In a recent My View column, Bob O’Connor opines that we should be skeptical of “experts.” To illustrate, he cites Y2K, the crisis that didn’t happen. He may want to rethink his example.
At the turn of the century, I was on an information technology team at a financial institution. As it was a large institution with home-grown code, some dating from the early days of IT, the risk for us and for the public was taken seriously. Small armies of us pored through millions of lines of code in search of two-digit year codes, which were buried within numerous complex systems. We designed and applied fixes, then tested and tested again to ensure we didn’t introduce other errors in the process.
We were not alone. All over the world, all kinds of industries and government agencies were doing the same thing. No expense was spared. We, the experts, brought our skills, knowledge and combined centuries of experience to the effort. Employers hired additional staff and paid large amounts of overtime. And yes, we made sure the public was aware of the problem and our efforts to avert disaster.
Midnight came and went. Money continued to flow through the system and customer bank accounts were correctly updated. Thanks to experts in other industries, the lights stayed on and airplanes remained aloft. We were elated. We did it!
Apparently, we experts were too successful. The public yawned. It had been much ado about nothing, a made-up problem. That, my friends, was proof of our success, not an indication of failed projections. Perhaps the cautionary tale is that in moments of crisis, we should not be too quick to discount the real experts, the people who have devoted their careers to the subject matter and have a deep understanding of it.