On This Day Pre-Y2K

Confused by any of the jargon you see below? Check the Y2K Glossary!

January 29, 1999 Permalink

Most of us are hoping that the next 18 months will prove some predictions right and others wrong. Too bad, those hopes may go unfulfilled. I suspect that even historians in some future century will find it hard to clearly establish what Y2K actually contributed to the events of the Year 2000.

It is often said that bearing warnings of Y2K trouble is a thankless job. If the result is catastrophic, it will be our fault for not warning forcefully enough. If the result is no big deal, we’ll look foolish. I suggest there’s a third possibility - that it will never be clear. I like that possibility least of all.

What does this have to do with electric power? Just that the same principles will apply to utilities as to any other organization. Do not expect the events in power delivery in 2000 to be clearly tied to or divorced from Y2K. No matter what transpires, lack of clarity, obsfucation, and uncertainty will be the norms.

—Dick Mills, Westergaard Year 2000, 01/29/99

This is the heart of the y2k matter: fault tolerance. This is the heart of y2k’s social implications. Can the interdependence of the worldwide economy survive a simultaneous failure? For localized crises, such as a famine (rare in the free world) or an earthquake, interdependence helps. Victims get help from outside the crisis zone. But what happens when the same crisis hits everyone? That’s why y2k is like the bubonic plage of 1348-50.

Pareto’s 80-20 law is against us. This time, 80% isn’t good enough. If GM gets only 80% of its needed supplies, it goes out of business. Same with your local power utility.

We don’t know what the fault tolerance is. We also don’t know what the rate of failure will be in key industries. I think it will be over 1%. Others disagree. But this is where the debate should begin. This is where it rarely even ends, let alone begins.

—Gary North, garynorth.com, 01/29/99

My folks are in their mid-80s and not doing well. Their house would be a pretty good retreat for someone younger (wood stoves, septic, well), but my Dad is beyond coping with a generator for the well. They’re only an hour away, so that helps. There is no other family I can turn to. My parents are the main reason I am preparing my home, since I can’t see them surviving the stress of a shelter. I will bring them down for the rollover until whenever. (We don’t especially get along, and my house is very cramped, so that one act alone makes Y2K TEOTWAWKI for me.) I’m more concerned about the availability of Medicare and hospital service next year than I am about the ramifications of abandoning their house to looters or arsonists. On the other hand, I am looking for a modicum of cooperation from them so I can get most of their valuables to my place for safety and straighten out some of their paperwork. Mom is a massive worrier, so I spoke with her a few weeks ago about what I was expecting, and told her not to worry, I was taking care of everything. Mom GI’d immediately and gave me her blessing to follow my instincts. Haven’t really spoken to Dad. He expects to stay at his house indefinitely with the help of home care. 11 months at his age and his frail condition could mean Y2K is never a problem for him. So I don’t see any reason to get into arguments with him at this time (he’s surrounded by DWGIs), but I will try to keep a pulse on what he might be hearing and worrying about. That’s when I’ll get more serious about my discussions with him. It would make sense to sell their house this year and close it down properly, but I don’t have the emotional stamina to force them into that. They have a right to make their own decisions, but how can they possibly get their arms around the possibilities and the alternatives (especially regarding their life savings). If things do really deteriorate, I sense my parents have a resilience I don’t because they grew up in the Depression. It breaks my heart they may be going out on the same desperate conditions they started in. Good luck to all of you with elderly family you’re concerned about.

—Brooks, Time Bomb 2000 Forum (LUSENET), 01/29/99

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