Fr. Giles O.F.M.

I have been asked many times about the Y2K (Year Two-thousand) problem. The media, many survivalists, and especially those who follow the conspiracies of certain groups, have all told of the many terrible things that are going to happen when all the computers in the world are unable to recognize the year 2000.

Most computer programs only use the last two digits of the year when recording the date. Therefore, the programs will have a problem when the year 2000 rolls around because that year will be recorded as "00". Date sensitive data will be upset. For example: if a baby is born in 01-01-00, the program will assume that the child is 100 years old, because the first two digits of the year are assumed to be "19", not "20". It does get a little more complicated than this, but this should give everyone a basic idea of what it is all about.

The "reporters" are telling us that on Jan 1, 2000 all the utilities will be shut down and basically the world will come to a halt just because the computers will all be shut down. There will be chaos and anarchy everywhere.

First let us consider this from the physical aspect.

Everyone who has ever used a computer knows that "Murphy's law" ("Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.") definitely applies. I would dare say that if you have ever used a computer you have had problems, and have even had it freeze up on you. Then you were forced to do what they always tell you not to do, turn it off or push the reset button without properly exiting the program. Then what happens? The world doesn't end, there is not total chaos, just a little (or a lot) of frustration - especially if you have not saved your data recently.

Then what? You calm down and restart the computer try to recover as much as you can and you begin again. This time though you tell yourself that you are going to be sure to save and backup your data more faithfully. More often than not this is all that happens. Everything generally works as it was designed.

If you will remember the example of the 100 year old baby above we will see, that just because a computer program assumes that a new-born is one hundred years old, does not mean that the computer will shut down. It will just give us wrong data. One of the most famous sayings with computers is, "garbage in garbage out." Simply stated if you put garbage into the computer you will get garbage out. The computer does not have a problem receiving and giving garbage, people are the ones bothered by such things.

Programmers originally set up programs to use only the last two digits of the year because it saved space and computer resources were very scarce and expensive. Today that is not the case. There is no reason why we cannot use all four digits in recording the year, except perhaps to prevent "carpal tunnel" for the data entry person who has to type it in.

Programmers have been writing fixes for programs from day one of computers. Computers are not thinking beings nor are they irrational beings. They are inanimate objects, (machines) which follow directions precisely. The problem comes in when we do not know how to give precise directions. Rational beings are very forgiving when they follow directions. When you ask your child to clean up his room, you do not have to give directions for walking to the room, opening the door, picking up each item, etc. This cannot be done with computers; every time you tell it to do something you must give it exact directions. It is possible to record a set of directions for a certain task and then just play them again the next time you want the computer to do the same task again, but the point is that the computer must be directed precisely. Programmers can and are writing fixes every day, not only for the Y2K problem, but for many others as well. They are not really fixing the computer they are just giving the computer program better directions, because the original directions were not precise enough.

If computers do not get correct information (input) it does not mean that they will necessarily shut down, it just means that they cannot give us correct results (output). It is not a big deal to write "fixes" for the programs so that the computers will get correct input, it is only necessary that we know how to give the correct input to the computer.

It is true that there are many things operated by computer chips, but not all of these things are dependent upon dates. In fact, comparatively speaking, very few of them are. And even when/if these shut down it may be an inconvenience, but it is not the end of the world.

One of the major worries seems to be the power plants, so lets consider this briefly. Power plants have been generating power long before computers, and basically are not dependent on computers to generate. On the contrary computers are dependent on power plants. Knowing how unreliable computers are even before Y2K became an issue it would be very unwise to become dependent on them to the point that they could not produce if a computer were down or not operating correctly. There has not been a need, or a significant advantage to using computers as an integral part of the generating, so the power companies who are trying to make money are not going to waste it on something which is either hurtful or useless to their goals. The biggest problem with the power company would probably be their billing department, but this is completely independent of the generating department. I am sure you wouldn't mind if the accounting computers shut down and forgot to send you a bill. The power company on the other hand, you can be certain, is working very hard to make sure that does not happen.

The same is true for all the other goods and services, which we purchase. Businesses are in business to make money, and it is not in their best interest to interrupt their business. They therefore will do what is necessary to continue operations.

In short:1) most computers do not even depend on the date, 2) computers won't necessarily shut down because they have incorrect information, 3) computers can be programmed correctly, 4) not all of our goods and services are dependent on computers to the point that they cannot operate without them, 5) and it is not in the best interest of any business to shut down. And if they do shut down, they will simply reset the computers and start again, as quickly as possible.

Now this does not eliminate another possibility for those who follow some of the conspiracies of the world. It is possible that for some reason or another someone may decide to shut down certain or all goods and services, to produce panic and chaos, but they can do this with or without using "Y2K" as an excuse. And in this case it is always wise to have a little set aside in case of an emergency.

Now if we consider this from a supernatural perspective.

God is still in control. Computers are not gods, nor are their programmers. In this world we tend to look at that which we do not understand with a sort of reverential fear. Those who are not ignorant like to keep this fear and mystery alive so that they can be the keepers of the mystery. (Job security if you will.) They don't mind you using computers as long as you don't understand them.

If you don't believe me just try to read a computer program manual. Because people cannot understand computer manuals they now have books called "Computers for Dummies", "Windows 95 for Dummies," etc.. These books are helpful to the new computer "gods", because it is profitable for you to consider yourself as a "dummy". Once we consider ourselves as "dummies" then we willing submit to their lies and accept them as "gospel". We have a new mystery religion - "computers."

Computers and those who make and program them cannot control us unless we make them into idols and surrender ourselves to them, (but, even then it would be the evil spirits using the idol doing the controlling not the machine).

What does a Catholic have to fear? A Catholic if he is living as he should, is always ready to leave this world, in any way God may choose and/or allow. He has complete faith and confidence in God's providence. He knows that nothing happens without God permitting or at least allowing it to happen, and all things work for the good of those who love God. There is a sense of peace and contentment when one trusts in God. This in no way implies that those who love God are imprudent or foolish. It simply means that they fear God more than they fear anything of this world. The worst that those of this world can do to us is take our physical lives. They cannot touch our souls unless we allow them.

There have always been those who would have us believe that all technical progress is evil. Cars, planes, trains, radio, television etc. have all been called evil, and now there are many who would have us believe that computers are evil. They have missed the point, these things are inanimate objects they cannot be evil because they do not have a will. These objects are indifferent, they may be used for good or evil; it is the person, not the thing that is either good or evil.

Man's discoveries and ability to reason and mimic God's creation, is a gift from God. He expects us to use our talents for His honor and glory, not our own. Just as the unfaithful servant, we would likewise be condemned if we were to bury our talents in the ground, or if we were to hide our light under a bushel.

These talents are gifts from God, and to deny them is to slap God in the face, by telling Him we do not want what He wishes to give us.

Both extremes are wrong. To say that the technology that God has given us is evil, or to make the technology that God has given us into an idol, will bring condemnation upon ourselves. Virtue is in the middle course. The virtue as St. Paul tells us is in using the things of this world as if we used them not.

Computers and computer programs were given to us to serve us, not for us to serve them. It is not the technology that we should fear but the evil humans who use the technology. Evil men succeed by getting us to see the technology as evil rather than the men as evil. They try to use technology to lead us away from God.

Do not allow the "Y2K" scare to disturb your peace of soul. Materially speaking it does not have to be a big deal, it is easily "fixed". There is no reason why the world has to end, computers are not in control. Spiritually, nothing will happen without God's consent, because He is in control. The world will not end, because of "Y2K". Only the Father in Heaven knows the time and date when this will happen, and He does not depend on a computer.

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