by Jon Lebkowsky
What surprised me about the Y2K riff was that analysts and
code warriors, who should've known better, were actually stocking up on
staples, cases of Campbell's vegetable soup, Top Ramen, Evian water, Jolt cola
and Vendange Merlot, as though some kind of catastrophe was truly imminent. But
why were these guys moving into desert yurts, buying small arms and barb wire?
Sure, it made business sense to push the doomsday scenario. Millions if not
billions of dollars were spend on Y2K remediation, so it paid to keep the issue
alive...and I guess all that work paid off, because POOF! No disaster.
But how could they really believe civilization would
collapse? Is belief a mutation of desire?
Code that might be affected, where date comparisons are
truly significant (banks, insurance companies), was fixed, but we kept hearing
horror stories about the pervasiveness of embedded microprocessors, as though
any implementation of computer logic was at risk. We'll never know how much of
the paid work around this issue was actually unnecessary, and that's okay. But
a person with enough cognitive coherence to build logical structures all day
every day should have known the risk was way limited, nothing like the risks
associated with environmental degradation or the proliferation of nuclear
playthings. If we devoted the same amount of time, energy, and hype to the
problem of global warming that we devoted to Y2K, we might have less denial and
"Environment" is earth and sky, trees and flowers, animals
that are "not-us" -- outside stuff. We're inside, watching television or
surfing the web; we're grounded now in abstracts. We see the earth and the sky
through the car window, framed, a picture of the other. We're driving,
listening to the a/c blast, canned music on the radio. The environment that we
experience now is mediated by technologies, by information...an abstract world
on which we've grown increasingly dependent. Y2K was really about that
dependence, and that detachment from the environment "out there," attachment to
the environment "in here."
I can't really judge. Evil? Evolution? We tell the children
to leave their videogames, so they watch television instead. We tell them to
play outside but there's nothing there. It's boring, the movements are less
fluid. The sky is the wrong color blue. Trees are imperfectly formed. Animals
have a peculiar smell. Not like us.
Y2K was never a bug; it was a feature. The world wasn't
coming to an end, but it ended.
Some were buying extra food and fuel. We bought extra
b i o :
Lebkowsky, Deputy Technical Officer and former Community Director for
WholePeople.com, was Whole Foods Market's "Internet Guy" (Internet Projects
Manager) from June 1997 through September 1998. He's been soaking in Internet
culture and community for the last decade. He has served as an online host for
the WELL, Electric Minds, and HotWired. He has written articles for Wired
Magazine, Whole Earth Review, The Austin Chronicle, 21C, Factsheet Five, Mondo
2000, and other publications, and was the "consciousness" sub-domain editor of
The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog. As co-founder and former CEO of FringeWare,
Inc., he was a pioneer in electronic commerce and its relationship to online
community. He has two grown children and three boisterous