White Paper on Y2K:
to Action: National and Global Implications of the Year 2000 and Embedded
Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D.
"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
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
Part 3 describes the kind of adequately funded,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
[ White Paper: Part 1 ] [ White Paper: Part 2 ] [ White Paper: Part 3 ]
[ Table Of Contents ] [ References and Resources ]