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Edward Alpern mindfully introduces a friend to Y2K

Email letter to John Steiner
Monday, March 16, 1998

Dear John,

Our beloved planet and all of her species face an enormous challenge because computers are not currently able to recognize properly the year 2000. Failures in computer generated bills, reports, and control functions, can and it is increasingly likely that they will lead to such things as:
Power failures, and even when operating reduction of available power by 15 to 40%
Banking closures prior to year 2000, especially small and mid sized banks
Inability for medicare/social security checks to be properly generated or delivered
Transportation especially railroads will be disrupted and therefore heating fuel
food, and other supplies could be scarce.
Telephone communications will only work periodically.
And every infrastructure that you can think of will be profoundly altered.

You need to educate yourself to understand why this is possible and decide how likely it is. While this picture definitely has much bad news in it as the level of personal, family, community, and society suffering can be enormous, there are also many opportunities for collaboration and a rethinking of what is valued both before and during the years after 2000. As I get over my shock, denial, anger, fear, and apathy, I am inspired by the vast opportunities there are for revisioning our communities and our world.

I began delving into the available literature and governmental reports on Y2k about two months ago, and have become increasingly concerned. I have been actively taking steps to prepare for significant levels of disruption to "normal" life for at least a year with many of the ramifications extending for 2 to 3 years. I have made some progress in this personal area and am now beginning to reach out to neighbors, my local community, and network of friends. I am writing to you to gauge your awareness and appraisal of the challenges, to share information sources, and to share thinking and visioning.

One of the principles that I have adopted for myself is that I attempt to put at least an equal amount of energy into helping others, especially those that I did not know directly previously. I do this to counteract the part of me that is into personal and family survival, the me and mine little self that can get scared. Believe me I am not always successful in following this principle as it is easy to go into overwhelm with understanding the problems and figuring out how to plan for them. However I am finding that as I am getting a personal/family game plan clearer that more energy is available to thinking about others. While I would like to believe that this is done solely out of altruism, it is at least in part just practical. We are all - the entire world - interconnected. This simple truth is coming home to me in more and more ways as I understand the infrastructure systems that make our way of life possible. We share a world weather system, so if a computer in New York or France fails to control the cooling system of a nuclear power plant and their are toxic emissions, we all get the fall out. We share a world economy, the only peace is global peace, ...

Some of the sources that I will refer you to are approaching things from a survivalist and narrow frame of reference. However their knowledge and experience of what might happen in various scenarios and what might work can be helpful. Being centered, using discriminating wisdom, and being compassionate as one contemplates this array of information and emotional-mental thought forms is an incredible spiritual practice. I look forward to hearing about some of your inner and outer process as you delve more into this realm of information.

You had asked in our recent phone conversation for me to summarize some of my appraisal and some of what I am personally doing. I have chosen not to do that at this time. First, I think it is more responsible to ask you to educate yourself without too much of my enregy overlaid on it. Depending on your conclusions and what if any plans you will undertake, I will be happy to share and dialogue at that point in time. Second, others have already done an excellent job of laying things out and I need to use my limited energy elsewhere.

....As one person said, it does not take a rocket scientist to understand and see that vast parts of our businesses and societies are not going to make it in their present forms. ... I have been focusing on the power grid situation. In part I have chosen a focus to manage my overwhelm and also because I think that I might have some influence with our local power company. What ever thread you follow in your reading within a few hours you will start to get some clear sense of what is going on; and what is being and not being done to address it. If you have any influence in the legal world and can assist in passing federal regulations to make Y2k related failures a no-fault situation I think that this would be invaluable. Too much energy is being pulled away from fixing things and being put into how can I cover my ass and my company's ass if someone sues us.

I also highly recommend the book "Time Bomb 2000" by Edward and Jennifer Yourdon. It is an excellent and sane aid to planning. The authors have appropriate credentials for writing this book, and you will see the book quoted all over the place. By the way, they have sold their condos in NYC and moved into rural America.

When I recently flew home, I sat next to someone who was occasionally working on a laptop as I was. Toward the end of the trip I saw that he was reading a trade magazine article titled: "Risk Management Strategies in Mortage Banking." I began to talk with him and could not resist asking about his Y2k awareness. It turned out that he was heading the Y2k efforts for his mortgage banking firm based in the midwest and with additional offices in 5 western locations. His own company he said has a fairly easy task since they have primarily canned software with only slight modifications to it and they are on schedule and will enter a testing phase in November of this year. While he had less information about competitors he has been meeting monthly within his industry and it is discouraging. HUD often does not even show up and has its head in the sand. Most other companies are behind schedule, and are complaining about the inability to find programmers that they can hire. When asked whether his bank was concerned about a higher level of personal bankruptcies or basic inability to pay mortgages because of being out of work, he responded that they had widely differing opinions within his bank, but they were basing their planning on an increase of 12% of non-performing loans and an increase to repossessions of 7%. He did not seem to know much about the power grid, telephones, etc. and/or he had shared as much as he felt was prudent with a stranger. He did indicate that he was personally concerned about two things: a) He was seeing more and more energy going into legal activity to prevent exposure and potential litigation and that this was eating up valuable resources, and b) He feared that the govrnment regulatory visit that would occur in March '99 to determine their readyness would be perfunctory because the bureaucrats could not possibly know whether they were truely ready or not, and because the agency has an overwhleming watch dog job to perform and that it is simply impossible to do properly.

Please know that if you think that I am off base or being foolish with my concerns that I want to hear that, but will want to know what concrete evidence you are using that indicates that Y2k will only be a small blip on the screen. As you continue on your journey into the year 2000 please realize that procrastination and emotionalism are traps that can be overcome with calm clarity and perseverance in manifesting a vision for a better world. It was great to reconnect with you and family recently, and I look forward to more contact in the future.

With Love and Light,

Edward Alpern
Ashland, Oregon