Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance network,  aug. 14

Russell McOrmond, the "techie" behind the MAI-not list serve**, sent us this
message following our earlier discussion of the Y2K problem:

(**For MAI-not subscription information, posting guidelines and
links to other MAI sites please see http://mai.flora.org/)

From: Russell McOrmond <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: rn: comments on "collapse scenario"
Date: Sun, 9 Aug 1998 23:15:01 -0400 (EDT)

> Sounds like science fiction, doesn't it? Yet, this may only be the
> beginning of what to expect as the world experiences the impacts of
> Y2K -- also known as the Millennium Bug. 

  While I am not one to believe that it will be perfectly smooth sailing 
as various computer clocks roll over to the new year, I do not 
believe people understand WHY these problems are happening to a 
degree that they are even working in the right direction to try to 
solve them.

  I have written a position piece where I compare the software industry 
to the housing industry, and wish to expose various players - both the 
builders and the buyers - of being the "slumlords" that they are.  
Without adequate understanding of the problem, we are doomed to 
continually repeat it.


Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.org/russell/work/>
http://www.flora.org/russell/work/open-links.html Y2K,Green,Co-op,Microsoft?
http://www.perc.flora.org/PEN/feature/1998-07/ Information-Age Activism
http://news.flora.org/flora.afo/1582 Australians debunk highway myths

For those who would like to see Russell's article without going to the web
site, here it is:

Year 2000: New problem, or a symptom of an old problem?

In the last few months many warnings have been given and conversations
started about the year 2000 (Y2K) problem, the Millenium Bug, or some other
related topic. Some of the stories about the millennium bug would have you
believe that it will cause airplanes to fall from the sky, ATMs to shut
down, power grids to fail, and welfare checks to bounce. 

I am an Open Systems Internet consultant and I have come to a different
conclusion: That the Y2K 'issue' is no different than any other misuse of
technology issues, and will not represent a crumbling of the global economy
any more than all the past misuses of information and technology have done so.
Yes there will be glitches, but if we fail to understand the roots of these
glitches we will be doomed to forever repeat these mistakes, and to work
counter-productively in the next few months leading up to Jan 1, 2000. 

Computer Software (Where most of the Y2K fear has been focused), like any
other information used by humans or machines, needs to be periodically
updated as conditions change, needs to be thoroughly tested (peer-reviewed,
verified, etc), and needs to not be relied upon unless the last two
conditions are met. 

In much of the Computer Software and Technology world, information
restriction in the form of copyright, patents and secret-source environments
(Keeping the blueprints to software, otherwise known as the Source Code,
secret from the users of that software) have made the updates costly and the
testing/peer-review almost impossible. Update and maintenance costs are
higher as one
needs to hire someone to update each instance of a specific type of program,
rather than the update being done once and shared. Often a problem cannot be
directly solved as only those with the blueprints are in a position to be
able to make updates. Keeping the blueprints secret essentially removes the
possibility of proper peer-review, and the fewer people able to share and
make use of the same software the less tested it will be. 

People in decision making positions over the years have continued to make
decisions that have caused the Y2K problem. As an example, if one makes the
choice to use software in a secret-source software environment, then they
must by definition understand that this will mean higher maintenance costs
for that software. If they decide to both work in a secret-source
environment and do not create the budget for the appropriate level of
maintenance, then they are
*CREATING* the very problems we are now discussing with Y2K. 

If a landlord never does any maintenance or repairs to a building on a
property, they are not surprised if the building falls down or is otherwise
condemned. If an automobile owner never does a checkup they should not be
surprised when their chosen mode of transportation fails, possibly with
fatal results. The high-tech industry is no different in this regard, and we
will soon find out who the
"slumlords" are, and who has not been trying to externalize their
maintenance costs. 

The other aspect is the reliance on the unmaintained and untested
information. A good business-person would never invest millions of dollars
in a given investment based on a whimsical idea from some unknown person off
the street. They might use the ideas to then go to experts to try to verify
the information, but they would not trust this information alone. This
analogy is very similar
to what is happening with much of their technological decisions - they are
risking huge amounts of their business on unverified information. Just like
the gambler that just happens to be lucky most of the time, people who rely
on unverified information will eventually have these poor decisions catch
up on them. 

As progressive thinkers we must look critically at the technology we use in
our lives. Are the blueprints to the creation and maintenance of the
information available to us? How reliant are we on the technology for our
survival? If you find there are things that you rely on that have been kept
secret from you, then the time before Jan 1, 2000 is as good as any to try
to change or at least
minimize this. 

It is unfortunate that our lives are put at risk by other decision makers
who do not understand these problems, but we should still make all the
appropriate changes to our own lives to minimize our own contributions to
the problem. 

As with everything else in life, there are always alternatives. There are
two approaches to take with this type of problem: 

  A.Move from secretive information systems to open systems. I am involved
in a branch of the   computer science industry that does exactly that :
Computer software in an Open-Source environment where the blueprints to all
the information that makes the computer work is made publicly available. The
extensive levels of peer review have made these software systems more
reliable than secrets based systems. The same concepts exist for other types
of content,
     and a whole movement called Opencontent is starting to gain popularity. 

   B.Move away from reliance on inappropriate technology. Many progressive
people already do this, whether this is the avoidance of unsustainable
non-Human Powered Vehicles, or the keeping of generators and/or alternative
heat sources for when the power grid is not available.

     Worrying about computers calulating 99+1=0 is silly when we consider
how few people are currently aware of or are "End of Oil Compliant". Not all
computing systems were improperly tested when they were designed to handle
dates well into the future, but we do know the level at which our current
society is inappropriately dependent on fossil-fuels for transportation,
heat, electricity and conversion to other forms of energy. 

After the January Ice Storm one of the more progressive thinking people I
know, Frank de Jong (Leader of the Green party of Ontario), wrote a press
release that started with the quote, "Ice-storms would cause only minimal
damage were it not for our over-dependence on a centralized electrical
system." ( Jan 17, 1998 press release). This is essentially a reiteration of
the same principles we are discussing here : reliance on an inherently
unreliable system. I hope that others will follow that lead and look at the
Y2K problem with the same critical eyes that Frank did for the Ice Storm. 

Relevant Links: 

     Opencontent information 
     Open-Source information 

Other Y2K related links: 

     The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation?, part of the
     Home Page. 
     RMOC Year 2000 Project (With links to other levels of Government) 
     Full Coverage:Year 2000 Problem in Canada (Y2K in the media) 
     Year 2000 Information Center 
     Westergaard Year 2000 
     Dr. Ed Yardeni's Economics Network 
     Dealing With The Year 2000 Problem 
     Gary North's Y2K Links and Forums 
     The Global Millennium Foundation 

More reading on this topic can be found at:

Last update: $Date: 1998/07/18 21:28:11 $ UTC