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Summary and Comments

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1997-07-28 13:25:36


Programmer Warns: Prepare for Worst-Case Scenario



David Eddy is a 15-year mainframe programmer. He is not apocalyptic. But what he describes here is a serious assessment of what happens if year 2000-compliance is not close to universal, which it obviously will not be. Eddy speaks of triage: ignoring whatever can't be repaired. It's down to that: deciding which systems will die. Problem: there is no one in charge of this assessment for society as a whole. Who knows which systems will die? If they are key links in the system of payments, the entire economy is at risk. Here is his description:

"The track record of delivering large software projects on time is simply abysmal, particularly for commercial MIS (Management Information Systems) organizations that are the Fortune 1000. We must begin preparing ourselves for the fact that lack of Y2K preparedness will cause significant disruptions in the daily activities and flow of our lives. What these disruptions will be is currently impossible to predict. While I know full well that it is considered un-American to admit defeat before the battle is even engaged, attempting to fight tanks with bare fists is pure folly. But we're talking about serious stakes here.

"Financial firms move money by telephone, not by armored car. Without communications, financial institutions quickly grind to a halt. Communications companies depend upon electricity, and so forth. No organization stands alone, not even the Department of Defense (DoD).

"The DoD states in their January 1997 Information Warfare Defense (IW-D) report that they are dependant in unspecified ways on civilian organizations for communications, transportation, etc. Disruption in these civilian resources would directly affect the DoD's ability to fulfill its missions. Just as any significant disruptions of communications, transportation and energy would likewise seriously cripple any organization from conducting its normal business."

His assessment of worst-case scenarios (which mine surely is), is well-taken: "What I do believe is that, as a global interdependant society, we are extremely ill prepared to cope with what may happen. If we actively consider and prepare for worst case scenarios, then actually weathering the inevitable storms will be far easier. What we need to do is stop pretending everything will be ok."


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