Jan Wyllie
Trend Monitor
Portsmouth Hants, England

"Giving thanks: Confessions of a Y2K watcher"
January 3, 2000
Jan Wyllie

After four years of watching Y2K unfold for Trend Monitor and its customers ...

I give thanks that the good earth still breaks between my fingers. I give thanks that I can still plant four rows of broadbeans for harvesting in June and 16 cabbages for harvesting in May without fear of nuclear fallout.

Even though I discovered that human health is already being affected by low-level radiation, I must give my heartfelt thanks to everyone in the nuclear industries for their professionalism and diligence in the face of a daunting challenge. My view of the people involved in nuclear work changed from clever incompetents in the service of greed to misinformed heros who have dedicated their lives to the awesome task of saving the earth from a technology which they didn't invent and which is an ever-present threat to life on earth.

The engineers responsible for electricity, transport and telecommunications infrastructure, also deserve great praise. Thank goodness that the exacting practice and culture of engineering was deployed in our most crucial line of defence.

These are the people that since ancient times built artifacts and made them work in the physical world. This engineering culture is what keeps machines and assembly lines going. So there is a good chance that industrial production systems will remain relatively unscathed.

I do think we were lucky, though, that embedded chips do not seem to have been as problematic as the influential Dr. Paula Gordon believed them to be. But, as she herself has said many times, difficulties arising from malfunctioning chips would not necessarily expose themselves on millennium night. Besides well over 50 per cent of embedded chip applications were reported to be shut down during the rol-over period. The real question is what will happen when they are switched on again.

Still, my faith in the engineering culture is now much stronger. There is a good chance that breakdowns, if they occur, can be worked around quickly, if not fixed immediately. People are at their best in a physical crisis.

I am not nearly so confident of the practice and culture of software development and management which are essentially black arts despite their pretensions to science and engineering. These are the people who never finish projects on time, that habitually deliver code that is full of bugs, not because they are fools or charletans, but because of the scale of abstract complexity of the virtual world in which they work. These are the people involved in "remediating" the mainframe and PC software systems on which management, finance and administration are based. If these systems malfunction, trade -- especially international trade -- will become very difficult and expensive.

The consequences of these kinds of difficulties are job losses, bankruptcies, shortages, price rises, panic buying and social unrest . Still, thanks to the engineers, the lights will still be on, people are unlikely to be freezing in the dark ... at least not this winter.

Since publishing our first Y2K report in 1996, Trend Monitor has being saying that the consequences of Y2K would play out over a period of months, possibly years. At least there is no longer a deadline. Now there is lots of time, quite literally all the time in the world, both to discover and to respond to the consequences -- amplify the good ones and diminish the bad ones.

For me the greatest thanks must to Y2K itself for what it has done for me. It changed the way I thought about my life and much more importantly the way I am living it.

I saw how dependent I was on technologies which were outside of my control. I understood the selfish wastefulness of car-centred existence. I noted that un-necessary air travel is still wreaking havoc with the ozone layer, years after the Montreal treaty banned CFCs. I comprehended that the global economy was not all powerful, but was instead extremely fragile.

With the help of David Abrams who wrote "The Spell of the Sensuous" and Ted Lumley's friendly influence, encouragement and insight, I began to hear and feel the surround-sound music and geometry of multifaceted, complex space. I become conscious that our "problems" could have no "solutions" since insurmountable difficulties arise from assumptions based on a simplistic way of thinking about the world.

In short, I have come to believe that complexity and relativity, not to mention quantum physics, have rendered our culturally-inspired relationship with reality -- as being objects in three dimensional space manipulated by cause and effect -- an insufficient basis, both for understanding and acting in the world. As any fully-conscious child can tell you, there's a whole more going on in the mind than that. But, as Ted says, that knowledge is quickly educated out of children by parents and schools.

Y2K also gave me the insight that inquiry and talking are more of a means than an end. Y2K precipated great torrents of very high quality writing expressing inspiring insights into the implications of the way we live and think on the sustaining world around us.

For me, by far the most important consequence of Y2K has been the feeling of earth between the fingers, entering the cycle of seasons -- sowing, tending and harvesting -- experiencing, first hand, the enormous bounty of natural world. The effort that is required is playing outside ... away from the infernal computing machine which generates money and fascination.

The greatest joy, though, is that now there is a chance that many others will be able to experience the earthing which gives such succor. I always knew that the vast majority of people would not change their ways because of Y2K. And I always felt sad and guilty that my partner, Liz Shephard, and I were going to be among a very few people to experience the joy of the transition to a sustainable lifestyle.

Now, I hope everyone has the chance again. Here is a quote from what I wrote exactly a year ago ...

"I sit with an ancient "Bow" window to my right looking down a narrow winding lane of thatched cottages and then up to a green hill of cabbage fields, sheep grazing pastures, divided by the hedge-rows which are complex eco-systems created by traditional farming methods all over England. The land is rich here, but it is used as sheep and beef pasture. Agribusiness has not taken over and cut the hedges down, as has happened in so many other parts of the country. The land around here could be used to feed, so many more people, if it were seriously cultivated. The knowledge is here, but the "global economics" do not add up. If Y2K bites, the economics will change and survival food -- potatoes, swedes, cabbages, kale, leeks, beans, tomatoes, corn etc. -- will be of premium value. Devon, relatively speaking, will likely to thrive. Bio-regional self-sufficiency is a real option, here.

"How lucky can you get? The story of how we found this unspoiled -- relatively unexploited -- corner of the world is for another time. It is a story of synchronicities and friendships that you would find it hard to believe is not made up. I sure do. The question on my mind, now, is not how we got here, but what is the meaning of this grace which has been given? (We are not rich and the property was not expensive since mid-Devon is not at all prosperous in conventional terms.)

"It was about two years ago when I saw that Y2K and global deflation might require people to (re)-invent much more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyles, than they now practice. The only way, I could see was just to do it. My partner, Liz Shephard (LetsLink UK, Complementary Currencies), has always wanted to do it for environmental reasons, and because at heart she is a farmer's girl. Her father, Alan, who at 65 is one of the world's best furniture moving artisans, moved us in here, was a famer. He also runs a quietly successful mail-order book service (also online), called Green Spirit Books, specialising in books which kindle spirituality anew. He calls this part of mid- Devon "boy's land" because the land is so rich and easy to farm.

"So as far as I am concerned, the deal we have made with the sustaining earth in order to be in this beautiful place is that we must use it to learn how possible it is to survive taking the very minimum of the Earth's resources and depending as little as possible on scarce, interest bearing bank-money as a medium of exchange and a store of value. In order to pursue this purpose, I am going to have to learn to work seriously and intelligently in a garden designed to supply as many of the necessities of life as possible. I will also continue to trade knowledge and intelligence over the Internet, but increasingly, I hope using the local currency (Credits named after Crediton which is eight miles east of us) which I can earn using the Complementary Currencies Clearing House, we are working with Bernard Lietaer (who designed the Euro) to set up.

"The hard "real work" in the garden combined with the "virtual work" of cyberspace is the ultimate in the Hi-Tech / Hi-Touch idea of my content analysis teachers, Kristin Shannon and John Naisbitt when they worked together. As a soft, over-weight, out-of-shape virtual worker, frankly I don't know whether I can hack it. One thing for sure, though, is if I can, anyone can.

"I shall be doing my best to both pay the mortgage ("death contract") by continuing Trend Monitor's "knowledge" and intelligence business. But I am also committed to two hours a day hard labour in the garden (more in planting and harvest seasons, obviously). I am not doing this because I am afraid of Y2K. I am doing it because I consider it to be the basic duty of any human being to feed himself and his family. We have about a third of an acre. Most English houses have flower gardens and the green deserts we call lawns. And remember the huge expanses of arable land going to waste as cattle and sheep pasture. So if we put our minds to it, we could all lessen our total dependence on a Y2K infested, tottering global economy ... perhaps not one hundred per cent, but as the Tesco advert tells us "every little counts" ... especially when it may mean the balance between life and death (or even comfort and discomfort!). Nobody *needs* to eat meat. The Irish proved that it is possible to survive on potatoes (bar the blight)."

All I can say now in January 2000 is so far so good ...

(Please look at our Webpages (http://www.trendmonitor.com for a synthesis of "The Last Words of the British Press" and our latest commentary of what will happen and why.)

Jan Wyllie
Trend Monitor "The Information Refinery"
3 Tower Street, Portsmouth
Hants. PO1 2JR, UK
Tel: 44 (0)1363 881017
Email: jan@trendmonitor.com
Web: http://www.trendmonitor.com