Admit When You are Wrong About Y2K!
by John Baskette
My mother taught me, "When you are wrong, promptly admit it!" I have tried to live
by that admonition, but I admit that I have never been in the terribly difficult position that
the various Y2K alarmists find themselves in now. Take Dr. Gary North for example.
Unlike some, he did not profit greatly from Y2K promotional hype. He did not write
books or sell survival kits. He gave out his information package free. His web site had
the most extensive set of Y2K links on the planet. He even had a link to this site's small
effort. He took the most extreme position and was a true believer. The failure of Y2K to
yield any more than minor problems must be a terrible blow for him. For Gary North and
others like him, I offer my prayers.
But now that Jan. 1, 2000 has come and gone with virtually no problems at all visible
to the public, will the Y2K alarmists now admit that they were wrong? Don't bet on it!
Here are some of the stories and excuses you will read and hear
Y2K alarmists were a critical part of the solution!
This kind of self congratulation is the most egregious claim that Y2K alarmists will
make. They will take credit for having raised the alarm which solved the Y2K
crisis. For example, here is what Michael Hyatt has to say as of January 4, 2000:
Was the Y2K problem over-hyped? I don't think so. I do not believe that we
overstated the problem, but perhaps we underestimated the progress. Time will tell.
Regardless, if we had not sounded the alarm and brought focused attention to this
problem, things may have turned out much different. (from http://www.michaelhyatt.com/
on Jan. 4, 2000)
Don't believe it. Most of the alarmists started there work in 1998. Michael Hyatt's
book, The Millenium Bug came out in the fall of 1998. Dr. Dobson's Y2K
broadcast was in October of 1998. Gary North was probably the earliest having started
his web site in January of 1997. Ed Yourdon's book, Time Bomb 2000 came out
in Dec. of 1997 and most of his web site materials during 1998. Jim Lord's survival guide
came out in April of 1997.
All these "warnings" came too late to be of much help to the computer industry, not
that anyone with the exception of Ed Yourdon would have had any credibility. The
majority who like Michael Hyatt who started sounding an alarm in mid-1998, were far too
late to be claim any credit for solving the problem. In fact, by mid-1998 computer
industry testing and remediation efforts were well under way. Most industry remediation
efforts began in 1997. The efforts and surveys were going well enough that by the middle
of 1998, the premier Information Technology think tank, the Gartner Group had revised
its earlier warnings about severe Y2K problems and expected only a small crisis like a
 The infamous embedded chip problem was dismissed by the Gartner
Group as causing few problems as early as August of 1998.
Most of the Y2K doom hype started up just as it was becoming clear that the problem
was on its way to being solved. The truth is that there is only one early alarmist that
deserves any credit for helping to solve the Y2K crisis, and that person is Peter de Jager
who started warning the computer industry about this problem in 1993 -- four
years before the rest. The alarmists should have been listening to Peter de Jager,
because in late 1998, he too began to change his views. According to the Bangor Daily
News on November 17, 1998:
Peter de Jager, founder of de Jager and Co. Ltd. of Brampton, Ontario, told about
200 people that individuals and businesses need to practice "dire diligence,'' or get ready
for some inconveniences, but they needn't expect the end of the world. "I don't think we're
capable of entering Year 2000 without problems,'' de Jager said. "But they should be
minimal. There will be a couple of glitches. What we hope to achieve is that they're all
trivial problems and not the consequential ones. . . . .''
. . . . De Jager said he believes most of the problems derived from the Y2K computer
glitch will last at the most a couple of days, because Jan. 1, 2000, falls on the Saturday of
a three-day weekend. He compared this situation to a satellite knockout earlier this year
that left hundreds of thousands of cellular telephones and other electronic equipment
Steve Hewitt was the one Christian voice of sanity in the fall of 1998. His interview
with Peter De Jager can be heard on the Christian Computing web site at
But didn't Y2K alarmists promoted good risk management? Didn't they do more
good than harm?
We know that the Johnny come lately Christian Y2K alarmists contributed absolutely
nothing to the solution to Y2K. But did they do good anyway? There is always the
possibility of a natural disaster like a Hurricane or an earthquake. Aren't people who
prepared for a Y2K emergency now better off than before?
Perhaps that is a minor effect for some, but the primary fruit of Y2K doom mongering
was largely negative. Steve Hewitt makes the point in his interview with CBD. You can
read it at http://www.christianbook.com/html/Offshoot/hewittinterview.html/. In it he says:
There are two major things we are being damaged by Y2K with. One is the credibility
of Christian sources. There's a cartoon that was in the Kansas City Star called, "Judges
Opinion." A little boy turns to his daddy in the first frame and asks, "Is Y2K going to
cause something horrible?" In the second frame, they're standing on a street corner, and
the daddy turns to the boy and says "Son, it already has." And behind them is a huge
crowd of really goofy- looking people holding up signs, "Y2K Nuts" "Y2K Survivalists"
and in the middle of the group someone is holding up a Bible. That's exactly the results of
what Y2K is bringing on our society. Chicago Tribune, NY Times, Wall Street Journal,
Wired Magazine, they've all done stories not about America's reaction to Y2K but the
Christian overreaction to Y2K. This is not legitimate persecution that we can be proud of.
This is ridicule that we deserve. That's pretty sad.
The second aspect that's going to start becoming clear as we go farther along that I'm
discovering from speaking across the nation on Y2K is we have maybe tens of thousands
of victims of Y2K now, Christians who went overboard. I know Michael Hyatt has said,
"If I'm wrong, people can just eat the food. If he's wrong, they'll starve and freeze to
death." I could give him the names and addresses now of people who cannot just eat their
food. A lady in Eugene, Oregon told me how life is over because of Y2K. It's not just
because she sold her dream house, she quit her job before retirement, she cashed her IRAs
at 10% loss, she pulled out of the stock market, she now has cows and chickens and 2
years of survivalist food. None of those are reasons of why her life is over. . . . The reason
Y2K has destroyed her life, she now knows, is she'll never be able to witness again. She'll
always be the crazy Y2K lady.
Among the victims I think we can count men like Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the
Family. Regarding Focus's Y2K coverage, he and his staff ought to have known better.
In fact, the monthly Y2K updates that Focus started putting out early in 1999 contained
pretty good data and documentation. They tried to slant things a bit in favor of Y2K
alarmism, but the facts as reported did not give the alarmist predictions much credibility.
The quality of the monthly updates makes their October 1999 Y2K radio broadcast and
Citizen Magazine coverage all that more scandalous. You can read about that in
the Millennium Bust article
on this site. Regardless, I count Dobson as a true believer who put too much trust in his
buddies like Ron Blue and Larry Burkett and not enough trust in critical thinking skills and
sound investigative journalism. This has always been Focus on the Family's weak point.
Dobson has always been careful in areas of his own expertise, but he has made some
dreadful mistakes in areas where he is less competent . I wish he would do a post-
mortem on this issue and spotlight a good discernment ministry.
Christian apologist Craig Hawkins made an apt analogy to the negative effect of Y2K.
I heard him compare the effect of Y2K alarmists with the words of Jesus in Mark chapter
2. In it Jesus said, "Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to
say, `Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has
authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your
mat and go home." Jesus proved his authority to forgive sins by his ability to heal the
paralytic. The Christian Y2K alarmists do the opposite. They prove their lack of
credibility by making ridiculous predictions about Y2K. If they are were so wrong about
Y2K, why should we believe anything they have to say about Jesus?
But the Fat Lady hasn't sung yet!
The Y2K alarmists will try to protract their various efforts through out the coming
year. They will point out correctly that authorities like the Gartner Group have been
telling us that only 10% of Y2K problems would occur on January 1, 2000. That is true,
but what they fail to tell us is that their most worrisome predictions would occur on
January 1st due to the embedded chip issue. It was embedded chip failures that would
cause the power grid to fail and water systems to shutdown. None of this happened. It
did not happen in the United States or England who were best prepared for Y2K. Nor did
it happen in Egypt, Italy or Japan who were not well prepared for Y2K. Why? It is
obvious. The same Gartner group has been saying since 1998 that only 1/100,000
embedded chips would have catastrophic failures due to Y2K issues. Truly critical
systems like oil pipelines and power plants have redundant systems - very often
triplely redundant systems. For there to be any failure at all in a critical system,
you would have to have multiple chip failures. But the odds of two such related chip
failures at the Garner group odds is 1 in 100 billion!  The odds of any real crisis from
embedded chip failures anywhere in the world at all were always low. Remediation efforts
(as I argued in 1999) made them vanishingly small.
It's true. Y2K problems will crop up through out the year 2000. It would be a
mistake to say that the new year brought no Y2K problems. Many problems are
The GIC discussion forum. In fact, numerous problems occurred throughout the
year 1999. Many of these are chronicled on the Y2K alarmists sites. The most
spectacular Y2K failures in 1999 as the Passantino's show (see Y2K: Debunking the Myths)
were not really Y2K issues, but there are enough legitimate problems to show that
the Y2K phenomena was real. Here is what you must ask yourself: Did any of the
problems that have occurred so far affect you in any way? Did anything happen on March
31, 1999 when many states and the government of Canada started their fiscal year 2000?
How about July 1, 1999? Or August when the Global Positioning Satellite system cycled?
How about on 9/9/99? Nothing? Next to nothing? I thought so. What happened on Jan
1, 2000? Nothing? What makes the Y2K alarmists think that the rest of 2000 is going to
be any different? Any new Y2K issues will be just minor glitches.
Y2K alarmists weren't predicting a disaster. They were always agnostic on the issue
Right. And I have a bridge to see you . . . . It is true that many Y2K alarmists kept
insisting that "we" don't really know what is going to happen in Y2K. In fact they most
often insisted that nobody knows, therefore we ought to prepare for the worst. The Passantino's comments
regarding a "guarantee" of electric power are appropriate here. They say, "What it means
is that no one knows the future absolutely." But that does not mean that there were any
good reasons to believe that catastrophe would strike in Y2K. Instead we had good
reasons to believe that we would be in reasonably good shape and that any catastrophe
was unlikely. The specific predictions of Michael Hyatt are reviewed in the articles on this
site. He said quite specifically what he thought would happen. Any claims to
"agnosticism" at this point is somewhat like a person claiming to be an agnostic with
respect to believe in God, but affirming a strong belief in the God of the Bible. It makes
Some alarmists tried to obfuscate the issue by being alarmist but not very specific
during most of 1998. Ed Yourdon tried this and insisted that his refrain has been that "we
don't know." But he was specific in earlier writings. In the article My Y2K Outlook: A Year
of Disruptions, a Decade of Depression he gets very specific and predicts that the US
undergo an economic depression similar to the Great Depression of the 1930's.
But weren't the Y2K alarmists the real moderates? You Pollyanna critics who
denied any problem and called it a hoax are the real extremists.
Some alarmists will try this gambit. On January 1, 2000, Ed Yourdon wrote the
"Inevitably, there will be observers who dismiss all of these arguments, and who conclude
that the whole thing was a deliberate, malicious scam perpetrated by greedy charlatans. If
so, these charlatans have succeeded far beyond anything ever before accomplished: they
convinced hard-nosed business executives, and cash-strapped government agencies around
the world to part with roughly $100 billion in remediation costs." (see www.yourdon.com
But I haven't seen any such observers. Not computerworld columnist John
Gantz. Not Steve Hewitt. Not Robert X. Cringely. And certainly not
Answers In Action. I am a programmer by profession. In the company I currently
contract with, there have been four separate Y2K glitches related systems I work on.
These were minor problems that we fixed quickly, but I know that if the company had not
done a major Y2K remediation, our systems would have been in chaos. I do not know of
any credible critic that regarded Y2K as a hoax or a scam. The problem was real. But
when credible critics like those I list looked at the issue, they concluded that the problems
would be minor with the biggest impacts being inside the bowels of larger companies. We
were right. The alarmists were wrong were flat out absolutely wrong. I think they ought
to own up to the truth and admit it.
 Finding references that are still on the net isn't easy. See
 A good example was his show from many years ago featuring Mike Warnke as a
credible guest. As far as I know, he has never repudiated this.
 One must be careful of mathematical reasoning. If 1/100,000 chips will fail then you
would expect that out of 100 billion chips that you expect around 1 million chip failures.
Considering that most of these are probably in old equipment in the local land fill, that
would still leave a few hundred thousand possible failures. That's quite believable.
Considering all the chips in service. Actually finding such a failed chip would still be an
unusual event, and a critical failure would be exceedingly rare. My 1 in 100 billion reasoning is based on
the odds of two specific chips. For example if I have two chips in my hand. What are the
odds that both of those two chips will fail? Only 1 in 100 billion. That is the kind of
failure that would be needed to cause a redundant critical system to fail.