Telirati Newsletter #50: Why Too 'K?
First, and most important to those of you in the computing and telecom industry: the number of mission critical systems is vastly overestimated. Most systems hardened against failure and operated by a team of operators that wear their pagers proudly to display their importance are not actually mission critical outside of the mission of enhancing the significance of the people operating them. By contrast, the small number of actually critical systems were long since well taken care of, if there had been any Y2K concern over them in the first place.
Corollary to this rule are the fact that
Second, expectations of Y2K were driven by a singularly unreliable transmitter: the "mainstream media." If there is one lesson to learn from Y2K it is that independent, non-traditional, and largely Internet-based information sources are at least as good as the so-called "mainstream press." Yes, kooks use the Internet as their trumpet, but they are easy to spot. Instead, the calm that pervaded independent Internet news sources like NewsMax, StratFor, the undeservedly maligned Drudge Report, and the non-traditional computer-oriented sites like Slashdot indicated that there would be no significant trouble. This illustrates that the "mainstream" press has been disintermediated as an effective way to get the most important news fastest. It now picks up and retransmits things we already know to the unplugged and generally apathetic, while retaining its other function as spin amplifier for views sympathetic to the journalistic subculture of people who have never made an actual functional work product and sold it. Hence we see the spectacle of formerly respectable institutions such as the New York Times and BBC proclaiming the non-millennium as if it were the millennium if only to avoid contradicting the political objects of their toadyism who have stood for dumbing down the calendar.
It is far too much to expect the traditional press to comprehend and accurately portray facts such as that computer systems of any non-trivial complexity have dozens to hundreds of bugs that can cause them to stop functioning. Increased taxes would not fix this. Regulations would not fix this. More social workers would not fix this. A lawsuit would not fix this. One could blame it on white men, but those were antediluvian times when white men with short hair wrote code. Nobody would get the connection, since everyone who relies on the mainstream media knows that most programmers look and act like Jaron Lanier (who invented virtual reality in the lab just down the hall from where Al Gore, who must have at the time sported a similarly Rastafarian haircut, was inventing the Internet). It is therefore impossible for most young reporters who have been to journalism school in the last 20 years to write a concluding sentence to a news item accurately describing the danger, or lack of it, from the Y2K bug.
Copyright 2000 Zigurd Mednieks. May be reproduced and redistributed with attribution and this notice intact.