Luke Harms by fionan


									Luke Harms Future of the Infrastructure Y2K Scenario Planning It is impossible to predict the effects of the Y2K computer problem in the year 2000. There is no precedent for this level of ambiguity surrounding a potential global catastrophy. According to some "experts" the problem may not cause any significant inconvenience for US citizens. According to others, global society is on the verge of the biggest disruption in recorded history. Programmers in the dawn of the digital age thought it would save money to record dates with only the last two digits of the year. Today companies like Citibank have spent over 500 million dollars to amend this error (and as of this publication Citibank is still not y2k compliant). Correcting the y2k "bug" is a huge job, the equivalent of changing all the light bulbs in Las Vegas in one afternoon, with half of the bulbs no longer available and/or sealed in permanent fixtures. Unless the worlds computers are made "compliant" with y2k, they will crash in the year 2000 and the industries they serve will be unable to function. Not only software but also hardware and embeded circuitry must be 1. tested for compliancy 2. isolated and replaced if necessary, 3. tested in isolation 4. integrated and tested at increasingly complex levels of integration and interdependence. As of today, no international bank, fortune 500 company, or public utility is fully compliant. Many are planning compliance of core systems by such and such a date. However, until testing is complete, any claims of compliancy (and the smooth transition into the year 2000) are purely speculation. The powers that be have waited so long to address the issue proactively, that it is already too late. According to the Gartner Group, there are a minimum of 20 million non-compliant date sensitive embedded systems in the world. Even if a person believes that there are only a million of such systems that are destined to malfunction, there is insufficient time and resources to identify, replace, test, or work around, all of those embedded systems. As the NERC spokesperson said at the January 11, 1999 Press Conference, everything will not be fixed in time. Even in the best case, scenarios for y2k can not include a "non-event". Y2k is not a hoax and it is not only going to effect developing countries. Even the least possible impact will be felt globally. The population at large does not realize the extent to which we have become dependant upon computers for our way of life. Alan Greenspan Chairman of the Federal Reserve says that if even 1% of international banks are non-compliant, the whole banking network will be corrupted with bad data and crash. The world bank and other organizations are working around the clock to patch systems. It is possible, yet highly unlikely- that the banking system will not suffer dramatic effects at the hands of y2k. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it will close brokerages that fail to eradicate the millennium bug from their computer systems by October. This is encouraging, but we will be unable to shut out European and Japanese financial organizations, both of which are far behind the US in their y2k efforts. At the very least, the stock market will dip and we will enter Global

recession that lasts a few months. The US economy will be down at least 2% during the first quarter of 2000. In many parts of the world, the least that can happen is much more devastating than the effects felt in the US. There are more than investments in jepoardy from y2k, the following is a list of top priority areas of concern for y2k-related events that would pose the greatest risk to humankind:  Nuclear Weapons Systems - Domestic and Foreign  Biological and Chemical Warfare Laboratories, Plants or Storage Sites and Other Similarly Hazardous Sites - Domestic and Foreign  Nuclear Power Plants - Domestic and Foreign  Chemical Manufacturing Plants and Refineries - Domestic and Foreign  The Electric Power Grid  Oil and Gas Pipelines  Refineries  Mines  Dams  Ships and Tankers  Water Purification Plants  Wastewater Treatment Plants  Food Production and Distribution  Fuel Distribution Systems  Telecommunications Systems  Rail Systems  Air Transport  Mass Transit  Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and Management Health Care Industry The Labor Force  The Not-for-Profit Sector  Maintenance of Civil Order ~ Military, National Guard, Police, Fire, and Emergency Dispatch Services  Security of Jails, Prisons, and Mental Institutions  Readiness of Law Enforcement, National Guard/Reserve, and Other Essential Workers to Serve The worst case scenarios for y2k are too cataclysmic to realistically consider. They include nuclear winter and short of that the complete breakdown of societal infrastructure. The “alarmists” will have us believe that it was already too late at this time last year, that nothing at this point can avert the disaster. Many of the extreme hypothesis are difficult to accept just by virtue of faith in human nature. Still, we must not fall into the trap of failing to prepare for events because we don’t want to believe they can come to pass. Although unlikely, there is as much evidence for widespread calamity, as there is for nothing but a minor recession. Calls for politicians and CIO’s to give the public realistic evaluations of the situation will fail unless there are institutional incentives to tell the truth. With y2k, those incentives don't exist yet. The news may be too bad. There are no negative sanctions for lying about y2k. Lying delays the potential panic. It also calms people who do not want to face reality. People who don’t want to hear terrible news may resent being told the truth. Churchill told the truth about Hitler's plans, 1933-1939. He was hated for this until 1940. Even after World War II began,

Parliament did not turn to him for almost a year. Congressman Stephen Horn's report card on y2k preparedness gave an overall grade of C+ to the US. govt. He puts the FAA well behind the curve (along with the DOD) yet FAA officials insist they will be compliant. Horn's assessment is backed up by reports from other investigative agencies of the government, but the head of the FAA doesn't back down... this is just one example of conflicting reports, who should the people believe? On the one hand U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson says the nation won't experience electrical brownouts on New Year's Day 2000 due to computer problems at utilities. This is in contrast to a special Senate committee report saying there could be power outages, especially in rural areas. "This is not a time for people to go crazy or be alarmist," said Senator Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat. "We see nothing that would cause anyone to want to stockpile large amounts of food." However, he said "Families should, have a small amount of canned goods on hand, much as they would for hurricanes, severe snow storms or other weather emergencies". The March 2nd senate report on y2k said that "the committee has no data to suggest that the United States will experience nationwide social or economic collapse, but the committee believes that some disruptions will occur, and that in some cases Y2K disruptions may be significant." The report said people should keep copies of their financial records in case banks run into unforeseen problems. The March 2nd report says "the millennium bug may set off civil unrest in poor countries, undermine economic growth in Asia, Latin America and Africa, and disrupt global trade in oil and other commodities… missile systems and high-tech weapons in other countries could malfunction, and terrorists might strike against U.S. targets to take advantage of weakened security... A prolonged nationwide blackout was unlikely, although local and regional outages were possible" Said chairman of the Senate's Special Committee on the computer problem, Utah Republican Robert Bennett, "I have a nightmare of no power, no telecommunications, the banking system is broken down, widespread rioting". There has already been evidence of y2k related problems: First National Bank of Chicago ATM's at about 300 Illinois branches became unable to transfer funds between primary and secondary accounts as a result of a Y2K-related software upgrade. "Nearly half of the 600 Breathalyzers used by police departments across Illinois to identify drunken drivers have a Y2K-incompatible chip in their electrical innards that would render their printouts unusable in court”. The University of Chicago Hospitals discovered its pneumatic tube system, which transports blood and tissue samples around the sprawling complex, needed to be replaced to keep it working in 2000. When the giant three-reactor Oskarshamn utility in Sweden was tested last year, it automatically shut down as soon as the clock reached 2000. Co-chair of the Society for Information Management Year 2000 Working Group, warned that reactors could be a threat to public safety during Y2K. The danger of severe environmental damage from nuclear fallout is the most dangerous scenario within the realm of possibility. A Pennsylvania nuclear power plant was running a y2k test. Its monitoring computers went down for 8 hours. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has asked the plant to suspend y2k testing until the engineers find out what went wrong.

A slightly more likely, less damaging, but still terrible effect could be the collapse of the world economy and a depression that lasts for years. The financial network of businesses and institutions are a web of interdependencies with many characteristics of a chain. If just a few links fail to support their weight (by transmitting corrupting data) the entire structure could collapse. Obviously, the work being done is attempting to ensure that compliant systems can accept non-compliant data without error. Still, as yet none of these systems has been fully implemented. There is doubtless a certain amount of societal anxiety increase caused by pre-millenium tension. An apocalypse in the year 2000 has been alluded to in more prophecies than y2k. Events like the Leonids meteor shower during the end of 1999 will only add to the hysteria. It is possible that hype will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. The FED is putting 30% more cash into distribution to cover anticipated lack of faith in banks. If indeed everyone fills up their tanks on December 31, there will be no gas available on January 1st. Trying to predict the outcome of Y2K is like trying to guess how far you can throw a piece of unfolded paper. It is possible that with extreme effort the disruptions will be very minor (in the US). It is also possible that the financial industry will collapse, the power will go out, and the people will loot and riot, there will be years of depression and some parts of the world will become uninhabitable in the wake of nuclear fallout. Even in the face of infrastructure collapse we will have one recourse: our neighbors, the local community and our ability to work together and help each other. Note: 80% of the paraphrase and quotation in this essay are from news and editorials since march 1st 1999. URLs: http.//

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