(The Daily Herald)
PROVO - Utah Valley residents have done almost nothing to prepare for the possible
tidal wave of problems the millennium computer bug could set in motion.
That was the disappointing news Margaret Wheatley, a former BYU associate
professor, had for a group of about 100 students and Utah Valley residents at BYU
Wheatley, a Provo resident who's best described as a professional problem solver,
had better news for a person who asked about the problem's solution.
"You're it," Wheatley told her audience.
Wheatley has a Ph.D. from Harvard and is a former associate professor of management at
BYU's Marriott School of Management.
She's also in high demand internationally for her expertise in the area of group
solutions. She's president of the non-profit Berkana Institute, which specializes in
teaching people how to respond to changes in their environment.
Wheatley said states such as Nebraska, Texas and Oregon are doing a much better job
of preparing for the Y2K bug because residents in those states have formed community
groups to address specific concerns in their communities.
"Y2K insists that we come together in new ways, that we turn to one
another," Wheatley said.
She emphasized the social opportunities presented by the pending year 2000 computer
clock turn-over crisis, which could temporarily disrupt if not disable everything from
elevators to bedroom light switches.
"Disasters often illuminate what is best in humans - our heart-opening
willingness to come together, to use whatever is available to rescue and save other human
beings," she said.
The scope of the potential problems posed by Y2K are staggering.
For instance, Wheatley said, the average person uses 70 microprocessors by noon
When you turn on your stove, heater or other household appliances, you use
microprocessors that could be affected by Y2K.
She cited another example that could hit particularly close home for several dozen
members of her audience. "Students just may not return to school after the Christmas
break in 1999, unless the college campus can certify that its facilities will function in
everything from heating and lighting to security and registration," she said.
But rather than focusing on the hype and paranoia that's so often associated with
the various doomsday scenarios presented by Y2K, Wheatley suggested a more hopeful and
Wheatley said people need to look for ways to pull together and address Y2K as a
group of concerned citizens, rather than letting it drive communities apart.
She said everyone can and should be a part of the solution.
"If you're neighbor is not prepared, you are not prepared," she said.
"This is not a time for pure independence or mere self-sufficiency."
She said neighbors and communities should organize and determine what they might do
in the face of various emergencies.