a commentary on Y2K by Bill Dale

April 1, 1999

Here's the problem with those questions, the problem with this whole aspect of this thing. Everyone's being insane about it. Everyone's all wrapped up in the button, button, who's got the button, "They're lying, come on, what are the REAL numbers and percentages you liars, liars, liars!!!" game, and wasting their time.

Numbers schmumbers. What do they mean? This is all so stupid I can hardly stand it anymore. Doesn't anyone get it? What good would it do anyone if they had the exact, accurate, totally honest and real, real, real number of "mission critical systems," and what percentage of them were "compliant" or about to explode?

That doesn't tell anyone anything, yet everyone's busting their brains going around and around the bush about it.

Here. Let's just make up a number and a percentage and pretend this is the absolute accurate truth. Let's pretend the Department of Agriculture has 721 mission critical systems and 598 of them are really and truly compliant - tested and working. That's 83% (I think).

Okay. There we go. We know that now, and it's been certified and verified by ITAA and the Pope.

Now what?

What does that tell us about the future?


Here are the questions no one's even close to asking, and that they'll never get an answer to. And this is just the "top" layer.

Which systems are not compliant, what do they do, and what will happen if they're not fixed?

If somebody could get the answers to those questions then somebody might be able to get a clue as to what might be the actual real world impact of whatever systems won't be working.

"Oh. I see. That's the system that tracks set-aside acres and which farmers have credits coming. Okay. That would mean that a farmer participating in the set-aside program is probably going to find that aspect of things screwed up, is that right? So he or she should maybe talk to whoever they have to talk to so they can sort of plan on that, right? Okay. Thanks."

But I guess that'd make too much sense or something. Apparently, it's more important to just about everyone under the Y2K sun that, by God, we get the accurate count on those mission critical systems and their overall remediation rates, and that those responsible for feeding us the misinfo be made to admit it right now!

Or how 'bout this one, seeing's how we DID actually seem to get some kind of numbers that meant something last week. What was it? 9% of the water systems in America are projected to not be working? 30 million people are maybe in thirsty and sewage-laden trouble?

Now. That's better. But tell me. What's wrong with THAT picture?

That's right. It's too big. Are you one of those 30 million? Is your community one of the ones that made the report say that?

Who knows?

Not many.

Why not?

Who knows? (See panic speculation below.)

Is it because "no one knows?" I don't think so. How could those numbers been derived without someone knowing which communities have the soon to be faulty systems?

So there's a report released that says 9 or so percent of the water systems in America won't work and 30,000,000 people may not have water, but nobody seems to notice they neglected to say anything about WHICH 30,000,000 people. I mean. If you lived wherever it is that may not have water 9 months from now, wouldn't you rather know that than how many of your country's or community's mission critical systems are compliant? Obviously, the mission critical systems out at the water plant would be part of the non-compliant percentage, but as long as everyone's all hung up on the numbers only, who's going to find out about a little thing like that?

I'm constantly amazed at the amount of energy that's spent trying to get some kind of fix on the big numbers picture. It wouldn't be so weird if it would mean something concrete when they were arrived at, but unfortunately, it doesn't. (It's like the fortune being spent to try to figure out how old the universe "really" is. Is it 8 billion or 12 billion years old. Let's pretend it turns out to be 11. Okay. Now what? It's always explained away as having something to do with figuring out "where we came from" or something along those lines. I'm pretty sure if anyone ever figures that one out it won't have a lot to do with how old the universe is or isn't. But anyway...)

Another one just like this is the very slick, "Local disruptions only" thing that's been sliding right by all the questions askers lately too. In January that became the "party line." It was there again yesterday in that FCC report. "We are guardedly optimistic about the major communications systems, but we are not nearly as confident about smaller, local companies."

And who knows? It could be true. AT&T, US West, MCI, etc., may indeed be getting there, and there may be a national dial tone. But there could be "local disruptions" in phone service. In a way that's logical, makes sense, could actually be about the way it is. But again: Without knowing WHICH smaller local companies make the FCC say that, what good does that information do anyone?

For example: AT&T could be your long distance provider, but your local carrier is New Tech Communications which is Bob LeBoine and his cousin Earl who decided to get into the phone biz when they broke up AT&T. But while AT&T's been busy spending 86 billion to ferret out faulty packet switchers, fix code, and replace boxes, Bob and Earl have been saving and making money by driving around from lunch to lunch talking about how they think the Y2K thing's a buncha hype put out by computer consultants who want to get rich.

So (pretending for a moment that what the FCC is saying is true), you don't have a dial tone or access to AT&T January 1 because Bob and Earl dropped the ball a couple years ago. But you didn't know that because Bob and Earl's lawyer told them what to say when you called to check. And because Earl told the newspaper reporter who called to check the same thing, and he or she didn't know any better, and because you don't get on the Internet and read notes like these, you don't know you're supposed to make a "personal contingency plan" which means getting a cheap phone that doesn't need electricity to work, and calling US West (or some other local carrier), to ask a few questions and maybe switch your service over to them.

So even though "all disturbances" actually did turn out to be "localized," you get stuck without a phone (and maybe a few other things), because you didn't have a clue local meant you because when was the last time anything anyone in Washington said had anything to do with the place *you* live. It's always meant someplace else.

"Several local areas were hit by tornadoes last night."


"The bombing raids were localized and amazingly accurate."


Okay. More than enough out of me for tonite. Except this. I have no idea if "they" know they're doing it or not, but if you wanted to keep people distracted you could hardly find a more effective way of doing it than getting everyone to try to figure out which of all these huge numbers and percentages is "accurate," or "What's going on here, anyway!?" I have no idea if it's conscious or just working out that way. All I know is anytime you write to anyone who could tell you *which* systems might not get fixed and what that might mean - anytime you contact anyone who could tell you *which* water systems or communities are likely to suffer local disturbances - you don't get any replies at all (not even boilerplate).

I suspect it's related to the panic factor. That's a tough issue that has a whole lot to do with that powerful little thing called "Fear of Death." Nothing like having 30 million people trying to call you up to ask about stuff like that. I believe the average citizen is out of the loop, and is mostly going to remain so until whatever's going to get sprung gets sprung (if anything's going to be). At the same time, I'm sure some heavy duty phone conversations and a few personal visits to "the authorities" are happening behind the scenes in those places where those lives are at risk. No doubt some kind of emergency/contingency plans are being made.

But that's a whole 'nother story, and it's way past my supper time.


FROM: Robert Theobald, 4/2/99:

I just had a dreadful thought. We were told by the people who planned Kosovo that they understood the system and that their actions would make things better. And, of course, they have made things far worse.

Is this a mirror against which to measure Y2K? Is it possible that all the people who are telling us that things will be fine are really unable to look at the realities which exist because they are not part of our mind set?

If wishful thinking can triumph over reality in Kosovo, why not in Y2K land?

FROM: David Dibble, 4/2/99:

Hi All. You're making a difference. Bill, your insights, I believe are right on the mark. Robert, I couldn't agree more. Which leads us to a bigger question.

Assuming that things are not going to become generally open and honest -- or even accurate -- what should we be doing? I no longer believe it's possible to make a case for a "bump in the road." That means that the "we don't know what is going to happen" excuse for doing nothing is no longer valid. Disruptions are now inevitable. I believe community preparedness is now the best use of the time we have remaining. Which communities? Only the ones that could be adversely affected? Since there's not enough solid data to accurately identify the communities that will or will not be effected, the target group must be all communities which, hopefully, will distill into "MY" community. When do people begin to prepare?

It appears that planning and preparing begins only after they have created emotional ownership of Y2K for themselves that challenges life's comfortable status quo. Both today and going forward. What causes people to panic? For the most part, I think it's being unprepared. The unexpected. After fire drills, there will probably be far less panic when the fire actually breaks out. To avoid REAL panic later, wouldn't it be better to help people create emotional ownership of Y2K now under somewhat controlled conditions. There's no avoiding that people must FEEL something (yes, for the most part fear) before they begin to modify behavior (prepare). Still, this type of fear is manageable and can lead to positive action and a reduction of the original fear-based emotions. Surely, that's a better situation than waiting until the changing environment itself drives up emotional content in our lives and causes real panic. Fire with no fire drills.

I've had to overcome my own fears about putting Panic Free Y2K on the Internet for all to use, but with no hands on training. What if they're not effective, or worse, create more fear than they can handle? What if Panic Free Y2K gets a black eye? What if I lose control of my creation? What if I look like a fool or a loose cannon to all of you? What if....? I've since realized (gone through my fears) that the best thing to do is to put it all out there with as much instruction as possible and let the chips fall where they may. I'll do that as soon as possible and we can course-correct as indicated. Do you have any fears that are holding you back? Occasionally it's good for us to have a talk with the mirror-man. I know it was for me. I have just one more question for everyone. Does it make sense to FOCUS on community planning and preparedness at this point in time? If not that, what? Is EMOTIONAL OWNERSHIP the first critical step in creating positive action, or not? If not, what IS the critical first step? We're going to be much more powerful if we're aligned. Like laser light, alignment creates power.

FROM: Suzanne Taylor, 4/7/99:

God, Bill, your writing was thrilling. You are affecting many people as it is being passed around. This kind of in-your-face truth has to prevail.

I was swooning over what you said, David: "We're going to be much more powerful if we're aligned. Like laser light, alignment creates power." You asked what is the critical first step. I say conversation. Thinking together. Alignment is our next step. Such good-heartedness in one package has to be potent.

I wonder if we would be well-served by any planning for a more integrated conversation among the wayshowers. I am part of Larry Victor's core engagement, not knowing if he makes steady contact with all of you. My field has been connecting leaders up -- this disease of separation afflicts all of us. Robert has been party to the goings on. Perhaps I can serve as a switchboard somehow.

Thank you for letting us in on your self-doubt, David. That lets me know that my appreciation for you -- I see how right on you are -- is valuable for you to hear. We all need each other, I have come to discover.

My fears, David: "Who does she think she is, horning in on this exchange? We are already doing what she is preaching about...we don't need any help!!!" If I'm just catching up with what's so, God bless. If there's more that's wanted and needed, let's talk.

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