L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 55, September 15, 1999
Fire Still Burning
Dress Rehersal For Y2K
by Tom Creasing
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise
My alarm clock went off on schedule this morning (too early, but
that's my fault for setting it that way). The lights in the bathroom
came on and electric toothbrush worked just fine. The newspapers were
in the driveway as expected and my Mazda B2300 performed its assigned
transportation duties flawlessly. At the gymnasium the sleepy eyed
attendant scanned my membership card and waved me through.
Some time later the stairmaster dutifully informed me that, as
always, I had burned 444 calories and climbed 138 flights. I arrived
at my office building this morning, was whisked to the proper floor
courtesy of Mr. Otis's invention, and fired up my old Micron computer
and turned on the stereo, listening to 620KNEWS. As usual, I logged
onto the internet, grabbed up a ton of email from here and afar, and
settled down to read, reply, and delete. No problems.
So what, you ask? Well, today is September 9, 1999 -- the dreaded
9/9/99 which I had been dutifully informed by Many Informed Sources
would cause computers to shut down in a sort of dress rehersal for
Y2K. But instead of The Rehearsal For The End Of The World As We Know
It, I have Routine Workday.
Not long ago I attended a seminar telling lawyers what they could
expect from Y2K. The world, I was informed, was divided into the
Clueless -- who didn't know there was a problem, the Apocolyptics --
Who were storing bullets and beans, and the Blessed -- who knew there
was a problem and who also knew that the problem would be fixed, so
there wasn't really a problem.
I broke an arm not raising my hand to ask what the difference between
the Clueless and the Blessed was, given that there wasn't really a
problem that couldn't be fixed? More recently, an acquaintance
informed me that I am a WGI -- a Won't Get It, because I spend more
time believing computer literati that say that Y2K will, at best, be
a blip than I do believing the Apocolyptics who urge me to buy more
beans and bullets, preferably from their overpriced catalogs or web
Several constants of the human animal are revealed by the popularity
of the Y2K "crisis," and the first is that those who don't study
history are doomed to repeat it. The End of the World is not new, and
the Y1K crisis was going to be caused by the return of Christ.
As the Year 1000 AD approached people became crazed, and the term
"millenium madness" applies to this era as Europeans whipped
themselves into a frenzy of greed, altruism, religious fervor, and
dozens of other extreme behaviors.
January 1, 1000 came around and, most to everyone's surprise, the
world continued around the sun (or vice versa, given the scientific
understanding of that era), people continued to be born and die,
animals continued to transport and farm, and sundials, hour glasses,
calendars, and seasons continued apace.
Today people are working themselves into the same sort of millenium
frenzy, looking for reasons to predict the End of Everything, and
computers have made a handy scapegoat for that blame. I suspect that
there will be as few apologies from the Apocolyptics on January 1,
2000 as there were on January 1, 1000.
Another constant is that people like to form groups and soon begin
wanting to believe that their group is "better" than other groups or
that they personally are better than people who haven't joined their
group (or who have selected a different group).
As a WGI who is not among the Blessed, it is easy to feel the disdain
that the GetIts and Blesseds have for people like me. It's only fair,
I suppose, given that I feel similar disdain for herd followers who
prefer to have their decisions made emotionally and by others.
It is this socialization and subsequent "betterthanthou"ization that
leads to Crusades and Holocausts, though, and has demonstrated itself
repeatedly throughout human history as one of the most destructive
forces humans subject themselves to.
A third human trait demonstrated by the Y2K situation is the human
penchant for pure unmitigated stubbornness in the face of facts. In
April many states rolled over to fiscal year 2000 with no problem. In
July, most states had made the change.
In August the GPS system made its change. Today the world is
functioning despite the 9/9/99 Rehersal. All that's left is the
October fiscal year change for the Fed -- but given that Y2K has been
all of nothing so far the scariest thing about October will most
likely be Halloween. Despite this evidence, though, the GetIts and
Blesseds still insist that they're right and that they're
better and smarter and more clued than I am because, unlike me, they
For what -- the Second nonComing?
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