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Most big organizations have already taken corrective action: Typically, they turn their computer clocks to January 1, 2000, and test their programs to discover, assess and correct failures. Organizations that offer critical products and services have been particularly vigilant, because of fear of litigation. And regulatory organizations, feeling the public pressure, have been pressing their constituents to ensure Y2K compliance. Unfortunately, not all of these organizations will be compliant by the end of the century, and some, especially outside the United States, will not be so. Nevertheless, by century’s end, a substantial and widespread organizational corrective effort will have been applied to the Y2K problem.

Next, keep in mind that only a small fraction of the world’s computers are engaged in critical applications. While advising a major international bank, I decided to assess the relative importance of their information systems. So, I asked the staff to stop issuing all 1,200 different kinds of monthly reports they sent to their thousands of employees, and, instead, provide individual reports if and when asked. You can imagine everyone’s surprise when after a month, only six people had called for any of the reports. Alternatively, try to imagine how many of the 100 million people using personal computers to do word processing will experience a catastrophe if their computer clocks are suddenly turned to the year 2000. Still not convinced? Let’s go back to all the file cabinets in the world: How much would you pay to not have them delivered to your front lawn? Let’s face it. The bulk of information out there is not as vital to your life as the hype would like you to think.

Granted all that, there will still be Y2K problems that have not been corrected and that you consider important. What happens then? In the United States, we have 70 million office workers. This massive “information processing” human force will not be sitting on its thumbs, admiring Y2K problems as they develop. They will go to work, writing checks, switching to other, safe computer programs and devising all sorts of procedures to tackle difficulties, as they are identified.

Still, a few Y2K problems will penetrate defenses…and get us. Of these, a few will inevitably be bad. Most, however, will be simply annoying. Any bets on how many newspapers, magazines and TV programs will still be hyperventilating about Y2K in the new millennium?

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