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Y2K predictions

Well there’s less than a month left until Y2K. As 1999 progressed, my view into the year 2000 has changed very little, if not for the worse. For 1999, I thought that March would be the last month of reliable power and I was right, but the electricity hasn’t been that bad. It has gone out more this year where I am than in the past few years, sometimes even when the day is incredibly clear and no storms are in sight. The stock market has stayed fine; there was no crash in October or November. There have not been too many failures so far due to look-ahead calculations (except my own network).

The one big thing present in 1999 is public fear. Many people are afraid of what is going to happen next year and are so bewildered by what is coming that they turn indecisive. Before December, I thought various groups would “cross the line” and cause overreaction on the other groups’ part. Sure enough, there was a problem in Seattle concerning the WTO conference on the rollover into 1999-12-01. Incidents like this will continue to spring up during the month but they will seem isolated and minor.

1999-12-28, Tue seems to be the day when the U.S. Government will go into “Y2K active mode.” I think people will not panic until the absolute last minute. When snowstorms or hurricanes come, people do not go to the supermarket to buy food until the day the storm arrives or about six hours before. Since Y2K seems like such a remote thing, people will wait until they are affected (i.e. their power goes off, the phones stop working, toilets don’t flush, gas prices double, natural gas stops flowing, their bank accounts disappear into the fractional reserve world, nuclear sirens go off, etc.) and then they will take frantic action. This spike in public reaction is what everyone should be wary about.

People who prepared for Y2K earlier than now did it when everything was O.K. and they didn’t place an excessive strain on the system since not too many prepared and it was spread out over time. If everyone wants to withdraw all of their money out of their bank account, only about 1 to 10% of it will be there in full value. The government is printing up extra money and also retaining in circulation some of the most worn out bills one has ever seen in order to have as many greenbacks in the market as possible. Everyone should be able to get his or her money if they want it. However, it won’t be worth anything! Germany earlier this century got in a bad cycle of printing all of this money to the point where you needed a wheelbarrow full of currency to buy a loaf of bread due to hyperinflation.

I think everything will shut down at 00:00 UTC on 2000-01-01. However this stoppage will be planned, since the new strategy is to shut things down over the rollover and start them up again afterwards. While this may be a good idea for some things, for others it will not work. When systems are being restarted, some will come back up and others will not. If the electricity goes out and stays out, we are screwed since that also prevents the phones, water, gas, and a whole list of other things from working. Even if the electricity is just unreliable, it will cause problems with oil refineries, assuming they can receive oil from other countries, which I think will fare worse if they have any computerized industrialization.

I think there will be a nationwide blackout for about three days after 2000-01-01. Then there will be continual rolling blackouts and brownouts. Remember Y2K occurs in the middle of winter when electrical use is at its highest due to electric heating. Summer peak loads are just slightly less. There will be little redundancy in the system to account for failed equipment. Since many things depend on electricity, other services will become exponentially more unreliable than the electricity is and cause additional problems. I see the months of January, February, and March as being extremely dark not just in a no-power sense, but in general activity as well. The network does a three-month look-ahead to facilitate planning. Therefore 1999-10 maps into 2000-01, 1999-11 into 2000-02, and 1999-12 into 2000-03. The leap year in 2000 will be a problem.

April will bring some light to the situation but that is merely just an exception to the year 2000. I think cascading business failures will be the straw that breaks the heap and they will increase in April with alarming frequency. 2000-05-05 will be the key date. Sean David Morton thinks this may be when the U.S. falls apart. After my “This is America. We’re going to lose it.” dream on 1999-11-17, Wed, I think that date might be trouble for the U.S.A. The next day I dreamed there was a riot so interpret it as you may ….

I was told the network was not Y2K compliant and wouldn’t be fixed in time on 1999-11-03, Wed. The network could run next year since 19 people’s local networks are Y2K compliant, including mine. I can handle 56 simultaneous connections and I could do multiplexing if needed. However, I actually have to want to continue the network if I want to do something this intensive. Also, I know that I am doing the right thing by keeping things going. While it may be safer to send everyone home, isolation will be reduced if connections still occur.

In summary, Y2K will either be something not worth worrying about because it will have little impact or it will have so great of an impact, no amount of preparation will matter.

—Chris

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