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The 2000 Apocalypse, Which was Not

Twenty years ago, millions of people, including corporate executives and heads of government, feared that on New Year’s Eve, the Internet would collapse, dragging along a significant portion of civilization. And all because computers around the world could not cope with the onset of 2000. The software installed on them used only two characters to represent the year in dates. When the year “99” was replaced by the year “00”, the programs would be transferred a century ago – in 1900. And then the systems would fall one after another like an almost endless chain of dominoes. Billions were spent on preparing for what seemed almost inevitable.

Here’s how Vanity Fair magazine described the coming future in January 1999:

“It’s midnight, January 1, 2000. In some cities there is no electricity. Bank vaults and prison gates are wide open. Hospitals do not work. Many countries are mired in riots and revolutions. No one will be able to realize the magnitude of the consequences until they come. One thing is certain: the amazing machines that control and simplify our lives will not know what to do.”

But then the year ended: the clock struck midnight in every time zone around the globe – and almost nothing happened.

A lot of effort spent on preparing – and about the same amount of hysteria. This story showed that in reality we know little about the power or fragility of massive information networks and even less about what awaits us in the future.

“A hangover for business”

It all began half a century ago, at the dawn of computer technology, when punch cards were used to store information – paper cards measuring 8 by 19 cm, which were inserted into computers. Memory was expensive and took up a lot of space – countless rooms in the case of the first computers. Therefore, the amount of recorded information was minimized. It was decided to indicate only two digits for calendar years. Once recorded in this way, they were further introduced into the system in this way.

In 1964, IBM made the computer an essential business device by introducing the System / 360. These devices were relatively compact, but still outsized refrigerators. They also used the standard two-digit year format. “I am one of those guilty of this problem,” a former economic consultant testified before Congress in 1998. “I wrote these programs back in the 1960s and 1970s and was so proud that I managed to save a little space without attributing “19” to the exact year.” This former consultant was Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

In 1984, an employee of an insurance company in Illinois entered the annuity payment date on her computer, which was in the early 2000s. The computer thought that this was a year earlier, and instead of calculating it gave out nonsense. Subsequently, she and her husband wrote the book “The crisis of computers: how to prevent the impending global collapse of computer systems.” Few people paid attention to her. But by the end of the 1980s, employees of the US Federal Social Security Administration found that they also could not calculate dates after 2000. By 1994, management began to analyze millions of lines of computer code to find a solution to the problem. The Department of Defense faced similar difficulties and launched a similar project. One of the senior ministry officials once said: “If we built houses the same way,

In the second half of the 1990s, anxiety about future changes in dates became widespread. Congress, as expected, began to investigate the issue, but could not pass bills that would solve the problem. In 1998, Washington finally took action: President Bill Clinton signed an executive decree establishing a council to address the 2000 problem. Clinton appointed John Koskinen, who had previously been Deputy Director of the Office of Administrative Affairs and Budget, Clinton. Clinton told the Americans that “any company that, on the eve of the New Year, is armed only with champagne and crackers, will face a severe hangover in the morning.” Big business by that time already allocated a lot of money for preventive measures to solve the problem of 2000. In particular, the telecommunications company AT & T spent at the end of the 1990s at $ 500 million per year. The general director of the company, Michael Armstrong, complained about the team involved in the “Problem of the Year 2000”: “They had an unlimited budget, and they still managed to exceed it.”

President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion Chairman John Koshinen at a press conference in December, 1999 in Washington, DCPresident’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion Chairman John Koshinen at a press conference in December, 1999 in Washington, DCPhoto Getty Images

Prediction of bill gates

It was a golden era for IT professionals, survival specialists, and especially recent Christians. Information Technology Consultant Peter de Jager made the 2000 Problem his specialty and became so famous for his speeches and seminars that the American Stock Exchange launched the stock index of companies related to the 2000 Problem and called it “ The 2000 de Jager Index. ” The New York Times called de Jager, “Paul Revier of the 2000 Computer Crisis.” Looking back ten years later, Ace Hardware’s senior vice president of technology noted: “The year 2000 problem has drawn everyone’s attention to IT.” The investment director of an offshore drilling company agreed: “It was a turning point, one of the best times for IT.” AMC Computers top manager nostalgically recalled: “We made so much money from it. Many thought that this easy money would never end. ”

Meanwhile, the fact that the year 2000 marked the second millennium since the birth of Christ and that Revelation can be interpreted so that the change of the millennium marks the end of time did not go unnoticed. Pastor and television preacher Jerry Falwell announced that “with the help of the 2000 problem, the Lord is possibly trying to bring this country to life, to pacify it,” “to begin a revival that will sweep the whole world to the delight of the church.” He launched sales of a video called the Christian Millennium Failure Guideat $ 28 per copy and began to stock up on food and ammunition. “I want to be sure that I can convince others not to mess with us,” he explained. His colleague, preacher Pat Robertson, warned: “There is no doubt that we are facing serious unrest.” He was echoed by James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family Christian organization: “We are facing tough times that we will have to endure.”

A skeleton crew monitors the National Command Center for Mastercard on January 3, 2000. The center processed 18 million transactions totalling $ 1.8 billion for the busy New Year's Eve weekend. No Y2K problems were encountered.A skeleton crew monitors the National Command Center for Mastercard on January 3, 2000. The center processed 18 million transactions totalling $ 1.8 billion for the busy New Year’s Eve weekend. No Y2K problems were encountered.Getty Images Photos

Books multiplied with headlines like “2000 Problem = 666?” And “Spiritual Survival During the 2000 Crisis,” as well as sites like that sold food in bulk. General excitement grew, and Rev. Steve Hewitt, editor of Christian Computing magazine, traveled around the country, inspiring tranquility in the flock. “I’m fighting a panic,” he said. – Windows 98 is not a matter of faith. Pentium II is not a matter of faith. ”

In February 1999, the UN established an international center for cooperation on the 2000 issue. In December 1999, the United States and Russia created a joint strategic stability center in 2000 to prevent accidental missile launches or nuclear attacks. A Massachusetts company sold for $ 89 a Survival Kit in 2000 for personal protection, which included abacus, a flashlight, and a compass. But there were oases of calm. The head of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said he was looking forward to a period when “people will be worried about all this preparation, but in fact the possible problems will not cause the panic they are talking about.”

New Year

As the New Year approached, the Federal Reserve ordered $ 70 billion in paper money – about $ 255 for every US citizen, in case depositors decide to collect money from banks en masse. Chase Manhattan Bank has created 27 focal points to monitor its network around the clock. Citigroup opened a central focal point whose location was kept secret.

Finally, the clock struck midnight – primarily in the south of the Pacific region. In New Zealand, as described later Denis Dutton, professor of philosophy, “only champagne and fireworks caused an upsurge of interest, as phones, ATMs, cars, computers and airplanes continued to work as usual.” Gradually midnight attacked around the world. In Australia, a bus ticket printing machine made a mistake in the date. In Italy, the prison sentence of some prisoners was briefly extended by a century. In England, the tidal gauge broke. In the United States, the spy satellite was in standby mode for several hours. In Hong Kong, police breathalyzers stopped working – admittedly, this was not at the right time. Here and there, cash registers punched “1900” instead of the correct date and handed out checks to customers, which they could save as a souvenir.

Italy tackled the 2000 problem later than many other countries, while doing much less. Many pessimists expected that in a country known for its dolce far niente principle (ital. “Doing nothing sweetly”), chaos would take on a special scale. However, even in Italy there were few failures, apart from the incident with prisoners. All trains stopped at midnight, because, as the carrier’s representative explained , “The Italians were skeptical, and we said that nothing would happen. But we could not risk it. ” Lorenzo Robustelli, one of the leaders of the organization of the celebration of the Holy Year in Rome, expressed sympathy for the rest of the world: “I am very sorry, but sometimes everything works in Italy.”

People line up at a HSBC branch to get cash on December 30, 1999. British banking giant HSBC allayed Asian millennium bug fears, saying no problems were expected with the company bank cards following reports of problems in Europe.People line up at a HSBC branch to get cash on December 30, 1999. British banking giant HSBC allayed Asian millennium bug fears, saying no problems were expected with the company bank cards following reports of problems in Europe.Getty Images Photos

In Slovenia, the 2000 offensive was so unremarkable that a high-ranking civil servant was accused of exaggerating the danger and fired. “Those who were assigned to fix the millennium problem would be cursed if serious problems arose, and cursed now because problems had not arisen,” the BBC said on January 4.

Useful Panic

There were those who subsequently rather positively assessed the panic that had occurred. “Ultimately, the 2000 problem was beneficial to the US economy,” he said. Larry Kudlow, while an economist at an investment bank. “People are kind of disappointed,” said Michael Granatt, one of the leaders of the 2000 British Prevention Initiative. He added: “Everything happens as it should, not by chance. This is possible thanks to proper planning. ” John Koskinen, whom Clinton instructed to tackle the 2000 problem, complained that “the only way to become a hero is if half the world froze, and then somehow returned to work, which was not our goal. As often happens in management, if everything works well, people do not pay attention to it. ” Frustrated was the survivalist Ben Levy, who built a house in Colorado to survive the apocalypse. “In a way, I was hoping for it, – He later told in the broadcast Marketplace. “That would be fun: it really seemed to me that I would handle the challenge.”

Undoubtedly, the alarm about a catastrophe that did not happen at the height of the technological revolution prompted governments and companies to upgrade systems that no one had recalled for a long time. One of the advantages of this activity became apparent when in less than two years a real tragedy occurred in America. In 2005, Alan Greenspan said : “After September 11, 2001, we found that preparing for 2000 was much more important than we thought. In retrospect, she obviously directly determined the successful functioning of the systems in crisis conditions after the attacks. ” Lois Slavin, who oversaw the system design and management program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was of the same opinion. She wrote that “redundant system elements developed in anticipation of the 2000 failure that did not happen allowed the city transport and telecommunications sector to provide the highest level of services in the face of terrible destruction” on September 11th.

One of those who helped New York prepare for the year 2000 was Richard Rescorla, vice president of security at Morgan Stanley. In 1999, he greeted the New Year in a bunker, from where, together with a colleague, as another bank employee recalled , “he went out to inspect the World Trade Center, checking floor after floor all night to find out if a problem could arise somewhere”. Twenty-one months later, on the morning of September 11, 2001, Rescorla led Morgan Stanley employees out of the smoky South Tower and, along the way, sang songs through a speaker to cheer them up. About 3,700 people were then able to escape. Rescorla returned to search for the missing people, and died when the building collapsed.

The September 11 attacks were a disaster that no one could have foreseen. What did we have to learn from another disaster that millions had foreseen, but which had never happened? Were we discreet and wise? Is it too easy for us to panic? On the tenth anniversary, New Zealand philosopher Dennis Dutton published a column in The New York Times in which he stated: “The 2000 fiasco is not a simple prudence. Many religions – from Zoroastrianism to Christianity, from Judaism to UFO sects – are built on the idea of ​​sin and the end of the world. The threat of 2000 resonated with these concepts … The idea that our ingenious inventions once destroy us has remained popular in fiction since at least the time of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. ”

“When we turn practical problems into cataclysms of a cosmic scale, we move away from solving them,” he wrote. But then he took a step to a conclusion that may turn out to be completely wrong: “In my opinion, this applies to the billowing waves, storms, droughts and mass extinctions of living creatures, which are said by proponents of fashionable climate catastrophe. “Such fascinating images have less to do with scientific climatology than with the widespread belief that modernity and its wasteful comfort bring us closer to the biblical Judgment Day.”

The future is always more mysterious than we would like to consider. Denis Dutton was a wise man, but he could not foresee how the environmental problems that he described with such neglect would affect us today. He also could not know that, due to the evil taunt of fate, The New York Times would publish his obituary exactly one year after his article on the 2000 problem: he was a victim of prostate cancer. It’s hard not to smile, watching the excesses that happened in those feverish days before the eerie calm of the night of December 31, 1999, but did not cause much harm and, perhaps, made our information networks stronger, more stable and flexible. These networks today, even more than 20 years ago, remain the central nervous system of civilization. The importance of caring for them cannot be overestimated.

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FCC broke environmental law by approving SpaceX satellites

Astronomers and other reliable sources continue to warn of similar satellites and spacecraft, creating dangerous situations on Earth and in space.

FCC broke environmental law by approving SpaceX satellites
Illustration of the Starlink satellites.

Regardless, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to approve tens of thousands of satellites being launched into orbit, anyway.

Now, a new article suggests that the agency may have violated the environmental law by approving the Starlink Mega Constellation from SpaceX (which includes up to 42,000 spaceships) and that if someone sues them, that person could win the case.

Published in Scientific American:

A battle for the sky is taking place, and the skies are losing. The next mega satellite constellations, designed to cover Earth’s orbit in spaceships that transmit high-speed Internet around the world, could fill the firmament with tens of thousands of moving light points, forever changing our view of the cosmos. .

Astronomers who depend on pristine skies for their profession and members of the general public who appreciate the natural beauty of what is above, may lose out. The launch of such a large number of satellites “has the potential to change our relationship and our connection with the universe,” says Ruskin Hartley, CEO of International Dark-Sky Association, non profit organization.

But without binding international laws or regulations in place to protect the night sky, anyone who opposes the advancing mega constellations is certainly fighting a losing battle. Right?


A new article to be published later this year in Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law argues that the Federal Communications Commission – the agency responsible for licensing the operation of these constellations in the United States – should consider the impact that these satellites would have on the night sky.

By ignoring an essential part of federal environmental legislation, the FCC could be prosecuted – and lose – potentially interrupting new releases of mega constellations until an appropriate review is carried out.

The FCC must protect the public by regulating the telecommunications sector. At the moment, they are facing many lawsuits for failing to do so in connection with the forced installation of unsafe 5G technology. Hopefully someone will sue them for approving those satellites too.


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A brief history of “improving” people and the human breed

On January 18, 1940, in the castle of Grafeneck in southern Germany, the Nazis began to kill people with mental disorders, hereditary and incurable diseases, and disabled people for the sake of “cleansing”, “improving” the German people and out of “mercy”. The crimes of the Nazis are considered the height of the atrocities, but the ideas that motivated them appeared long before the Third Reich – and did not disappear after its fall.

Since time immemorial, people have noticed that children are more or less like parents. And if so, this pattern can be used. Even Plato in the dialogue “State” proposed, as we would say now, a demographic program that governs who can have children with whom. In his opinion, worthy men should have several partners. At the beginning of the XVII century, the Spanish doctor Luis Mercado wrote a treatise “On hereditary diseases,” where he advised to look for a spouse who is as different as possible from you: then the father’s seed compensates for the flaws of the mother’s seed, and vice versa. But almost another 300 years passed before people became obsessed with heredity.

In the mid-19th century, Charles Darwin declared that life was subject to natural selection. Organisms have different traits – some traits help to survive and continue the genus, therefore they persist, while others disappear. Darwin had a younger cousin, Francis Galton, and this idea struck him.

As Carl Zimmer writes in his book, She has her Mother Laughs, Galton tried his best to graduate from Cambridge University with honors. He hired tutors, went to retake and even asked the teacher to postpone the final exam for a year, but he did not succeed. Then Galton realized that, unlike his friends, he was mediocrity. And those, as it seemed to him, inherited their talents and intelligence from their parents. Therefore, outstanding people can – and must! – breed using artificial selection.

In 1883, Galton invented the catchy word “eugenics” for his teaching, which is composed of two Greek roots: “good” and “genus.” True, this did not help to gain popularity in his homeland, the UK. But eugenic ideas took root in the United States.

Kallikak Family History

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in America, many thought that the country’s future was at stake because of the spread of dementia. Among those who tried to find the reason was Henry Goddard, a psychologist and teacher, who worked in a special school. Goddard believed that intelligence is inherited, like growth or eye color, and that a nation is simply degenerating. To check the guess, he began to study the pedigrees of the students and soon found confirmation.

Goddard’s assistant collected information about fifty of the relatives of one student and found out that two branches of descendants came from his distant ancestor. Allegedly, during the War of Independence, he slept with a weak-minded girl, and when he returned from the front, he married a decent woman. Both had children. Among the offspring of the first were idiots and criminals, and from the second became doctors and lawyers. Based on the results of this study, Goddard published the book The Kallikak Family, which made him famous.

Even before the release of The Kallikak Family, some US states passed laws to force the sterilization of criminals and the demented. The doctor, William McKim, Zimmer writes, generally suggested “silent, painless killing.” Having gained popularity, Goddard began to lobby for such laws in the future. The authorities also, on his advice, began to check the intelligence of immigrants and soldiers. The results were depressing: it seemed that blacks and visitors from southern and eastern Europe were almost completely moronic. In 1924, Congress passed a law restricting entry into the country.

In fact, Goddard’s assistant messed up a lot of things. There was no common ancestor, and in the “bad” branch there were plenty of completely normal people, literate and with work. Deviations in development, which nevertheless occurred among the relatives of that student of the special school, could often be explained by poor nutrition and other companions of poverty. As for intelligence tests, many of the questions did not require sharpness of mind, but specific knowledge. Finally, we still do not fully understand what intelligence is, and even more so how to measure it.

Since the 1920s, eugenics has been increasingly criticized in the United States, and in the 1930s it was no longer considered a science. But not in Germany.

Gene cultivators

In Germany, the Kallikak Family first appeared back in 1914. As Karl Zimmer points out in his book, Adolf Hitler read it ten years later while he was in prison. Hitler came to power in January 1933, and already in July a law was passed in Germany to prevent the birth of offsprings with hereditary diseases. Among other things, the list included schizophrenia, hereditary blindness and deafness, Huntington’s chorea, cleft lip.

The law allowed to sterilize sick people so that they did not produce the same offspring. The decision was made by a judge and two doctors. Dementia was detected using tests similar to those used in America. After a year and a half, another new law obliged the Germans to provide health certificates before marriage.

In the book The Nazi Doctors, Robert Jay Lifton writes that doctors in the Third Reich explained their mission in such a way: they must ensure that people realize their full racial potential, not just treat patients, but cultivate genes, maintain blood purity and preach the laws of nature .

Killing was considered the most merciful therapy for the incurable and insane, so sterilization was only the first step. Then the Nazis began to kill “defective” children in hospitals, then – adults. Basically, they dealt with patients in psychiatric hospitals, some of which were converted to centers for euthanasia.

One such hospital was located in the castle Grafenek. Converted, it was opened from January to December 1940, after which the program had to be curtailed due to the indignation of the Germans. But the killings did not stop. On the contrary, the Nazis destroyed more and more people: the sick, criminals, homosexuals, Jews, Gypsies and other non-Aryans – they simply did it secretly and mainly in the occupied territories.

The extermination of people was stopped only by Soviet and Allied forces at the end of World War II. But they did not defeat eugenic ideas.

Edited children

“Undoubtedly, we must remember the Holocaust and not allow history to repeat itself. But we feel that we have a moral duty to promote“ good births ”, that is, to set literally eugenic goals. Indeed, if parents are encouraged to provide their children with the best conditions (good nutrition, education, treatment, an atmosphere of love in the house, etc.), why not encourage them to have good genes in their children? ” – Sarah Goering writes in an article on eugenics for the Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy.

Eugenists and Nazis talked about genes, but did not know what it was. No one knew. In the 1940s, scientists only assumed that hereditary information was recorded in DNA, but its structure and the transmission of characters from parents to offsprings were a mystery. In heredity, much remains unclear. Nevertheless, the purpose of many genes and the malfunctions that DNA breaks cause are already known. There are tools that allow you to change genes. They are far from perfect, but this does not stop scientists.

At the end of 2018, biologist He Jiankui announced the birth of twins with a corrected gene, which determines whether HIV infection will occur. Other scientists generally did not approve of the experiment (suffice it to say that both girls did not have the correct gene edited inaccurately and not in all cells), and later a Chinese court sentenced him to three years in prison.

In the summer of 2019, Russian Denis Rebrikov was going to do the same, only with the gene, because of which the child is born deaf. Allegedly, he even persuaded one pair, but when the hype arose, they refused. In addition to such an experiment, you still need to get permission from the Ministry of Health, and after the story with He Jiankui, it will not be easy to do.

Inevitable eugenics

Nevertheless, technology already allows us to control or at least decipher the hereditary information, and in the future will become more accurate and cheaper. Therefore, experts in bioethics talk about a new eugenics – liberal. It is called so because it concerns the well-being of individuals, and not of society and the state as a whole. It is based on the personal freedom of choice of parents in accordance with their values ​​and ideas about a better life. That is, the laws do not indicate what is good and what is bad, and do not oblige the couple to do anything at all.

At first glance, there is nothing wrong with such eugenics, but difficult questions arise. Here are some of them.

Parents are obliged to change the genes of the child for the sake of it’s future, or just can do it, or can they leave everything as it is?

Is it possible to change the genes of an embryo if it is, in principle, impossible to obtain his consent?

What is permissible: to prevent disease or also improve symptoms? Where is the line between healing and improvement? Is everything that seems to be an improvement really such? For example, are the smartest people the happiest?

Let the state not dictate what is good and what is bad, but in culture, there are still persistent prejudices. If parents are allowed to choose, will they ask for a tall white heterosexual boy, because he will have more chances to succeed in life? In other words, accessible genome editing can reinforce racism, sexism, homophobia and other prejudices.

Gene technology is more complicated and more expensive than polio vaccination, so for a long time it will be available only to the elite. Suddenly, social and economic inequality will take root in human biology?

Will we not change so much over time that we cease to be human?

Most of these questions seem speculative. In the end, while only two children with edited DNA were born, and even then no one saw them, and before the mass use of such technologies there are decades, if not centuries. But it is worth considering how many children were not born due to the fact that a genetic test revealed pathology during pregnancy. In the case of some abnormalities, for example, the absence of one of the two sex chromosomes that causes Shereshevsky-Turner syndrome, future parents almost always choose an abortion.

It is difficult to say which solution is correct in such a situation. Karl Zimmer in his book talks about several lawsuits about the “unauthorized birth” from children who believe that their parents showed negligence, ignoring the test results and allowing the pregnancy to continue. But can people with severe pathologies, whose parents did not begin to check the fetus, take legal action? This is no longer a speculative question.

Antenatal diagnostics and genetic engineering expand the choice, but at the same time make it impossible not to choose at all. Everyone is forced to decide what is “good birth” and what is not — we all inevitably become eugenists.


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Opioid Crisis — A Result of Poverty, Availability and Pain

Dr. Mercola, Guest
Waking Times

In recent years, the devastating effects of wanton opioid use have become unmistakable, with opioid overdoses killing 47,600 Americans in 2017 alone. As of June 2017, opioids became the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, and President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency that year in October.

I’ve written many previous articles detailing the background of how the U.S. ended up here. While the opioid crisis was largely manufactured by drug companies hell-bent on maximizing profits, leading to exaggerated and even fraudulent claims about the drugs’ safety profile, the increased availability of opioids isn’t the sole cause.

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