poly: Y2K crisis?

From: Hal Finney <hal@rain.org>
Date: Thu Sep 10 1998 - 21:57:16 PDT

I'm curious to know whether there is any consensus among list members
about the likely severity of the Y2K problem. There is a wide spectrum
of opinion among interested parties, from predictions of a complete
breakdown of western society, with millions if not billions of people
starving to death, to claims that the bug will product only localized,
minor inconveniences.

I read many of the Internet resources about this topic regularly.
The more active participants in discussion forums tend to be on
the pessimistic side, seeing a range from a 1930-style depression to
complete apocalypse. At the same time there is a minority who see less
severe consequences, although many of them still expect serious economic
disruptions at some level.

It is a difficult situation because we are faced with an unprecedented
task and the information available is terribly uncertain. Nevertheless
the potential seriousness of the problem is extreme.

For what it's worth, I tend to be less pessimistic than most in the Y2K
forums, although I see the situation as quite uncertain. I've been
involved in software development throughout my career, and certainly
the field has a terrible track record in terms of meeting deadlines.
At the same time I think many of the fears are due to the overall
complexity and multiple manifestations of the problems. Here I think
the pessimists are underestimating the collective ability of people
to solve large problems by having each person work on his own portion,
or to work around flaws in creative ways.

Still it seems possible that even a temporary economic disruption could
throw the economy into a serious recession, and I can't rule out the
more horrifying scenarios.

In my opinion, the potential consequences of a major Y2K catastrophe
are such that everyone should give the issue serious consideration.
The usenet newsgroup comp.software.year-2000 can be a pointer to useful
resources, although it is dominated by argumentation and flaming. I
read http://headlines.yahoo.com/Full_Coverage/Tech/Year_2000_Problem/
every day, and it has links to other Y2K resources on the web.

Hal Finney
Received on Fri Sep 11 04:43:27 1998

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