Updated: Mar 7, 2020
20 years ago, we counted down the possible end of the world as clocks quite literally re-set to zero.
People feared that planes would fall from the sky and that pensions would be wiped out as computer gliches turned from nine nine to zero zero.
The fear was that computers designed with very little memory in the 1960s wouldn’t be able to recognise the new century in the year 2000. The millennium could have been read by computers as 1900 and throughout the 90s we feared the Millennium Bug, Y2Kand the end of our technological age.
As we raced towards the millennium countdown, we worked on fixes for the problem and I am sure we as individuals and as governments and corporations invested in newer computers. Windows 95 became Windows XP and Windows 98 etc and we marched on, preparing for the end of the 20th century.
The time we spend both fearing and preparing for the Millennium Bug saved us, as far as I am concerned. There were issues at midnight on the 31st of December 1999 that have gone unnoticed and unreported. Most systems worked well, planes remained in the sky and of the issues that did happen, some might have been the result of the fixes meant to fix the problem and others were probably monitored and resolved by IT experts waiting for the countdown to reach zero.
20 years later and Brexiters are using the argument that people overreacted in 1999 and nothing actually happened when we finally reached the year 2000 or Y2K for short. I am not sure that we overreacted at all and I think our preparation actually paid off which is why so few cases were reported when the Millenium Bug happened at midnight.
"Brexit is Brexit" but Brexit hasn't come into full effect yet and Britain has to fight a pandemic and fight Europe at the same time. European officials are making a point of not shaking hands with their British counterparts in front of tv cameras because of the Coronavirus but I would cancel these pointless meetings until the UK realises the seriousness of Brexit or until after we have dealt with Covid-19. Midnight is approaching and people aren't prepared to work in the dark.
Nothing happened twenty years ago but the lesson should be learnt that we must prepare for the future. We must prepare for eventualities that could potentially cripple economies and society.
In America, Donald Trump is worried about the stock markets and not society and he had fired the CDC’s pandemic response team back in 2018. A dangerous decission to have made.
They say, "fail to prepare, prepare to fail" and in my opinion, we will reap what we sow.
Both Brexit and the millennium’s new bug, coronavirus need the same attention that we gave Y2K in the 1990’s.
We need responsible people focused on worst-case scenarios and the possible dangers that Covid-19 could bring.
We need to make sure that Concentration Camps at the Mexican border have adequate soap and water, we need hand sanitisers by the subway and train stations and we need to continue to cancel large gatherings of people.
On the 31st of December 2019, as we were celebrating the New Year, reports starting coming out of China of an actual millennial virus and my advice is, treat it like we did the Millenium Bug twenty years ago and we will be fine.
We cannot just close all Windows and hope for the best but at the very least, with laptops and internet, we can work from home like never before.