Y2K was A-OK

Kicked off by the JFK assassination, The Great Age of Conspiracies has pretty much died out. Or maybe more specifically, it hasn’t died out, but a critical mass of its supporters has. RIP.

In its wake has followed The Great Age of Experts, which we’re now in the middle of. It is of course internet-driven.

Before the internet, in order to look something up, you had to be able to lay your hands on it. If you couldn’t find it in the library or someone’s bookshelf, you couldn’t find it. Period.

Because sources were often where you were not, in order to support any position you took, you had to remember where you’d read the material that supported it. Which, if you wanted to have any credibility, you did. But, still, because you knew you could find only a fraction of the writing on any subject, you knew your grasp of any subject was limited.

The internet has changed all that. Now we can access almost all information ever recorded, and that has led to The Great Age of Experts.

So who’s an expert these days? Every Tom, Dick and Raheen who can find Google, that’s who. Or at least they think they’re experts.

It’s the access to unlimited information that gives the “experts” their sense of certainty: They saw it on this website or that blog or in this email — the information was right there, in black and white. So it’s gotta be true. But there’s one problem with believing internet information indiscriminately, namely a whole lot of it is pure doo-doo.

The challenge is to know if the information is valid in the first place. And if it is, then you (or someone) has to be able to draw logical conclusions from it. Sadly, it’s a challenge a lot of internet “experts” fail to meet. Not that it stops them. While they may be completely wrong about something, they’re also completely assured they’re right. After all, they’re experts and one’s as good as another … or so the current thinking goes. They might quote from the Declaration of Independence about how all experts are created equal, and thus their opinion is as valid as your facts.

A perfect example of this thinking-gone-wild was the Fabulous Y2K Fiasco.

Dire predictions

If you’re too young (or too old) to remember, Y2K is shorthand for year 2000. Actually, it didn’t refer to the year itself, but to 11:59 of the night of Dec. 31, 1999.

Here’s how it went: Sometime early in 1999 a vague but disturbing rumor started to circulate. It was that, come New Year’s 2000, the computer systems would go Cyber-South and all hell would break loose. What that meant, specifically, was anyone’s guess. As I said, it was vague. But it was based on one specific point: Our computer systems, which essentially run every facet of everyone’s life, could segue smoothly until the year 2000. Thus anything you can imagine would go wildly awry. The banks would lose track of everyone’s money. Businesses would have no records of bills paid. High school and college transcripts would vanish into thin air. Doctors would have to rely on their memory alone to pore over patients’ records. Transportation schedules would be completely out of whack. And on and on and on — if you could think up a computer nightmare that could happen, according to someone, somewhere, it would happen.

Some groups, already inclined to believe in worldwide gloom and doom and the inherent evil of computers, were delighted with the prospect, since it would justify their long-held predictions. It was perfect fodder for survivalists, sovereign citizens, technophobes, religious fanatics and eco-freaks, many of whom were filling their bunkers with food, seeds, water, fuel, tools, clothes and ammunition. I knew some of those folks personally, and they were certain that, come New Year’s 2000 it was all gonna hit the cyber-fan.

Then there were peeps of the New Age persuasion. They saw the world through a more spiritual lens than the rest of us (or so they’d like to believe). Their take was that, computers aside, something dreadful lurked out there, ready to make its ghastly presence known as soon as the ball dropped. They said it had happened in the first millennium (Y1K?), when all Europe was terrified of the yer 1000 ushering in the Apocalypse

Pleasant realities

As if often the case, I was in none of those folks’ camps. I knew nothing about either computers or things spiritual, so I figured the thing to do was check out what certified experts had to say.

I started first with the New Agers and their claim about the historical precedent. After not a lot of research I found out it was total bumpf. The only source for the Y1K Apocalypse fever shtick was a 19th century French historian named Jules Michelet, who had no actual records to support his view. In short, he made it up as he went along.

Which, if you think about it, only makes sense. Those poor shlimazels of 999 had no fear of the Apocalypse because they went through some of it every day. What with wars, plagues, famines, oppression from royals and clergy, lack of hygiene and excess of droit du seigneur, Armageddon might’ve been not feared, but welcomed — kinda like the Dark Age’s equivalent of The Villages.

After that, I checked on the computer side of things.

Being completely computer illiterate, I checked what computer experts had to say. And what they said was a whole lot less than the nay-sayers. Their reason was obvious — there really wasn’t anything to say. Maybe Commander Sixpack and his militia buddies thought going from 1159Z to 0000Z, and 1999 to 2000 would trash the world’s computer systems, but no computer expert did. Ultimately, it was as simple as going from 11:59 to 0000 on every other night of the year … or the century … or any time.

Since I loathe getting into any kind of argument, I stayed out of that one, but good. Any time someone started talking about what to expect come Jan. 1, 2000, a mildly-moronic smile lit up my face and I looked into the middle distance and nodded, as if either paying attention or being in agreement. That’s all it took, because no one was willing to listen to a different opinion anyway — especially one based on fact.

Of course, when the world hit midnight of the year 2000, everything proceeded as it had before, with only one exception.

Because some many people freaked over the ghastly possibilities of Y2K, the idea of being stuck in another country when it hit, spread a note of caution country-wide. One result was fewer people made travel plans, especially overseas. As a result of that, air fares dropped. And as a result of that, the Amazon Queen and I booked a flight to Amsterdam.

I don’t remember the details of that new year’s eve, but I do remember we had a fun time. And, I’d like to add, at a bargain price as well.

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