The Co-Intelligence Institute/Y2K Return to Y2K home RETURN to CII home

Douglass Carmichael's Y2K action proposals

from The Year 2000: Who will do what and when will they do it?

There are several reasonable courses of action. We must proceed -- and people will -- on multiple paths simultaneously. I propose that we work in parallel along the following lines

First, to try and fix the current systems, and their interdependencies. Try to hold together and repair as much as we can. This might save 70 percent of the overall system.

Second, and simultaneously, to build starting now what we can call the B-system, an interconnection of systems that are guaranteed totally clean. This might include 25 percent of existing fully repaired systems, tested and interconnected by December 1999. This would give us a lower limit to failure. Though social factors can modify this picture. Harlan Smith of Computer Professionals for Social responsibility calls this "mitigation of austere infrastructure."

Third, the development of contingency plans, including the preparation of new legislation so that there can be a debate on what would be tolerable and what would be intolerable and under what conditions. There will be waves of attempted and failed legislation, failing because it stirs too much resistance, or is unconstitutional. The second and third waves of legislation will be more, not less, radical.

Fourth, like the air raid practices of World War II, we need to practice soon, cold turkey, for a week, one at time, without banks, electricity, water or food. The population needs to practice, to get tough.

Fifth, do all we can to create participatory local community response as a protection against survivalist reactions and strong arm local control. The need to get communities into open space meetings (large circle, open agenda to create breakout groups of their choice, self selection) towards self managing emergent structures. In order to meet basic needs (food, heat, water, sanitation, - then health, and meaningful activity). We need to make sure that we are in the self organizing mode and do not allow "committees of concern" to become local un-elected soviets. We see that both capital in its late 20th century form and socialism were too bureaucratic, based on elites that become blind and stupid about the consequences of large system dominance.

Six, use the media to create images of survivalist self starvation vs. vital community cooperation and self organizing design to rework local production and distribution. I can image TV spots that show the situation and the response of the mean spirited bad guys and the community spirited good guys, with the clear implication that playing together gives a much greater sense of success than playing isolated survivalist.

Seven, use advertising agencies to create interesting, even fun, informative awareness of the problem. Being creative about it will shift the perception from boring and scary to scary and interesting.

Eight, stress actions now, given probable major failures, that can help create a very attractive post y2k community, businesses and governance. Show people the need for cooperation instead of isolated gun and bunker solutions. Help the creation of new market mechanisms at the local level. There will be rapid innovation, some good, some monopolistic and exploitative. Recognize that, while all this is "terrible", there are also opportunities to radically rethink technology, the place of money, the opportunities for community, art, relationships.... Its important to look for ways of [putting] forward every positive image of a new community. We might get a more individual and community focused future. No longer so much abstract market and consumption, but the graceful use of technology and education to meet human needs and leave people in the foreground, not marginalized as the current technology/market/career mix has supported.

Nine, doing all we can to get people employed will be as critical as food and heat. Little kits to let people knit, peel potatoes, plant seeds, whatever, will be important, and needs to be done on a massive scale. There is some hope in this, and fascinating to work towards. Meaningful contribution is the key, ASAP. A person who works on flood control told me that "we arrive with cans of paint and brushes, and organize the teenagers to paint the mailboxes as soon as the water recedes." The message is obvious. Hunger plus nothing helpful to do supports survivalist undermining of the social fabric.

Ten, it will be important to maintain the loop between human effort and meeting needs. This means that we need local mechanisms of exchange, which might mean local printed money, the value of which is locally determined. (This is based on the likelihood of rapid inflation in federal dollars as federal check writing quickly outstrips revenue.)

Eleven, talk to friends and relatives, get them aware, get them talking, thinking. This in itself sets a community tone.

Some proposed specifics.

1.Get four towns to undertake open space planning of ways to get basic needs met. We need to film these and make the videos widely available.

We would use One day workshops beginning with a presentation of the scenarios, admitting that we do not know which way it will go. Have small groups of eight prepare their view of how the community might respond, put it on a flip chart and report out to the whole group. End the morning with a short presentation of the Rocky Mountain Institute town analysis method: draw a circle around the town, look at what comes across the line that is crucial, and needs to be rethought for y2k possibilities.

In the after noon have an open space (everyone in a circle to start): "Wow, look at what we did this morning. Let's build an agenda of the issues and opportunities that confront us. Take some part of how we might respond and you'd be willing to lead a breakout group around. You don't have to have the answer, just the issue. When we start come here in the center, write it on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, and go put it on that wall. When we get up all the ideas, we'll go to the wall and sign up, and then off to the breakout group you signed for. Make sure you get some potential next steps. Come back at 4 and we'll have short report outs."

We have learned a good deal about how to make large scale community conversations useful. Talking about scenarios is one of those ways. The serious possibility of failures impels us to discuss contingencies -- but contingencies for what? We really don't yet know. We see a tendency to gridlock in our organizations [and communities] as people see that budget needs may require crossing boundaries to get the needed cash. Planning stirs up issues around turf and budget. Talking about Scenarios, that is, some plausible images of the future beyond what we know for sure, get people engaged with much less anxiety. Having looked at scenarios in cross organizational [and cross community] groups, we can then talk more fully about what we should do.

2.Make sure the internet coheres.