The Co-Intelligence Institute CII home // Y2K home // CIPolitics home

Paula Gordon's January 2000 Y2K Comments




Just for a wise, independent voice: It seems that Paula Gordon has remained on post in the Y2K watchtower -- and is doing a good job of it, too. Those of us who are waiting for the other shoe not to drop, perhaps should think again. As Paloma says, I hope we're not in the eye of a storm. Perhaps we should stay within running distance of our various Y2K stations, even if the day is lovely and the sky is blue.... -- Coheartedly, Tom (Thanks to Paul Swann in the UK for the heads-up on this!)


Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 02:36:57 -0500
To: "Russ Kelly" <>
From: "P. Gordon" <>
Subject: FYI: January Comments and Y2K Impact Ratings for Russ Kelly's
website at

Comments and Impact Ratings
for January 17, 2000 and
for the First Quarter of the Year 2000

Impact Ratings

Impact Rating of 1.5: Current impact as of January 17, 2000, based on
an assessment of reported problems

Impact Rating of 2.5: Current impact as of January 17, 2000, based on an
assessment of currently reported problems and of problems that have not
been reported by the media or made available by official sources

Impact Rating of 2.5 to 3.5: Estimated impact by March 31, 2000,

1) Everything possible is done between now and then to avert any
date conversion problems on February 29, 2000;

2) Everything is done that can be done to ensure that the remediation
of the highest hazard systems, plants, sites, refineries, pipelines,
dams, water systems, sewage systems, etc. has been completed by
February 29, 2000;

3) Everything is done that can be done to ensure that the Y2K and
embedded systems problems that have become evident before and
after January 1 have been corrected by February 29;

4) Everything is done that can be done to ensure that the remediation
has been completed by February 29, 2000 of all those public and
private sector systems that are most essential to economic and
societal stability (Note: according to assessments released in
December, significant percentages of the following had not completed
remediation efforts: small and medium sized businesses, cities and
counties, and small and medium sized chemical plants);

5) Everything is done that can be done to deal with the problems that
have become evident; and

6) The current 4% shortfall in fuel does not rise significantly between
now and March 31, 2000.

Minimum Impact of 4 to 5.5: Estimated impact by March 31, 2000 if the
shortfall in fuel exceeds 4%


I have limited these estimates to the first quarter of the Year 2000. My chief
reasons for limiting the estimates are the following:

1) It is not clear the extent to which the world's infrastructure was "powered
down" at the time of the Century Date Change and it not clear the extent to
which "powering down", reverting to manual, and going off line may have all
contributed in significant ways to the absence of major infrastructure
disruptions and technological disasters during the first weeks of January

If such a "powering down" was a major factor in keeping the impacts to their
mid-January level, then it stands to reason that the impacts that could be felt
on and after the February 29th date, may also depend on whether or not
there is a similar powering down of the world's infrastructure at the February
29 date.

[A note concerning the "powering down" of the world's infrastructure:
According to a number of observers and accounts, the world's infrastructure
was "powered down" to an extremely low level on January 1, 2000. Indeed,
the world's infrastructure may not be operating at normal levels even now.
A recent thread on the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum is about the
"powering down" of the world's infrastructure at the time of the Century Date
Change. The topic is also discussed in Ed Yourdon's letter to Rodney
Dangerfield article ( Click on recent articles.) The
thread about the status of the world's infrastructure at the Century Date
Change is entitled: "Week 1: Was it Russian Roulette with the Lights
Turned Down Low? The gun, fingerprints, & related URL's". This tread can
be found at the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum site at ]

2) The extensive collection of incident reports that has been accumulated by
the Information Coordination Center of the President's Council on Year 2000
Conversion has not been made public and there is no way for researchers,
the media, or the public to access the voluminous data that has been
collected. In fact, these reports may not become accessible until March or
sometime after March. Since research efforts are extremely time
consuming and labor intensive, it would be difficult to compile, let alone
analyze a collection of incident reports the size of the ICC's collection. A
more informed and timely estimate of the possible impacts of these
problems could be made if the reports were made accessible. It was my
understanding that a purpose for establishing the ICC was to provide the
public and the media timely information concerning the incidents that were
being reported. To date, this has not as yet been the case. The majority of
the incidents reported as of mid-January have involved information system

3) Members of the media, with few exceptions, seem to be lacking in
incentive, interest, and/or expertise regarding the technical issues involved
information systems and embedded systems. With a few notable
exceptions, they are not choosing (or, in some cases, not being tasked by
their networks, newspapers, wire services, etc.) to report on incidents that
have suspected or proven connections to Y2K or embedded systems.
Another reason for ignoring Y2K and embedded system problems at this
point in time is that many have accepted the Administration's declaration of
victory and see no reason to question it. Some think that they would look
ridiculous continuing to report on Y2K since "everyone knows, the problem
has been solved."

Since so many are convinced that Y2K has been solved, it will be very
difficult to persuade them that this is by no means the case. Estimates of
impacts that include major technological problems or technological disasters
that come from persons outside the government are likely to mean little or
nothing to the vast majority of those in either the public or private sector,
including the media, who are quite convinced that the problem is behind us.
Few in government and few in the media are actively acknowledging even
the small- and medium-sized technological problems and small scale
disasters that have occurred to date (before as well as after January 1,
2000). While it is true that reports on a portion of these incidents can be
found on government websites, few people search these websites or make
the connections to Y2K and embedded systems. I do not consider placing
information on a website an active way of acknowledging that the problem
has occurred. One of several notable exceptions was the Office of Pipeline
Safety's prompt attention to the gas pipeline explosion in Bellingham,
Washington in June of 1999 and the rapid action they took in establishing
new guidelines on pipeline safety.


Some General Comments on the
Year to Date as of January 17, 2000

We do indeed appear to have "lucked out" and escaped major disruptions or
disasters in the first days after the January 1, 2000 Century Date Change.
Some have been quick to declare this luck a total victory. It is not. I
would use the following criteria to gauge the success of efforts to address
Y2K and embedded systems problems:

~ no widespread major disruptions attributable to Y2K and embedded
systems (including significant societal impacts) through the first quarter of

~ no Chernobyl's, Bhopal's, or major environmental disasters that can be
directly or indirectly linked to unremediated or poorly remediated systems
through the first quarter of 2001; and

~ achievement of success by the end of the first quarter of 2001 in
addressing the problems triggered both before and after January 1, 2000.


All of the remediation that was needed to prevent such disruptions and
disasters was not completed by January 1, 2000. There are instances too
numerous to mention where such remediation was not even begun.
Problems can still be expected. Problems will continue to become evident
as long as remediation efforts remain incomplete.

A monumental fallacy that is rampant in the world is that all problems, large
and small, would all be evident by now. It is assumed that they would all
have been triggered and would be observable by now. That is simply not
the case.

It is unclear how and when such a mistaken notion gained currency. It is
unclear how so many have come to the conclusion that it would be possible
to assess the overall impacts of Y2K and embedded systems problems
within the first two weeks of the New Year. (January 1, 2000 is, of course,
the first of several problematic dates to come.) It is unclear how this
mistaken notion that the overall impacts could be assessed in such a short
time gained currency so quickly, including, apparently, among some who
have been spending considerable time studying Y2K over the past few

So far as I am aware, none of the most respected consulting groups,
companies doing hands-on remediation and testing, and none of those who
have extensive backgrounds in relevant technical fields, ever suggested
prior to January 1, 2000 that a final assessment of the impact of Y2K and
embedded systems problems would be possible in the week or two of the
New Year. It appears that those who do not have backgrounds in relevant
technical fields, simply jumped to unwarranted conclusions. With the
spotlight of the media on them, they seem to have succeeded very quickly
in spreading the mistaken notion to a largely unknowing public that an
assessment of Y2K and embedded systems problems could be made in
such a short period of time. Indeed, even if only a fraction of the problems
reported in the first two weeks had occurred, there would still be no way that
the books could be closed on Y2K. These problems have involved the

~ nuclear power plants here and abroad, a nuclear weapons plant in the
United States, chemical plants, refineries, manufacturing plants, and
pipelines (some of which have involved the release of hazardous materials,
some of which have involved explosions, and some of which have involved

~ transportation-related problems (these have included train collisions;
airplane crashes; problems with airplanes, including some identical
problems, that have caused aborted flights; and major problems in Australia
with airplane fuel); and

~ information systems in the public and private sectors (In Great Britain, an
estimated 5% of all business have been effected according to a high level
official in the United Kingdom's Y2K efforts. In the United States, 30% of
over 2000 computer professionals surveyed had observed Y2K-related problems.)

The problems that directly and immediately place public health and safety in
jeopardy are only now beginning to become apparent. Problems of lesser
consequence involving billing and accounting errors and the degradation or
loss of data are also becoming increasingly apparent. There are many
problems that will not become obvious for weeks or months. Problems
involving both information systems or embedded systems can both be
triggered by the activation of unremediated systems or portions of systems
that were not remediated or not remediated correctly. They can be triggered
by the restart of systems as well as by their interaction with unremediated or
incorrectly remediated systems. Not all such problems will be evident

I plan on posting on my website by the end of January a longer discussion
concerning what is going on and the actions that are still needed. I believe
that attention needs to continue to be focused on remediation efforts. In
particular, efforts need to be focused on making sure that the February 29
date will not cause problems.

In the meantime, I commend to your attention the following websites for
reports of problems:

~ The Grassroots Information Coordination Center at

~ The Chemical Safety Board's website at
for hazmat incidents

~ "Today's Crude Oil, Gasoline & Distillate Market Developments" at

~ For daily reports (and archives) of problems involving nuclear power
plants: Such reports can also be
compared to reports during the same time period in previous years. For
instance, see and

~ The Center for Y2K & Society's list of problems at

~ Http://

~ Http://

~ Http://

~ Http://

~ Http://

~ Y2K: Latest global problems:

~ Glitch Central at

~ for a list of incident tracking sites

~ The International Y2K Cooperation Center at

The last site contains assessments that are largely self-reported. One must
be particularly careful not to jump to conclusions as a result of assessments
or reports that are based primarily or solely on self-reporting, whether that
self-reporting is being done on behalf or a corporation, a plant, a
government agency, or a country.

(It should be noted that there are major disincentives to report problems
relating to Y2K and embedded systems. There are not only legal
implications and insurance concerns, there are bottom line concerns and
concerns over possible damage that will be done to a company's reputation.
People who decide to report such problems may well be placing their jobs
and their chances for career advancement on the line. There can be major
disincentives not to come forward and tell the truth about what is actually

It is also important to know if the assessments were made when systems
were powered down, turned off, and/or being operated manually. This may
not be clearly noted in the assessment. Then again, it may be
inadvertently noted such as the case of a Third World country which
acknowledged that they did not report a failure as a failure because they
implemented their contingency plan which was to revert to manual
operation. Since "Y2K readiness" is defined as being able to continue to
operate, they did not consider that they had experienced a failure. They
were "Y2K ready".

In addition to semantics, one needs also to pay attention to the date when
the report was submitted.

Two other rich sources of information concerning Y2K and embedded
systems problems are available owing to litigation on the one hand and to
insurance claims on the other.

According to a recent edition of a newsletter from the Information
Technology Association of America (ITAA), "(t)he Federation of Insurance
and Corporate Counsel, Inc. (FICC) maintains a website engaged in a
general discussion of the insurance issues raised by Y2K claims under
different lines of coverage. The site also tracks some of the major
insurance-related Y2K cases. To access the site, click 'FICC Y2K Index'."

It is also possible to review information on the eighty or more law suits that
have been filed. Such documentation provides detailed accounts of what
aggrieved parties are alleging went wrong.

For ITAA's Legislative and Litigation Table, see Calendar and

I particularly commend to your attention the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion
Forum as an up-to-the-minute source of information. The Time Bomb
Discussion Forum is an extraordinary source of both confirmed and
non-confirmed reports of problems. It is also a one-stop source for latest
breaking media coverage and press releases. The Discussion Forum also
serves at once as a useful source of leads about problems and as an
invaluable research tool. Anyone can initiate a thread by posing a question
concerning Y2K or embedded systems. It is possible to obtain nearly
instantly, answers, as well as leads: qualified and unqualified. Those
participating in the Time Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum include numerous
seasoned professionals with many years experience in relevant fields.

For a list of current threads at the TB 2000 Discussion forum, see

Because the Administration has made only a very small fraction of the
extensive data bank of incident reports available to date, it is essential, if
one wishes to have any idea of the problems that are being reported, that
one utilizes other sources of information, including any of the various
sources of information that have been noted here.

In addition to becoming more knowledgeable concerning the problems that
are being reported, it is also critically important, particularly for the
media and for others in roles of public and private sector responsibility,
that far closer attention be paid to embedded systems and their potential role in
infrastructure disruptions and technological disasters. Closer attention will
need to be paid these concerns well beyond the next weeks and months.
By learning more about these problems, more are likely to identified,
recognized, and properly assessed and remediated. By paying closer
attention, it is more likely that lessons will be learned and that knowledge
can be used to prevent other disruptions or disasters from occurring.
Those outside a company, agency, or a plant, etc., can benefit from such
lessons learned only if the lessons are shared. These lessons are not being
shared as freely as they should be now. For instance, if the information in
the ICC's collection of incident reports were shared, many more people
would be given a heads up concerning problems that they are facing or are
about to face. The names of companies and businesses, etc. could be
deleted from such reports and the reports could still be of value to others.

Those who think that they have fully remediated their systems may learn
about unexpected problems from others who had also remediated their
systems, but still had problems. Understanding when a problem has its
source in an embedded systems failure can be key to trying to deal with the
problem in a timely and effective way.

The following threads may help shed light on embedded systems failures
and on the time delays that can be involved in some embedded system
failures. Material presented in the following threads may also help explain
why embedded systems continue to pose such a threat:

~ A thread about embedded systems and buffer overflows: "An Overflowed
Buffer Could Make a 9 on the Richter Scale" (1/5/2000)

~ "Embedded Systems Failures That Can Occur More Than a Week After a
Trigger Date or a Restart" (1/9/2000)

~ "Why the embedded issue isn't 'dead' yet" (1/9/2000)

~ "Did you notice the embedded systems problem is growing? Look at these

~ "Can anyone explain embedded chip buffers filling up to a person not
knowledgeable in the field?" (1/14/2000)

A paper of mine entitled "Some Major Y2K & Embedded Systems Concerns
at the Rollover" was released December 28, 1999. It includes attachments
with pertinent background on embedded systems, including a statement on
embedded systems that Mr. Koskinen issued in November of 1999. The
paper with attachments and my comments on his statement can be found


The working title for Part 7 of my White Paper is "Serious Y2K and
Embedded Systems Concerns That Are Continuing Beyond 1/1/2000:
It's Still Not Over Until It's Over and We Are Only in the Top of the First
Inning. These comments have been taken in large measure from the
current draft of Part 7. (The rest of my White Paper can be found at )

When Part 7 has been completed, I will post an announcement at the Time
Bomb 2000 Discussion Forum at
%28Y2000%29 . I will also plan to send Russ Kelly a note and ask him to
attach a copy of the announcement to these comments. For others who
wish to be notified, please feel free to e-mail me.

Paula Gordon
January 17, 2000