Apocalypse Soon?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Futilitist, Jan 1, 2013.

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  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

    "You say we have nothing to worry about"

    That's akin to me saying "you are saying that 90% of humans will be dead by the end of the summer." Since 90% of humanity will not be dead by October, you lose!

    See how easy (and pointless) strawmen are?

    For as long as you continue to argue using strawmen and ad hominem attacks I will continue to point them out. You have two choices:

    1) Stop using such dishonest tactics
    2) Ignore my posts

    I don't really care if they do. I certainly don't care if you do.
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  3. Futilitist This so called forum is a fraud... Registered Senior Member


    Perhaps we could get back to discussing the topic of the thread now.

    Here is some more news on the recent oil price spike:



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  5. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    I bought a 2012 Kia Optima turbo (its actually a year ago now). It replaced my 2004 Mazda 6i. I was hoping for an even trade in fuel economy and much more power, but it actually gets slightly less fuel economy. About 25 vs 28 mpg ave.
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  7. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    Oy. Try just looking up "expect".

    Listen, this hairsplitting is just a distraction. Whether it is a prediction or expectation or if there is a difference between them doesn't make it any less wrong. Either way, it points to a failure by you to understand the current economic situation. Whether this is an official part of your prediction or not, you are still using the same flawed understanding of the economic situation for both.
    Agreed, but for someone with a good grasp of the facts, they are not.
    1. You have said on numerous occasions that Peak Oil happened in 2006.
    2. If you "expect" an oil shortage to have a major role in the economic collapse that you "expect" is happening now, oil has to start collapsing first.
    You've been corrected before for posting out of date information. That one is four years old. It clearly and unsurprisingly underestimates the impact of unconventional oils. We know that's the main flaw in Peak Oilism being discussed.

    Beyond that -- jeez, are we really supposed to believe you are that dense that you accidentally posted a 2009 reference from the same source that I just posted a 2013 reference? News flash: The landscape has changed! TheOilDrum has figured it out, but you're still clinging to old predictions and "expectations".
    No, you most certainly have not. I have never used the word "ever" and it is clearly not implied by my posts. 30 years is not never. Indeed, I started a slightly similar but much more academic discussion on another forum, which is still active, titled "You! Fix the US Energy Crisis" in 2004. Phasing-out gas powered cars was on my long-term needs list, starting in 20+ years (11+ years now). And indeed it is already starting.
  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

    OK. Good article on doomerism:

    Apocalypse, Not

    The phrase “the end of the world as we know it” has been uttered so often in the last decade that some Peak Oil advocates simply use its acronym, TEOTWAWKI. This awkward shorthand was once employed by Y2k catastrophists, and that heritage alone—the most unnecessary “sky is falling” panic in my lifetime—is enough to make me skeptical of the negativism embraced by many of my fellow Peak Oil believers. Peak Oil is as inevitable as death and taxes. But for every convert that Peak Oil’s doom-and-gloom extremism sweeps up, it alienates plenty of people who might otherwise climb down from their SUVs. Peak-Oil catastrophism’s repetition of doubtful facts and its sometimes muddied thinking betray a lack of critical analysis that discredits the Peak Oil movement. I’d like to delve into some of the errors and half-truths surrounding Peak Oil catastrophism, not as encouragement for those who want to party on blindly into the end of oil, which would be tragic, but as a way of refining and bolstering those arguments around Peak Oil that are valid.

    There is no doubt that oil is running out. But to believe that it will surely bring the end of the world, you must believe that:

    - Our demand for oil is unchangeable and is not significantly affected by price.
    - We are so badly addicted to oil that we will watch our civilization collapse rather than change our behavior.
    - Significant oil conservation is not possible in the time frame needed.
    - Even with conservation, demand will be more than oil plus alternatives can possibly meet.
    - Society is so fragile that it cannot withstand large shocks.

    These are the significant beliefs needed to be a Peak Oil catastrophist. Each is false. Let’s look at them.

    The starting point for most Peak-Oil catastrophism is Hubbert’s curve. M. King Hubbert was a petroleum geologist who published papers in 1956(1) and 1974 (2) showing that US and world oil production should follow a simple bell curve. He believed US production would peak around 1970, and world output around 1995, followed by a drop as steep as the rise. He offered no equations and little mathematical basis for his hypothesis, but showed data for the rising side of the US curve.

    Hubbert’s US peak prediction was accurate, and the decline initially followed his curve. It has lately deviated significantly (see Figure 1). World production has not followed Hubbert’s curve since the late 1970s (Figure 2). Production levels for other countries have followed Hubbert’s curve in only 8 of 51 cases (Figure 3). (3) Those facts have not bothered the catastrophists, but some theories are so attractive that it is hard to abandon them when facts disagree.

    Let’s engage in a little critical thinking about Hubbert’s curve. Domestic oil production began to fall sharply around 1970. Why the steep drop? If we’re blinded by theory, we’d say “because supply dried up” and leave it at that. But a careful thinker must look for other explanations that may have an effect. Although roughly half the US oil reserves were, indeed, consumed by 1970, just as Hubbard predicted, several other factors contributed to the steep decline in production: A major oil spill off California in 1969, the first Earth Day in 1970, and many other events spawned a rise in environmental consciousness in the 1970s, and soon, public outcry forced the US to block off-shore drilling and other sources of domestic oil because they damaged our environment. This reduced access even though these reserves were still present. Then, the 1973 Arab oil embargo sent prices skyward, and Americans bought small cars and turned down thermostats, squelching demand and thus domestic production. And, the 1960s and 1970s saw both the rise of the multinational corporation and Britain’s retreat from its Middle-Eastern colonies, a combination that encouraged the oil majors to abandon US oilfields and to enormously boost Mideast operations, where regulations were lax, labor cheap, and supplies huge.

    Thus the fall in US production that was a result of the depletion of easy-to-drill domestic deposits, was made increasingly steep by many other causes. The shape of Hubbert’s curve is not dictated only by how much oil is in the ground, but by political, environmental, and economic forces. Today, lapsed US oil leases are being bought back by the oil majors, who are developing these deposits with new techniques. Congress has re-authorized off-shore drilling, and US production has stopped falling. We’re not on Hubbert’s curve any more. To think that domestic oil production declined only because the US began to run out of oil in the 1970s is simplistic and ignores a strong drop in demand, while focusing wrongly on a much milder decrease in supply.

    Price Dictates Demand

    Oil production levels are shaped by more than supply. Price has an enormous effect, and production levels reveal that story. From 1960 to 1973, as oil prices declined, production ramped up by over 6% each year.(4) Then came the Arab oil embargo’s high prices, and production grew only 1.5% per year from 1973 to 1979. The world began to conserve. Prices rose further in 1979, and production growth slowed again, to 0.75% per year and below, where it has remained since. In other words, we cut our annual growth in oil use by 87.5% in about 6 years (1973 to 1979) and kept it down, which shows how malleable, and sensitive to price, oil consumption levels are.

    Catastrophists use scary statistics like “if world oil consumption increases by only 5% per year, we’ll use all the world’s oil in 15 years.” Since world consumption has grown only 0.75% per year for 25 years, it is irresponsible to pretend such inflated numbers are likely.

    Per-capita energy use is cited by some catastrophists, such as geologist Richard C. Duncan,(5) as a measure of our plight. They note, correctly, that per-capita use has begun to drop world-wide, and they leap to the conclusion that this can only mean we’re headed back to the Stone Age: Less oil per person must be just like less food or money per person, so civilization is going to end, this sloppy thinking goes. However, US oil consumption per capita has declined substantially since 1979 and we’ve got more toys than ever. From 1979 to 2003, our economy grew by more than 100% and population by 30%, but US oil use only rose by 9%, or 0.25% per year. Per capita oil use declines not just due to supply tightening, but more importantly because we now use vastly less energy to get the same results—a major, very positive reason ignored by catastrophists. The lesson, again: Don’t stop thinking at the first explanation that comes to mind.

    In 1973, US cars averaged 13 miles per gallon (mpg). In the wake of price increases, mpg shot up to 24 by 1981, a near-doubling in 8 years.(6) Prices have been steady or lower since then, and average mpg has been unchanged (there’s that tight link between price and consumption again). Higher prices reduce demand, and they spur us to make more efficient use of oil, further slowing demand. That double damping of demand can buy a lot of time to retool.

    We currently have technology that can double or quadruple gas mileage, and as prices rise, we’ll use it broadly and consumption will drop, stretching out the right side of Hubbert’s curve substantially. We’ve already shifted the curve in the US, by doubling gas mileage and slowing our increase in oil use from 6% a year to 0.25%. And most of the developed world has conserved better than we have.

    The following statement, typical of that on many Peak-Oil web sites, reveals a sad lack of economic knowledge: “[Hubbert] also predicted global production would peak in 1995, which it would have had the politically created oil shocks of the 1970s not delayed the peak for about 10-15 years.”(7) But that’s precisely the point: Price increases dramatically reduce demand, and extend the number of years of oil reserves left. And high prices don’t just make us look for alternatives; overall energy use declines as we conserve. The right side of Hubbert’s curve gets longer each year.

    Thus beliefs one and two above, that prices don’t affect consumption, and that we’d rather watch civilization collapse than change our habits, aren’t true.

    A Just-in-Time Species

    Humans are activated by crisis, and often do little until it arrives. We waffle and deny as a bad situation builds, such as during Hitler’s repeated aggression in Europe in the late 1930s. Then we pass a trigger point and leap into all-out efforts; we are galvanized into war or its equivalent. Look at aircraft production in World War Two: In 1939, the US built 180 airplanes per month.(8) In 1940 we made 1600 each month, and by 1944, 8000. That’s a 4500% increase in 5 years. I’ve not heard any White House statements about “the war on oil dependence,” but when they come, I am certain we’ll make a similar effort, even if it is one of learning to make less rather than more.

    Warnings about Peak Oil abound, but catastrophe enthusiasts believe that since few are heeding the warnings now, society won’t do anything until it’s too late, and will collapse. Yet already, the major oil companies are running full-page ads about Peak Oil. Ford is hyping hybrid cars, sales of which are skyrocketing. General Motors’ Washington spokesperson says we must move away from petroleum. Toyota is lobbying lawmakers to make energy independence and multiple energy sources an election issue. SUV sales are way down. We are already reacting, and each bit of conservation now buys us more time in the future. Hubbert’s curve is broadening.

    Though we have slowed the growth of oil consumption, we still consume more each year. Can we consume less? And how much would consumption need to drop to avoid disaster? Here are some numbers.

    In 1965, world oil production was 12 billion barrels. It may peak soon at 30 billion. Estimates project that in 2040, production will have slipped to 12 billion barrels—back to 1965 levels. To descend to that point would require a drop in consumption of 2.2% per year for 35 years. Can we do this? I think so. From 1973 to 1975, and again from 1979 to 1983, consumption fell by roughly this much per year. When prices fell, consumption rose again. For a glimpse of the future, note that when gasoline prices briefly spiked 30% due to Hurricane Katrina, US usage dropped 6% over two weeks. Saving 2.2% each year is well within reach.

    Price and demand are tightly linked. We change our behavior dramatically when prices rise. Those are basic facts that Peak-Oil catastrophism ignores. China and India may be industrializing, but they are doing so into an era of expensive oil. Their relatively low per-capita income means most people there cannot afford much oil. This will make economizing and conservation unavoidable, and these countries’ attempt to mimic Western profligacy may simply be choked off as their own demand forces prices to rise.

    Can we conserve enough to make a difference? Energy consultants such as Amory Lovins point out that as much as 90% of the resources and energy used by manufacturers and power plants are wasted. The cheapest way to make more oil available is to insulate, use lighter materials, and otherwise conserve. Simply doubling gas mileage would reduce oil consumption by 25%, shifting Hubbert’s curve far to the right in a single action. We could easily reduce oil use by 50% with no change in our standard of living, just by simple conservation. And 70-80% reductions are well within reach.

    Catastrophists often point to all the other incipient disasters we face besides Peak Oil—global warming, aquifer depletion, soil loss, active volcanoes near cities, killer storms—and say “Take your pick; one of them is bound to get us.” They underestimate the resilience of culture and ecosystems. If we recite the list of disasters just in the US in the last 25 years they seem terrifically daunting: A series of Class 4 and 5 hurricanes, the eruption of Mount St. Helens, years of surging inflation, a stock market crash, two major earthquakes in California, huge floods, September 11, a stolen election or two, multi-state blackouts, the destruction of New Orleans—and yet the US, and the world, stumble along somehow.

    Adaptive and Complex

    Cultures and ecosystems are incredibly resilient because they are made of large numbers of loosely coupled, compartmentalized sub-systems. One or more compartments—such as a chunk of the power grid—can go down, but in response other components ramp up or down and otherwise adjust, and the whole system re-stabilizes at a new, or often the same, level. Hurricane Katrina illustrates this. We lost up to 30% of our oil and gas production, and a major city, overnight. Petroleum prices spiked, but other compartments in the system compensated, and gasoline prices quickly settled and slipped to below their pre-Katrina levels. Natural gas, more difficult to ship, with many sources still off-line, has not fallen in price since Katrina. If its price stays high, we’ll see conservation measures such as insulation and better windows, and a shift to other fuels, including a demand for more nuclear power (a move I don’t relish but view as inevitable). And we’ll see a drop in natural gas demand, some of which will be made up by other sources, but some will simply disappear due to higher efficiency and an adaptive cultural ecosystem that shifts its emphasis to more effective strategies.

    Everything may be connected to everything else, but only loosely. Scenarios of a lock-step march to disaster betray a poor understanding of the complexity, loose linkage, and resilience of global systems.

    If oil were to disappear overnight, we’d be in big trouble. But we have 35 years to gradually descend merely to 1965 levels of consumption. Nineteen-sixty-five wasn’t so bad. Even though world population is greater, energy efficiency increases are greater still. We are an adaptable species—it is our hallmark trait—and the world will change much in 35 years. My bet is on the hairless monkey.

    Peak-Oil catastrophists have performed an important service by scouting out the worst parts of the terrain ahead, and by being noisy enough to have alerted many complacent people to the possibilities we face if we act stupidly. And my own scenarios aren’t exactly rosy. Even if we conserve, even if China builds more one-cylinder cars and we all have only one child, the end of the oil age is going to be rough. Worldwide depression and soaring unemployment are almost inevitable as oil gets expensive. Yet even that very dark cloud is lined with silver. Depression, by definition, is a shift from economic growth to contraction, and that in itself means less oil consumption. More importantly, a culture addicted to economic growth will find its absence painful at first, but the end of “bigger is better” can leave room for other types of growth where value is not measured in money: cultural, artistic, intellectual, social—all those things that our crude fixation on economics as the centerpiece of life tends to destroy.

    High unemployment could be transformed into fewer people making, buying, and needing to earn money for unnecessary widgets; spending less time at jobs they hate; and producing, alone and in community, a larger share of what they actually need—which does not take 40 or more hours a week. It is an opportunity for the role of economics in our lives to shrink, and for an expansion of time for the many things money cannot, or should not, buy.

    Humanity has reached the stage, finally, where basic survival is not in doubt for many people. We have not yet grasped that the struggle for survival is essentially over, and we have overshot. Instead of noticing that as a species we no longer need to labor all our waking hours for the basics of food and safe shelter, and to fight off disease and predators, we cannot get off the survival treadmill. So we just keep making more stuff, rather than looking up, taking a breath, and enjoying all the wonders possible from being a conscious, intelligent animal that has mastered survival. Perhaps Peak Oil, and a return to a time when resources are dear and labor is abundant, will remind us that there is much more to life than the manufactured desire to have more toys.

  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Your career is obviously not in information technology. Mine is (since 1967 when the Y2K problem was created without anyone realizing it--by saving two of the precious 80 columns in a punch card) and I can assure you that the threat was real.

    Capers Jones began alerting the world to the problem in the late 1980s. I realized what this meant and brought it to the attention of my employer, the County of Los Angeles, the world's largest municipal government. (The boroughs of New York City are administered autonomously except for things like police, fire and schools.) As a result, they began Y2K remediation in 1995 and finished in 1999, leaving a year to send our experts out into the community to advise businesses.

    Yes, it took FOUR YEARS. If the entire world had listened to Capers Jones (and little old me) and taken it seriously that early, then indeed, it would not have been a reason to panic. But hardly anyone began looking into it until the end of 1998. Mortgage, insurance, licensing, etc. software had been failing for years, because of future expiration dates. But managers have a way of ignoring a problem if they think they can leave it for their successor. (The managers in the 1960s and early 70s could be excused. Back then, a new generation of computers was invented every few years, requiring every software program in the world to be thrown away and rewritten from scratch. We just assumed that the dates would be redefined with four-digit years in the next iteration. Little did we know that the IBM 360, Univac 1100, and other third-generation computers were so versatile that their code would be upward-compatible with every new operating system for the next thousand years, so nobody was ever going to rewrite the old software wholesale.)

    At this point we had four years' work to do in a little more than a year. Even by coaxing every 90-year-old programmer out of retirement by offering him an astronomical one-year salary, this task was impossible. So we had to do triage. Red blanket: a system that would cause a crisis if it failed (traffic signals dark, elevators stopped, etc.). Yellow blanket: a system that would be a big pain in the ass if it failed, but life would go on. Green blanket: People will just curse at their computers so we'll get around to these later.

    We got all the red blanket systems remediated in time. There was not a single catastrophic failure (that I know of and I'm pretty sure we would have been the first to know after the police and the next-of-kin). And having worked on the Y2K project for a large state government, I can assure you from personal experience that the potential was there. I saw a building management system for a mental hospital that would have thrown all the doors open at midnight on New Years Eve. Another one that would have made it impossible to contact the people necessary to clean up a toxic spill--of which there would have been quite a few since a lot of cities had automated traffic signal synchronization that would have failed without being able to tell what day of the week it was and if it was a holiday.

    We did not get all the yellow blanket systems remediated. During 2000 I had the following experiences:
    • I bought two cases of diet cola in which the aspartame had expired. I looked at the boxes, and next to the words "Expiration date," instead of numbers there was gibberish. Fortunately that pharmaceutical company had deployed its IT staff on its medical branch, so no cartons of expired insulin were sold.
    • Our power company could not send out a bill until June, and when they finally did, it was for three or four times the correct amount. Fortunately they had deployed their IT staff to remediate infrastructural software, so the generators kept turning.
    • Our bank did not get one single mortgage statement correct throughout the entire year of 2000--which, by the way, apparently had 13 months. Fortunately they had deployed their IT staff to work on the more important customer-facing systems, and their ATMs remained on duty so nobody ran out of money.
    So don't tell your grandpa about the Y2K panic being overblown. I was there, on duty, and I was horrified.

    You don't have to thank me. The fact that the world is still in business is thanks enough.
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Nope, it is in communications. We had a similar problem with our systems, including one satellite system that was quite hard to upgrade, the satellites being 600 miles above the Earth at the time. (So if you made any satellite calls circa 2000, you can thank me!) But the problems were solvable.

    Which is the point of the article. The Y2K problem meant we had to do a lot of work to solve a problem. But solve it we did - and none of the "EOTW" scenarios came true. The panic over the end of the world was unjustified.

    Similarly, the increase in the price of oil will result in us having to do a lot of work to adapt. We will be switching to alternatives, using less energy overall etc and that's a huge undertaking, one that will make the Y2K work seem like a few hours of overtime. But just as the Y2K bug did not mean TEOTWAWKI, neither will the rising price of oil. Futilitist's panic (or more accurately, smug fatalism) is as unfounded as the fears that the Y2K bug would destroy civilization.
  11. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    I've always suggested that the reason (well, one of them anyway) that Y2K was so anticlimaCtic was because we knew what was coming and did the work to prevent it. My only experience with it (beyond what was reported in the news) was with my perszonal PC. I turned it on at some point afterwards and discovered the dxate was set to March 16 1982.
  12. BLQQD Registered Senior Member


    By apocalypse soon do you mean the end of humanity, with in our life times? Not with out a stroke of really, really bad luck.

    The way I see it, one of these will happen;

    A: We will progress scientifically until we are no longer dependent on our planet <-Probably this
    B: We will have a war and/or natural disaster and all die (or mostly, see C) <or this
    C: We will learn to/be forced to live within our means <possibly but unlikely
    D: We will evolve to a point that these things are not relevant <tree huger cr`p

    As soon as there is a need, we will develop a way. The only reason we are having the problems we have is social agenda and competition.

    The technology is there, its just not cost effective.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I think that to know we have a problem of unprecedented proportions, to put it off until literally the last minute, expecting to find the resources to solve it, and then by herculean effort managing to solve it with literally no time to spare... This does not count as "hype." We were lucky. Any number of things could have gone wrong.

    To use this as justification for assuming that we'll be able to solve the next world-ending crisis the same stupid way is idiotic.

    The fears were quite realistic. We were just lucky. And apparently you're willing to bet that we'll be lucky next time, with all of civilization at stake.

    You should run for office. You'd be right at home in the government.

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  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Agreed that the effort does not count as hype.
    The predictions of an impending apocalypse, with nuclear power plants melting down, trains smashing into each other, aircraft falling out of the skies into city centers - that was hype.
    Yours were; many people's were not.
    And you should be a gun salesman! With the end of civilization right around the corner, surely they need a Blastmaster 1200 to protect themselves from the coming apocalypse.
  15. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Agreed. We knew the problem and we knew how to solve it; it was just a lot of work.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Okay, that was hype. In those days there was considerably less digital control over sensitive technology like nuclear power plants. They wouldn't have melted down, but they might have shut down. That would have been enough of a catastrophe.

    Again, there wasn't as much digital control so that wouldn't have happened either. But simply grinding to a halt while the command center figured out how to schedule and route them manually, while the software was being repaired, would have been an enormous blow to the economy. Santa Fe Railroad, for example, did all of its scheduling and car assignments using MAPPER, Unisys's first attempt at an end-user-computing database system. If that network went down, the effects would have been ruinous. Despite our country's preference for fuel-guzzling highway vehicles, a major portion of our freight is carried by rail.

    They could have been stuck in a holding pattern while air traffic controllers plotted courses manually. After enough time in a holding pattern, they'd start to run out of fuel. Of course we'd have seen that coming, and the Highway Patrol in every state would have closed off freeways for the airliners to make emergency landings. Then we have to get them back into the air, starting on an Interstate Highway that's been closed off to vehicular traffic for two days! Chaos in both land and air travel.

    How many different kinds of chaos in how many different sectors of the economy do we need on a single day, feeding into each other and creating a multiplier effect, before you're willing to grant it the title "catastrophe?"

    Fortunately I'm a pacifist who hates guns. (And doesn't feel too charitably about the people who own them, either, now that George Zimmerman has become their champion.)

    I did most of my Y2K work in Sacramento, the state capital. An official from the attorney general's office called me in for a meeting to discuss the problem. He wanted my advice on the size and scope of the bunker they were planning to build for the state's IT staff and equipment. Specifically, he wondered if they should make it large enough to house all of the employees' families.

    I asked him why he thought they needed bunkers at all. He explained that it was because he was troubled by a major increase in gun purchases in rural counties. "All those people are going to be driving into the cities with their guns, to raid our food supplies."

    I explained that I lived in one of those counties (Humboldt). The reason our people were buying guns was that they expected the city dwellers to drive out into the rural areas and steal our food. The city folk are much more numerous and would overpower us with their sheer numbers, guns or no guns.

    I also reminded him of the fact that without resupply, every major metropolitan area would run completely out of food in less than a week. By the time the farmers got down there, there's be nothing to steal. The farms, on the other hand would have quite a bit of food. In January, maybe not a lot of produce, but plenty of meat.

    And... and... where did he think all these people were going to find the gasoline for these long-distance foraging expeditions?

    He walked away considerably more troubled than he was when he walked in. But at least his new troubles were not going to fuel Y2K hysteria, as the population watched in horror while their government insulated itself from them just when they needed leadership.

    We knew the problem and we knew how to solve it. But we didn't know how much work it was going to be. There were a lot of systems that should have been on the red blanket list that had to be pushed into the yellow due to lack of resources. Not to mention, there was a complete halt in new system development and even all but critical maintenance, as the entire world's IT staff was tied up on something more urgent.

    Nobody planned it that way. Many IT shops didn't even have well-organized code libraries, so they didn't even know how much there was to remediate.

    Nobody gets the credit for saying, "See, we had just enough time and just enough people." We were lucky.

    It would be foolish to assume we'll be lucky the next time something like this comes our way. But the people who insist that there was no threat of a Y2K apocalypse make everybody think we can make that assumption because there won't be a threat next time either.

    Before Jan. 1 2000, of course it was sensible public policy to play down the risk. If people started hoarding food, fuel and guns, then if the worst happened it would have been even worse. So everyone remembers the reassurances that there would be no apocalypse. The price we pay for that is that virtually no one except we in I.T. know that it was quite possible. That's what kept the adrenaline pumping during those 80-hour weeks.
  17. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    IMO, the threat for an apocalyptic event increases exponentially with our integration of systems and resources. In days of old if someone's candle burned out, it did not affect the neighbor, he had his own candle. If someone ran out of fire wood, it did not affect his neighbor, he had plenty wood. You kept your cash in a local bank, safe from being stolen.

    Today when an electrical grid goes down, tens of thousands may be without light and heat and cooking and everything which uses electricity.
    The recent banking crash illustrates the impact of some local events may affect the lives of each of us.
  18. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Agreed! As is "90-95% of the people in the world will die." That was my point.

    San Onofre shut down about a year ago due to a primary coolant leak. Most people didn't even notice.

    ?? Huh? Air traffic controllers regularly lose electronic augmentation and have to deal with either unaugmented returns (i.e. just transponder and skin) or skin returns only. Doesn't mean jets have to land on freeways. "Airliners landing on freeways" would be a good example of the hype I was mentioning above. They'd land on runways, like they planned to when they took off.

    If ATC experienced a catastrophic loss of networking capability, and had to revert to local control, airspace capacity would go way down. At 1am that's not a big deal. At 9am that would require a lot of gate holds to deal with the increased workload. People would complain. They'd be stuck in airports. In no case would it require airliners landing on freeways, and I don't know a single pilot who would even consider that unless they couldn't maintain altitude AND could not reach an airport.

    That's a good summary I think. But we had to do it and we did it, despite the seeming impossibility of the problem.

    Nowadays we're facing another seemingly impossible task - transitioning away from oil. We tend to wait until the last minute, but we also tend to get it done. That's one reason I am encouraged by the recent explosion of solar power, electric vehicles, ability to telecommute, smart loads, things like that. It means we don't have to develop them from scratch if/when we really need them; we just have to expand what we already have. Still going to be a lot of work.

    It's coming. We will face the same problem on 7 Feb 2036 when 32 bit implementations of UNIX time (still many of them) will overflow. I suspect we will wait until the last minute on those systems as well - but I also suspect we'll deal with it. (Of course at that point almost all of us will be dead per Futilitist, but I still think we will deal with it.)
  19. thecalling Registered Member

    Apocalypse is when I die. because it ends then. everything ends.

    for me.
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    If the worst reasonably possible Y2K scenario had occurred, a lot of people would have died but yes, not that many. Mostly people already at risk like hospital patients and shut-ins. Unless we had the fixes ready to implement just a few days late, there would definitely have been a major shortage of food and medicine due to transportation failures. People would have died of starvation, and the second-order effect of fighting over food.

    But what if all nuclear plants went down at the same moment? Of course one of the things that foreign commentators point out is that one of the advantages the U.S. has in any emergency is precisely our lack of conformity. Every nuclear plant probably has its own custom-built software.

    This is why you'll never see a nationwide blackout. Our power grids, in general, are not connected to each other.

    Ten or fifteen years before that, we'll run out of nine-digit ZIP codes and Social Security numbers, and ten-digit telephone numbers.

    My 89th birthday will be coming up that year. Considering my habits (exercise, reasonably healthy diet, good weight, safe driver, no risky hobbies), finances (reasonably prosperous by today's standards), location (always in a city with clean air and a low murder rate), and state of health (nothing so far that influences my longevity), I've got about a 40% chance of being around. If not, then please carry on without me.

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  21. absols Registered Member

  22. absols Registered Member

  23. billvon Valued Senior Member

    While you can imagine a Y2K bug crashing a computer, there's really no way for it to crash an 18 wheeler - thus food shipments for several days would, at a basic level, not be affected. You could argue that the computers that run scheduling might be affected, and thus food might go to the wrong place and/or not make it out of warehouses after a few days, after the trucks en route get to their destinations and unload their cargoes.

    However, people in general, when faced with a shortage of tomatoes, will generally not pick up a crowbar and kill the woman in the apartment next to them. They will, in general, get in their car and drive to get to those tomatoes if they really want them. Or use an alternative, like, say, rice.

    But that also discounts human ingenuity. In Manhattan, for example, I guarantee you that if there was that much demand for tomatoes, the Pakistani brothers who ran the produce shop on 69th would be getting tomatoes in on their cousin's boat from a farm upstate - and be selling them for $100 a pound. And that's something that no computer bug will put a stop to.

    How would they? We're talking Y2K bug, right? At most you could conceive of all the nuclear plants in one time zone going down at the same time if they all had exactly the same problem (which is unlikely.) And at midnight, when power demands are lowest, and given that you are losing less than 20% of your generation capacity, that's just not that big a deal. Especially if a two hour restart process gets them back up and running.

    Now, have that problem at 2pm during a hot August and you'd see rolling blackouts as the utilities tried to meet the load. These would continue until they either got the plants back on line or gave up and implemented emergency restrictions (no A/C from 10am to 3pm for example.)

    Agreed there. You can take out a significant portion of the country but not the whole country. As we transition to DC power transmission that problem will decline as well.

    Also agreed. Numeric phone numbers are anachronisms anyway. It's like telling people to go to your great travel website,!

    I'll see you then!
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