The bug that will not go away

January 22, 1999

One hundred people are to take part in a year-long project run by Lancaster University to determine how the millennium bugwill affect people's lives in the run-up to December 31.

A random selection of people around Britain will be monitored monthly to see how they react to advice on the bug, which is predicted to cause computer breakdowns when chips fail to recognise the year 2000. The knock-on effect could be a disaster in all areas of life.

Project leader John Wakeford, a professor at the school of independent studies, said: "There are many different sources of advice and information.

We are interested in the public's reaction, and the credibility that they afford to official bodies as well as to academics, commercial organisations, trade unions, television, etc."

"Suburban survivalist" groups were already springing up as the serious knock-on effects of even minor disruptions to systems has become more widely known.

"Will anyone use a bank, go to hospital, or even to school, will people stockpile food?" asked Professor Wakeford.

Even the small actions of individuals - such as withdrawing all their money from a bank - could have fundamental ripple effects on the economy and industry, he added.

The sources of advice and the public's level of confidence in those sources will be carefully monitored by the project officers.

Lancaster's school of independent studies has a record of monitoring public reaction and has previously produced reports on Chernobyl and food poisoning.

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