Jesse Berst: A field guide to year 2000 paranoia

How can you tell paranoia from reality where it comes to the year 2000 bug? Just keep calm, says Jesse Berst.

Things have reached a feverish pitch around the AnchorDesk offices. Everyone is buzzing about the Big Boss paying a visit. The situation has Tech Director Jon DeKeles grumpier than usual; he figures he'll actually have to smile and be pleasant. Associate Editor Nicci Noteboom is worried there's some new edict coming down from corporate about personal phone calls or workspace tidiness.

You can understand that kind of small-scale, inter-office frenzy, fed by rumour and hype. Just as it's easy to understand the frenzy building around the world as the year 2000 approaches. Every millennium change produces some degree of hysteria. Throw a computer glitch into the fervour -- in a world increasingly dependent on technology -- and the frenzy erupts with new and potentially alarming implications. Pay attention to the forces stirring the frenzy:

* Year 2000 survivalists: These are the folks convincing otherwise sane families to pack up and head for the hills to avoid the year 2000 ravages. Some warn of food riots and massive starvation in the cities.

* Year 2000 profiteers: A Gartner Group report suggests financial fraud stemming from efforts to fix year 2000 bugs could lead to financial losses in the billions. Theory is workers and consultants working on year 2000 projects have the opportunity to plant software code that could be exploited at a later date to carry out thefts.

* Year 2000 fear-mongers: If you've been in a bookstore lately, chances are you were dumbstruck by shelf after shelf of year 2000 books fuelling public paranoia. Year 2000 headlines scream from print and online publications. And politicians are churning out press releases and sound bites in double-time. Just a few examples from recent weeks prove my point:

Report: Only Three States Ready for Year 2000

It's Official: Year 2000 Bugs May Spark Mayhem

30 U.S. Nuclear Plants Still Need Year 2000 Fix

Year 2000 Glitch Likely to Disrupt Trade

Turn to the experts when you need reasoned, upfront information about the year 2000 bug and what it means to you. Have comments? Click here to send a note to AnchorDesk.

The AnchorDesk team doesn't realise I know exactly why the Boss is coming to town. But I figure if not knowing puts a smile on Jon's grumpy face and reduces Nicci's goofing off -- why ruin a good thing?


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