Thoughts About Y2K

Dr. Patrick Hamilton

Meckenheim, Germany




You have no computer at home and you believe that those three letters Y2K will not affect you at the beginning of the new millennium? Wrong!

You do have computers, and believe that world will fall to pieces because of this millennium bug? You are most probably wrong, as well!

Meanwhile, more than 20,000 references to this problem can be found on the Internet. People react very differently to this problem and so it seems important that you find for yourself a clear understanding. So much has been written already, and I am not going through all the details and technical aspects or scenarios about what might happen. The aspect which moves me most has to do with ourselves: our own heart and attitudes, and these kinds of implications.

Yes, it is right: the Y2K problem is unique. Never in all recorded history could a single event impact so many people around the earth within the same twenty-four hour period. Today there are about six billion people on earth, and theoretically at least half of them could be effected by the millennium bug. So it is no wonder that we hear that a whole variety of efforts are being performed around the globe to get the problem solved.

No one knows exactly all that is going to happen on that night when we will enter the new millennium. Some say that they are prepared and they will do business as usual, like some major airlines who say that they will have flights through this very night. Others are not taking any risk, even at the loss of much money, such as a major Japanese travel agency, which has said it will not book any travel which would go across this time line.

We are supported with a vast amount of information available on how to get ready for the "big bang." Sales for solar panels are high in Arizona, for example. Many are providing for themselves and getting their survival kits ready. Many books have been written and many people are reading about the big catastrophe dawning on the horizon. The United States government has already spent eight billion dollars to make their computers Y2K compliant. Task forces have been set up for emergency, etc., etc. Even within the Christian community, fingers are raised in regards to the Y2K problem, pointing to Matthew 25 concerning the end of the age and the wise and the foolish virgins.

Is all this required, or is most of this precaution exaggerated?


Y2K Implications

So, if the Y2K problem is more than nothing and less than all, what is it all about? First of all, I am sure you already know quite a bit about it, but the millennium bug has to do with those built-in time-chips which are required to get the proper date and time. The core of any computer called the CPU (Central Processing Unit) does not depend on this add-on, for it has its own time base, which has nothing to do with any of our human time. So all-clear for this bit of hardware. Unless another computer switches off the power of the first one, almost none of those computational machines will quit their jobs in the literal sense of the word and stop working at the beginning of the new year!

There are, however, some areas were the problem might really have an effect upon our private lives. There is a risk that various microprocessor-driven items in your household may run a little bit crazy. For example, your video recorder, which you have set to automatically record at a particular time and day, it perhaps will not function properly. Any machine which has a built-in clock having to do with the time and date could be affected. If this happens, you will have some inconvenience, but this is nothing to panic about!

This is so even if you have an older personal computer. You should not have any great problems unless you are running really hot data in connection with a database, where one or the other features of a software program (e.g. the automatic setting of the time and date in a word processor program) may become faulty; but in general Y2K is not a reason to get a new private PC.

In public, you might come across some unpredictable errors having to do with any type of date-relevant calculations concerning such things as taxes, rents, or insurance policies. Although most of those who are responsible for this very area of computing have put in quite some effort so that there will not be problems, there is still some risk. This may result typically in you receiving a wrong bill. However, if you are keeping a careful record of your finances you will recognize it in most cases. If this is an area of your life where you have been careless, you better go to the cross first and get your laziness sorted out there, for I believe that we are called of the Lord in all aspects of life to be good stewards with the things put into our hands.

Things, which are more difficult to predict, include all the different types of national networks, like your energy network or your phone network. The United States government has already claimed that at this time all critical nuclear plant functions will operate bug-free. Critics, however, say that still 50% of the software having to do with the switching and distribution of energy is unchecked. A 100% check is not possible, and we will have good cause to believe that some of these systems will malfunction. Consequently, we are looking at much the same thing as that which could happen during a blizzard or a hurricane. Certain areas of the country could end up being off-line and without electrical power. Should this happen, it would have definite implications in your life. Your deep-freeze could be cut off from electrical energy for a substantial period of time, and there would be no electric lights, cooling or heating, and possibly no properly working telecommunications.

Globally is where we probably will have the biggest risk. Although United Nations experts from 170 nations have claimed that their countries have taken the necessary precautions, the human factor gets into it here very strongly. For one’s concept of what is proper precaution has much to do with one’s mentality. If you had a "Kismed" mentality, as in the Moslem world, you would say, "I have thought about the problem, but if it is the will of Allah, it will all go well." If you had a self-sufficient type of mentality, you would say, "So what? I trust in my technique."


The Millennium Bug and Big Money

My last statement concerning the whole Y2K debate brings me to the area that I believe contains the highest risk, and this is concerning the wickedness of human nature!

There are two things that some people will do, and one of them is to capitalize on the fear of others by selling them any type of thing promising security concerning this future event. Others will try to use it to get easy money. Claiming they have done things to correct the system to make it Y2K compliant, they receive their payoff for it, when the only change made is the attached label, which says "Y2K Compliant." Recently some independent investigators checked into some of these so called, "Year 2000 approved" systems, and they found out that in fact only 50% had really even run through the proper tests that are necessary towards making a system compliant. These types of businesses take the money of people who are fearful because of Y2K.

In our western countries, a whole industry is currently living off this bug. If you are a software-company earning money on the market, wouldn’t it be a big thing for your sales-department if people will pay you literally any price to obtain the assurance that the future concerning their computers is safe? Wouldn’t you (if you were a non-Christian) try to convince your customers about the high risk they are taking in not spending money on what you had to offer as a precaution? Haven’t we seen this before in other technical areas? Wouldn’t it be a bright idea to make customers believe that the best way of solving the problem was by buying your new hardware, which was new millennium approved, especially if you recognize that the market is presently saturated?


Who is going to pay the bill?

Third or Fourth world countries typically do not have the money nor the technical standards to solve the Y2K problem. Therefore, if a major crash was to happen in those countries, it could happen most likely in areas that are the most underprivileged. An electronic "Chernobyl" is in no way excluded. So those people which are presently carrying the burden of poverty and misery will most likely carry this burden again, which originally was created by the rich countries.

Look into those economies and you quickly will find out when problems or disasters occur, how they are handled. It can take days, or weeks, or even longer to get something running again. For me, it leads into one scenario and there is much evidence for it. If major problems arise in these countries who are not able to solve such problems by their own means, they will have to come to the rich industry states—most likely the USA—and ask for major assistance to install US made products as replacements for their own equipment. The rich countries will step in, make the deal, put out billions of dollars in new UDS credits, and make those countries even more dependent upon them. I do not want to get into politics here, but I sometimes wonder why the western world is putting into the Y2K bug so much money. Most things in our western cultures having to do with big money have a catch in it financially. So, may I ask, "Where is it in this matter here?"



Little me and the big bug

No matter what the result of Y2K will be, there are some aspects where we as Christians can "debug" ourselves first in regards to our own hearts and attitudes.

There are quite a lot of people, Christians and Non-Christians, with a doomsday mentality. They get their (mental) survival kit set, go to their hiding-places, and expect a grand theater of devastation, horror, and destruction. Those people express, "I am prepared and ready to go... and you missed it." Their heart-attitude is just thrilled with the prospect of being safe as a well-prepared spectator of the coming disaster, with little or no care or consideration for the well-being of those around them. Here I believe is one of the key things we should ask ourselves concerning our own hearts. Do we in any way have this type of attitude? If so, we have quite a large Y2K bug in our hearts, for this is not a Christlike attitude towards the what could be a great amount of suffering by mankind, or even towards possible horror and destruction over planet earth. We had better go to the cross, for this type heart attitude is something that has to do with our own flesh and lusts arising out of a cruel heart!

If you listen, you will hear serious Christians pointing to the Y2K problem and saying we had better take heed to the story of the wise and the foolish virgins in Matthew 25. Yes, we definitely are called to get prepared, but hopefully this process of preparation is not launched by fearing Y2K! If we are really walking in a "Holy Place" lifestyle, then even this computational problem would not harm us. In saying this, I do not want to suggest that we be merely spectators concerning all the things that are possibly coming with this problem. Rather, I think we should examine our own selves concerning the lethargy and complacency that marks the people today, especially in this nation. In this country each has his own bank account, and there is the gas station and Wal-Mart right around the corner. This has long served to make us careless in our day to day living with regards to our being good stewards of all that the Lord has given us.


So what can be done?

First of all, do not panic! There are quite a large number of people, especially among the Christian community, proclaiming that Y2K and the return of Christ are more or less simultaneous. Personally I stay away from this viewpoint, for didn’t Christ say, "But of the day and the hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36).

The Y2K-bug will have some implications on our physical life. But those implications will most likely have to do mostly with our private comfort. Personally, I would try to use sound understanding in regards to good stewardship and have the same type of things in my home that I typically would have if I knew that public holidays would keep shops and banks closed for several days like at Christmas.

Far more important for me is the fact that we should take this opportunity to check our own personal attitude towards catastrophes, doomsday thinking and the future, and give ourselves to those things that will speed our growing up into Christ.

Part 8 - Dream by Della Ferguson in July 1999