I am convinced from what I have seen on the Internet that human society will experience some serious and unprecedented problems when the clock strikes the hour of midnight, beginning the year 2000 even months earlier, as some fearful people give way to panic.
The Y2K bug, (Year 2000 bug) for those who do not know, is the confusion computers and their chips will experience when their built-in calendars run out of familiar two-digit year dates. Our shorthand for today's date might read 1/5/99. A year from now it would be 1/5/00. The computers have not been informed that 00 is short for 2000 and are predicted to perform erratically or not at all. Since so much of the world's economy is dependent upon the proper functioning of computers, social confusion of varying degrees is feared. A Website called "wild 2k" quotes an article in the forthcoming January 1999 issue of Scientific America by Peter de Jager, entitled "Y2K: So Many Bugs, So Little Time." De Jager writes:
I believe that severe disruptions will occur and that they will last perhaps a month. Additional problems, ranging from annoyances to more serious issues, will continue cropping up throughout 2000. This prediction assumes that people will have done what is necessary to minimize the number of single points of failure that could occur. Accomplishing that alone in the time that remains will require a Herculean effort unprecedented in the history of computers."
From Tom Atlee's Website The Washington D.C. Year 2000 Group is made up of individuals dealing with Year 2000 issues in their respective government agencies and private organizations as workers, technical managers, high-level managers, consultants, vendors, lawmakers, and so on. Some 229 of them responded to an email poll asking them to estimate the impact of the Y2K bug on a scale of 0-10.
The Website asks, "How serious is the Y2K situation? On a scale of nothing happening at 1 and 10 being a catastrophic collapse of modern society, our team of researchers are presently predicting 7.19." (8/6/98) The 7.19 figure would lie between #7, "Political crises; regional supply/infrastructure problems, disruptions," and 8, "Depression; infrastructure crippled; markets collapse; local martial law."
While practically all computer experts anticipate serious problems, many are warning against dangerous responses, such as panic and "survivalism." These include running for the country, withdrawing all one's money from a bank, and obtaining weapons. Such responses, rising from illogical fears, add to whatever anarchy might occur.
Some preparations for the beginning of the year 2000, however, are reasonable and appropriate, such as one might make when faced with the prospect of a natural disaster. Authorities whom I have long respected as not given to sensationalism and crying doom, suggest that we should keep a month's supply of food on hand, some extra cash, required medications, cooking fuel, etc.
It is quite important, however, to belong to some caring group that is aware of and confronting Y2K. In our town are neighborhood disaster preparedness groups concerned for the safety of residents in case of fire, floods, and earthquakes. Churches, senior centers, and community centers could establish Y2K preparedness groups.
The purpose of such a group would be to keep its members aware of the latest known facts to replace rumors and to cooperatively plan preparations and help for its members. Human beings are, after all, social animals, and are most effective when sharing knowledge and ideas. How well this is known to members of AA, Alanon, and other mutual self-help groups! Their shared experiences help unearth better solutions as well as raising hopes. We may take some comfort in the knowledge that disasters tend to draw people together. Those of us old enough to remember the Great Depression can recall the outpouring of mutual concern during that time. Our doctor never failed us, although he knew we could not pay him. Our dairy continued to deliver milk where there were children, with bills long unpaid. Never underestimate the capacity of people to reach out a helping hand.
For too long our world has been ruled by the spirit of ACQUIRING wealth, privilege, and power, and by our honoring such a spirit. We have been on a path leading to the destruction of our human-friendly environment, and even of our species.
Is this threatened disruption the jolt we need to stop business-as-usual and change to a new course? There are those among the Y2K knowledgeable who think that it is.
Gary North wrote, "It's time to say good-bye to one order and get to work building its replacement. It's not the end of the world. But its the end of a world where people trust the promises of politicians, bankers, computer programmers, and lawyers who write press releases."
Statements from the CoIntelligence Institute: "Y2K is an opportunity to change the world for the better." "There is a real possibility that the challenges of this crisis will push us out of business-as-usual into new ways of thinking, feeling, and doing."
Since Y2K will be experienced all over the world, and hopefully thousands (millions?) of groups will explore its implications, we must find ways to stir discussion of the need to end all militarism and national sovereignty, replacing it with structured world community. A new economy, without the motive of acquiring money, wealth, prestige, and power should be seriously explored worldwide.
We humans have the resources, knowledge, and power if we choose to use it, to arrange a world in which every human on earth has adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, the means and freedom to travel anywhere; a world with ample living space for a wide diversity of non-human life, and a world whose environment is friendly to all life. With our children we can play the game of building a vision of such a world and what steps we can take to bring it about.
While we share our caring for each other in year 2000 groups, it is essential at the same time to examine some of our social values that are responsible for Y2K disruptions, and also for our wars, crime, neglect of the disadvantaged, plundering and polluting of our environment. It is time to jettison such sick values. Although some hard times may lay ahead, beyond may be the near-utopia we can leave to our children. There is an old saying that the night always seems darkest just before dawn.