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issue: 02/01/2000

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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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Y2K Through The Looking Glass
by Paul Waterhouse

Y2K in the media.

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whither y2k?

Whither Y2K?
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 more solution.

"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 champagne.

b i o :
Jon 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 grandchildren.

 

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