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Summary and Comments

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1997-07-30 09:13:31


Programmer Challenges the Happy-Face Scenarios


I include this letter as an example of what one programmer fears: the inability of people to grasp the threat to their lives that y2k poses. There is no valid reason for people's nearly religious worship of computers. The systems are not worth this kind of devotion.

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I have had the opportunity to read a few of your recent newsletters regarding the Y2K issue. I have been a programmer for the past 15 years and I could not agree more with your commentaries on the upcoming disaster. My experience in relating to others what I consider 'inside information' has been met mostly with denial (as you also commented on).

When I think about it I completely understand how it is that the majority can not comprehend how it could be that this situation could besuch a looming disaster when they do not realize that long ago they surrendered their lives to the control/supervision of computers. The change has been so subtle and so much behind the scenes that the average person simply cannot comprehend the volumes of work that passes through a system to be no longer humanly manageable. When I try to explain the number of programmers it would take to work on just one company's problem to achieve compliance, I am met with comments such as 'hire more programmers.' When I ask where will those programmers come from, they don't exist I am answered with 'train them'. When I explain how long it takes to learn to be an entry level programmer and that time will then have run out, I am met with 'someone will figure it out' as they walk away.

We humans are always thinking someone else will rescue us. Most do not think we have the responsibility to rescue themselves.

I do not believe the majority will ever be able to comprehend how it is that we have allowed ourselves to arrive at this point. Over the years I have had the opportunity to know code that has driven systems and have viewed the public's belief/reliance on those same systems. More than once I have stood in disbelief at the disparity between public opinion and the reality of a system's capablities. I believe systems will fail in a great way. So we agree - and I believe the denial will continue until the very end - perhaps you agree. . . .

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I agree, sort of. When major systems begin failing in 1999 or perhaps in the second half of 1998, awareness will rise. The escape hatches will then clog. But most people will shrug off y2k until (1) the lights go out and stay out in 2000 (worst case), or (2) the phone lines to banks and government agencies register "busy" 24 hours a day (minimal case).

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