Modern Day Plague Essay, Research Paper
Modern Day Plague
Argument: Mankind has become too dependent on computers, and we as a society are covering up our errors and not facing the facts, to avoid panic.
About four years ago, a new “pop” headline came hot of the press rumoring something about home computers having problems when the year 2000 hit. “The year 2000, that’s six years away,” people thought. Many believed in six years it would be fixed. Thus, the headline got thrown into the archives along with egg yolks being high in cholesterol and the FBI and the CIA being against each other. Well, today the computer problem has resurrected itself. The downside is that, the second round of “hype,” as some have called it, is being looked upon less seriously than before.
What is the problem anyway, what’s the big deal? Many have asked this question without a definite answer, weakening any bit of concern. Here it is put simply. All computers contain small processors that contain a current date. This processor comes in millions of different types and has been for close to 30 years. These processors are responsible for simple and complex operations and in some cases, for recording data. All of these functions require dates to perform. Well, the problem hits when one looks at how all processors have been made. All they contain are six numbers, 2 for the day, 2 for the month and 2 for the year. What about when 99 wants to flip to 00? The computer thinks 00 is before 99. Therefore, many go haywire and perhaps crash. The only way to fix it, is by replacing or up dating ALL processors to record four digits for the year.
When this problem first resurfaced about eight months back, the few that were paying attention realized the danger. Many suggested the idea of the world collapsing. This drew enough rally to form a congressional committee in May of (19)98, less than two years to the millennium. Y2K, as it is now known, was targeted more toward government and business application rather than home PC’s. “Why is that?” Mainly because there is much more on the line. All businesses, utilities and transportation companies could be seriously affected. This also includes all forms of data storage as well, like the Census Bureau, IRS and Social Security. The unfortunate part about specifying to these main groups, is that the public is left out.
Up until now, there have been only a handful of T.V. news reports about Y2K. This is a definite problem for several reasons. Today’s culture is tuned to nightly news for all the issues. For many, it’s all that they know. The only in depth documents on Y2K can be found in section E5 of news papers or on the internet. Two sources that might require a little time to research. Another problem is that most of the population thinks of computers (processors) as sitting on top of desks accompanied with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Well, if that were the case, it wouldn’t be all that hard to fix. The real problem exists when all processors must be updated or replaced manually. According to the Committee of Government Management, Information and Technology, as of August 1998, less than 10% of companies questioned, had begun looking at these embedded processors for testing. Many of these processors are hard or impossible to reach. These account for some 600+ satellites orbiting above, which operate all ATM’s, cell phones, pagers and airline guidance systems.
Many believe that the public isn’t being revealed the facts intentionally. They feel that the government is keeping it quite to prevent widespread panic. If fear spread that business could collapse worldwide due to Y2K, there might be a preemptive collapse due to a crash of stock markets and banks. It’s a “lose: lose” situation. Even if 20% of investors pulled their money out of the U.S. stock markets, there would still be a complete collapse. This report has been made several times by different market analysists. Another worst-cased scenario would be if everyone wanted to pull cash out of banks. Currently there is only 4% of the actual secured amount is out in currency. This leaves every American with only $68 dollars each. In September, President Clinton announced that the U.S. will be 100% compliant by 2000. That same month the Fed announced, for the first time, that they will boost the amount of currency in the US by 50 billion (1/3).This was done in case anyone wanted to have extra cash for the year 2000. If there isn’t any worry why make more money. Another report announced by the FAA, reported that they too will be 100% ready for Y2K. However, IBM, the maker of the 40 computers operating the FAA, replied that the computers are so out of date that they must be replaced.
Today, every single utility and good we buy at the store will be affected if something isn’t done. Every piece is so inter-connected that even minor failures could lead to big failures. This was just proven in San Francisco. Close to 1,000,000 people lost power when a construction crew tripped a breaker 40 miles from the bay area. According to the North American Electric Reliability Council, all of North America is powered by more than a thousand powerplants. These are all joined together at 4 main grid stations to prevent brownouts if one plant goes down. However, if something should happen to a few power plants, or even worse one of the grids, up to 200 million people could be without power. In fact, they would be left without any utility for that matter since gas, water and telephone companies require that same power.
How well could man survive if this problem isn’t resolved? The real problem is that no one is really paying close attention to this matter. It seems that other issues are getting all the ratings, while the millennium keeps approaching. With a little over a year, and a majority of the people not clued in, will there be enough time? This will be one of the biggest tests that man has ever challenged, yet we are the creators of our enemy.