A Working White Paper on Y2K:
"A Call to Action: National and Global Implications of the Year 2000 and Embedded Systems Crisis"
 by Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D.

Independent Consultant


     "A Call to Action: National and Global Implications of the Year 2000
     and Embedded Systems Crisis" has been prepared as a challenge to those in
     positions of public responsibility to rethink and redefine the approach they
     are taking to the threats and challenges posed by the Year 2000 and embedded
     systems crisis. The author urges persons in roles of public responsibility
     to take decisive actions that will minimize the harmful impacts of Y2K to
     the extent possible and recommends actions that should be taken, including
     the establishment of a Special Action Office for Y2K in the Executive Office
     of the President.

     The central message in Dr. Gordon's White Paper concerns the serious
     threats posed by embedded systems. In defining "embedded systems", Dr.
     Gordon uses the definition taken from the United Kingdom's Action 2000 Web site:

     "Embedded systems contain 'programmed instructions running via
     processor chips....They perform control, protection, and monitoring
     tasks....In broad terms embedded systems are programmable devices or
     systems which are generally used to control or monitor things like
     processes, machinery, environments, equipment, and communications."

     According to the Gartner Group estimates, there are a minimum of 20 million
     embedded systems that are going to malfunction , remediated or other
     steps are not taken. Dr. Gordon asserts that there is neither the time, nor
     the manpower and resources to identify all of those embedded systems likely
     to malfunction and replace them or make sure that they do not malfunction.

     Dr. Gordon's perspective could not be in sharper contrast to the perspective
     that can be found in the January 7th Report released by the President's
     Council. According to that report "The Y2K problem is solvable". According
     to Dr. Gordon, Y2K is not a solvable problem. She believes that all that we
     can do now is to work as smartly and rapidly as we can to minimize the
     damaging impacts on all fronts. The primary emphasis of the President's
     Council has been on information gathering, monitoring, assessing progress,
     and coordinating communication and activity ~ approaches which are neither
     crisis-oriented nor adequately designed to minimize to the extent possible
     the harm that can be expected, such as:

     ~ the failure of weapons systems (owing to human factors coupled with IT
     or other other malfunctions)

     ~ the failure of nuclear power plants

     ~ the failure of chemical plant (80% of the American public live within
        five miles of a chemical plant),

     ~ the failure of pipelines and refineries,

     ~ the failure of hazardous material sites, etc., etc.

     Dr. Gordon states that those at the forefront of national and global efforts
     seem to be basing their efforts on a partial definition of the problem.
     Consequently they fail to grasp the seriousness of the problem. The
     commonsense, leadership, vision, and sense of commitment to addressing the
     problem seems also to be lacking, along with an absence of a sense of
     obligation to commit all necessary resources and act.

     The White Paper is at http://users.rcn.com/pgordon/y2k.
     Part 1 provides a definition of the three parts of the Y2K problem:
     information technology and communications technology, embedded systems, and
     interdependency and connectivity issues. It also discusses the various
     impacts that each of these three parts can have. It discusses the fact that
     few people, including public officials at the highest levels of government,
     have understood the problem in this broad a manner.

     Part 2 focuses on date or time sensitive embedded systems and on the
     implications that their failures have for public health and safety and
     environmental sustainability.

     Part 3 describes the kind of adequately funded, action-oriented,
     crisis-oriented, proactive organizational efforts that the Federal
     government should have set up long ago to address Y2K and embedded systems
     problems. (California has such an approach.)

     Part 4 analyzes President Clinton's Y2K "strategy" to wait until the
     rollover to assume a leadership role. (This would include having Vice
     President Gore assume a leadership role.) Part 4 includes an appendix with
     a transcription of an exchange at the Y2K Conference on July 28 in
     Washington, DC. The exchange was between Paula Gordon and Congressman
     Kucinich and focused on the President's Y2K strategy. Part 4 is entitled
     "The Y2K and Embedded Systems Crisis ~ Why Isn't the Crisis Being Treated as
     a Crisis as Yet, Nationally or Globally?"

     Part 5, "In Case of Fire, Yell 'Fire'" describes best and worst case
     scenarios for the remaining weeks leading up to the Century Date Change.

     Part 6, "'De Nile Ain't Just a River in Egypt' ~ Social Pressure, Group
     Think, and Denial vs Common Sense in the Y2K and Embedded Systems Crisis"
     describes some major barriers to progress in efforts to get the government
     to take needed action.

The e-mail address for Dr. Gordon is pgordon@erols.com.

                                                   [ White Paper: Part 1 ]        [ White Paper: Part 2 ]       [ White Paper: Part 3 ]

                                                                        [ Table Of Contents ]        [ References and Resources ]

                                                                                                                                                                                               Copyright © 1999, Paula Gordon
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