The Year 2000 Fear Bug

by rthieme on June 11, 1998

I have a dear friend whose mother is all freaked out about the computer 2000 thing.  She is thinking about shutting down bank accounts,
accumulating cash, and taking other drastic actions because of stuff she’s heard on late night talk radio.

Is my friend’s mom going overboard or are her fears justified?

Dear Reader:

I don’t know.

I do know that people who know about the reality of the situation are anxious.

The treasurer of a neighboring county told me this week that embedded chips in their traffic lights and trucks will shut down and must be replaced. Is that good news because they can fix it or bad news because it might be true for power plants and communications systems around the world?

Will there be heat and light, food delivery, airplane flights? Will the government continue to function? The economy has never been better, but if we succumb to uncertainty and fear, the markets will plunge.

Are electronic deposits safe? Paper money? Where will you store your platinum and gold? In bank vaults? Or the basement? Will you hoard food too and guns and ammo or should we ask our cities how they plan to defend us when the hordes invade, armed to the teeth, looking for food?

This is the Year 2000 Fear Bug, spreading like a virulent flu. Are rational (but guilty) people secretly afraid that their undeserved prosperity will end? Are they succumbing to the primordial fear of the end of the world? Is this how a high-tech society comes to Armageddon?

In the absence of truth, we make it up. The earth IS a risky place, and we have lived so long in a bubble of prolonged prosperity that we have forgotten how difficult life can be. But it is also true that human beings rise to the challenge. When we short-circuit our fear, we manifest our capacity for heroic resilience. We may not be able to fix all the systems, but we can prepare ourselves for dealing with whatever comes.

Given that we lack the x-ray vision that would enable us to see the full truth, what should a prudent person do?

We should not locate our security in the form in which our money is stored nor seek “truth” in tabloid journalism. We ought to fear our fear more than the mountains we might have to climb. We are so much more than our fears. We are a possibility for reasonable thinking, selfless collective effort, and heroic response to adversity. Our security lies in remembering that and acting on that when times get tough.

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