Notes from Windward: #59

Windward and Y2K

When I think of how Windward fits into the Y2K equation, I keep remembering the words of a country song that goes, "I was country when country wasn't cool." Among the people seriously concerned about the adverse potentials of the Y2K phenomonon, intentional community has become something of a hot topic, but we're less than thrilled with becoming "popular".

It's similar to the old dating cliche about the difference between someone who's looking for "Ms Right" and someone only interested in "Ms Right Now!" If the specter of social disruption has caused someone to consider the fragility of the society around them, and to gain a new appreciation for the impersonal and transitory nature of their current life, then we're interested in talking to them. If they're just looking for a safe haven in which to ride out the storm, then we'd just as soon pass.

The bottom line is that we don't know whether Y2K will be just a "bump in the road" or "The End Of The World As We Know It". A historical perspective tells me that for some folks it will be the one, just as for some it will be the other, and that for most people it will mean "change as usual."

In the last century, the only social constant has been change, and that the only thing that's really changed is the rate of that process of change. There's no reason that I can see to expect the rate of change to decrease regardless of what happens. Y2K could have a profound effect on the direction that the social momentum takes, but change will come regardless.

And so, much of Windward's response to Y2K is to look for ways that we can incorporate this singularity into what we're doing in as positive a way as possible. They say that every cloud has its silver lining, but sometimes it can be ducedly hard to find.

Our organizational approach to questions such as this involves what we call "reverse logic" and "no loss planning."

"Reverse logic" involves analyzing the potential outcome of a future event, not from the basis of what we think will happen, but rather from the standpoint of what can we not afford to have happen.

People use "reverse logic" all the time without realizing it. For example, most folk don't think that they'll have a flat tire driving to the store, but they still carry a spare tire in the trunk. They act against their expectations because they want to avoid the hassle they'd have to go through if the unlikely actually did happen.

Some people build storm shelters into their homes, not because there's any great likelihood that a twister will hit them, since the odds against that are statisticly very low, but rather they build them because they derive emotional comfort from the knowledge that if such a highly unlikely event did occur, they and their loved ones would have a better chance of coming through the storm alive and well. It's a form of insurance that gives great emotional comfort to those who bear the responsibility to care for the safety and well-being of others.

And so, Windward's approach to Y2K involves analyzing the risks involved, determining which pose an unacceptable level of risk and formulating strategies to mitigate those risks. Since we don't have the time, money or wisdom needed to insulate ourselves from all risks, we have to be selective, and that's were the concept of "no loss planning" comes in.

A personal analysis of the potential fallout from Y2K will reveal a wide range of things that can be done to prepare for the world we'll be living in two years from now. The question people focus on has to do with the question of what that world will be like; that's the wrong question.

There's a wide range of ways that you can invest your time and resourses right now. Some choices will be relevant if Y2K is only a minor inconvenience, but not if it triggers massive social disruptions. Other choices will be worthwhile if things get bad, but not if they go on pretty much as they have been going. How can you make a wise decision for the future, when you don't know which outcome to plan for?

Fortunately, there's a third category of choice; i.e. those things which will be worthwhile two years from now no matter which path the future takes. "No Risk Planning" involves identifying and addressing those steps which will enhance your position down the road regardless of what happens - the "can't lose" options.

For example, there's no doubt that we'll be needing toilet paper and paper towels two years from now. Storing away a reasonable quantity of things is a good choice they won't spoil and we're sure to use regardless of what happens with Y2K. Investing in toilet paper is a "no risk" choice.

Some risk is worth taking. It is wise to have a supply of perishables on hand, things such as wheat, rice and beans, but it's also wise to be incorporating those foods into your daily diet right now. Today is the right time to be learning self-reliant techniques, when you have lots of back-ups and there's always "take out" to fall back on if dinner turns out more suitable for the trash can than for the table. Trying to learn self-reliant techniques in the dark on a cold winter night is a bad idea. Practice now, and you'll be ready later when you'll have lots of other "issues" on your mind.

But beyond putting that minimum level of risk insurance in place to cover the worst case scenarios, the key is to focus on those steps which will most likely benefit you in the long run, no matter what happens. For some that could mean selling their suburban house and moving to the country, but unless that's an outcome that would be desirable either way, it's probably not the best way for that individual.

There are many things that can be done, but in a world of limited time and resources, you have to make choices. I hope that this introduction into how Windward approaches that decision making process helps you prepare for more efficiently and effectively for whatever it is that's coming.


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