assessment of the progress made is very gloomy - they're not going to make it. In addition to bank closures and empty grocery stores, how does no power for the first weeks of January sound? And even worse, hungry mobs lynching programmers?
Of course this is hardly news to me - I remember first being concerned when Arthur C. Clarke hypothesized this event's causing a world-wide stock market crash, in his first sequel to Rendezvous With Rama. And naturally dire predictions have been around for years, with ever-increasing hysteria evident. But this double-barrel from Yourdon's very distressing - I read a long posting of his to misc.survivalism today, as well as this Salon article. Like many, I suppose, I oscillate between concern and denial; my main reaction is to consider conversion of most of my bank assets to gold, and to make my residence totally mobile, ie live in a van (and first I have to buy one). But to really embrace the survivalism credo, I've gotta get a gun, too - and learn how to use it. Yuck. I am fairly certain that "going to ground", like Quiller, is going to be the smart way to spend that winter of 1999-2000. Won't be much fun though, no matter what happens. And what happened to our flying cars and colonizing Mars?
Churchill quote of the day: "I expect you will find that change is the best kind of rest."
Y2K - Techie abbreviation for the Year 2000 [computer problem]
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<1>The main drag through Silicon Valley, even all California. The full name is el Camino Real ("the royal road") and it was first built to connect the missions constructed by the Spanish. Up here it stretches between South San Francisco and north San Jose; down in LA the name's attached to a bit of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Redondo Beach. Back
<2>The distinction's subtle, to be sure, but I don't consider this problem to be a "bug". Back
<3>... although not universally respected. "Yourdon - the man who makes big bucks on the backs of giants. Phooey." - Z Back