【編者的話】千禧蟲的啟示

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1999 / 4月

文‧王瑩



年前,老同事回美國探親時和好友餐敘,一位朋友問他:「台灣Y2K的因應情形如何?」老同事不以為意地說:「安啦,台灣沒有千禧年的傳統思想,大家不怎麼當一回事,也不會有什麼問題的。」說完,桌上一陣死寂,他抬起頭一看,才看到朋友臉上一副不可思議的表情,怎麼有人竟然不把千禧蟲當一回事?好友立刻拿出一本Y2K的自救手冊送給同事,叮嚀:「Y2K不是鬧著玩的,最好早做準備!」

真的是台灣對千禧蟲不甚了了,所以缺乏警覺心?還是因為中國文化中沒有「千禧年時耶穌降臨、義人得救、惡人受審判……」這個源自於聖經啟示錄的預言想法,所以對千禧年可能會因電腦年序問題而爆發重大災難的思考無法打心裡去接受,當然也就不認為千禧蟲會造成多大的問題。

其實,上述的觀察也對也不對,的確,任你如何大聲疾呼,一般人對千禧蟲的概念仍很模糊,總覺得那是專業人員的問題,而且還是個未來式,何必庸人自擾?但這和東方人普遍沒有千禧年的預言觀卻不一定相關,因為千禧年和千禧蟲的關係完全只是數字年序所引起的,和西方千禧年的文化思考傳統,毫不相干。另一方面,一般人或許不知道,台灣在對抗千禧蟲害上,其實已投注了極大的資源和努力,而整體的損害評估還算樂觀,以產業界而言,正在全力衝刺確保百分之七怳酊熔ㄜ;包括水、電、瓦斯、交通等基礎設施也都早已因應,而飛安、金融、醫療、治安等攸關民生的事業中,除了大小醫療機構仍在積極抓蟲之中,其餘大致都已進入或通過Y2K的測試階段了。

對於Y2K的大環境,一般升斗小民或許能著力之處有限,但還是可以多少發揮我們的力量:首先,關心自己的工作與生活環境,確實瞭解公司對於Y2K的因應方式與進度,讓主管更嚴肅地面對問題;生活上也可從關心所居社區的周遭環境和本身權益開始,包括留一份金融往來、接受醫療行為的紀錄,多與鄰居與社區聯繫,一方面以集體的力量監督政府;一方面也讓守望相助的精神作為Y2K偶發事件的後盾。說不定千禧蟲帶來的危機,正是人類正視科技文明發展所帶來的負面影響、重新建立愛、關懷、惜福、簡樸等普世價值觀的契機。

把Y2K危機擴大或深入來看,幾乎每一種科技成就都帶來某種危機,像電視帶來了家庭娛樂與資訊普及,但也使得許多人經常甘心做螢光幕前的「植物」或「礦物」;眼前發燒全台的大哥大,方便了人與人之間的聯繫,卻也更讓公私領域不分、生活更多采卻也更雜亂、青年人對物質文明的極端渴望等等;不久前正式抵台上市的「威而鋼」更是硬被炒作放大成讓人以為陽萎是台灣男人的流行病!而這一切的一切,幾乎都和媒體泛濫、資訊爆炸脫不了關係。

到底是從什麼時候開始,台灣的媒體與居住在這塊土地上的大多數人口互動的結果是,大家不斷地「集體發燒」與「集體失憶」!媒體的天性傾向尋找不尋常的事物,也就是聳動的事件、議題,但長久以來媒體也並不或忘它負責監督與反省的天職,但到了九○年代的後期,在無線與有線電視近百個頻道中的新聞台不斷競逐收視率之下,自認為迎合觀眾口味的新聞取向,顯然已將新聞內容從量變到質變,到了快被觀眾唾棄的邊緣。我們因而製作了一個檢視電視新聞生態的專題,讓新聞人自己來看當前的所謂「媒體亂象」,希望能從中有解。

從千禧蟲到媒體熱,更大的共同背景是這個世界看來越來越小,問題卻好像越長越大。曾經有人說過:產業革命的種種發明,應該讓人類生活越來越輕鬆愜意,然而科技進步的結果卻使今天的人類比任何時代的人類更忙碌、更感到從時間到物質的種種不足。到底什麼是進步?什麼是我們真正所要的生活?什麼會是人類真正的浩劫?願與讀者共同思考這些議題,迎向千禧年。

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EN

[Editor's Note] Searching Afresh for the Value and Meaning of Life

Anna Wang /tr. by Christopher MacDonald


A former colleague was having dinner with some old friends during a visit back to the US before Chinese New Year, when one of them asked: "How are Taiwan's Y2K preparations coming along?" Without looking up from his food, the colleague replied: "Fine. There's no millennial tradition in Taiwan, so it's no big deal, there won't be any problems." In the strange silence that followed this remark, he looked up to see his four companions wearing expressions of incredulity, as if to say: how could anyone be "ignorant" enough to think the millennium bug is no big deal? One of them promptly produced "The Citizen's Guide to the Y2K Problem" from his case and handed it to my colleague, saying: "Y2K's no joke, it's best to get ready for it in good time."

Is it true then that Taiwan is not ready for the Y2K bug because it doesn't understand the problem? Or is it because millennialist prophecies about the return of Jesus do not figure in Chinese culture, so that no-one can get wrought up about the prospect of potential catastrophe triggered by computers failing to recognize the number of the new year?

In fact, the observations above are both right and wrong. Certainly, most people remain unclear about the millennium bug, no matter how much others may rant about it. After all, it seems like a problem for the professionals, and since it's still in the future anyway, why get wound up? But this attitude isn't necessarily linked to the relative absence of belief in millennial prophecies in the East, because the connection between the millennium and the bug is purely a product of electronic year numbering, which has nothing to do with the traditional millennial notions in the West. On the other hand, it is perhaps little known that Taiwan has already invested an enormous amount of resources and effort into combating the problem, and the overall damage projections are fairly optimistic. In industry for example, the goal is to assure that 75% of output value is unaffected. Contingency preparations have long been ready in the infrastructural areas of water, electricity, gas and transportation, while Y2K testing is either in progress or already completed in the critical air safety, finance, medicine and law enforcement sectors.

There is perhaps little that most of us can do about the greater Y2K problem, but we can still contribute. Firstly, we can take a look at our own immediate environments. At work, we should find out what plans are in place for tackling Y2K-how much progress has been made, and is management taking the problem seriously enough? At home, let's give a thought to the communities in which we live, and to our individual rights, keeping records of all financial transactions and medical treatment, and stepping up contact with neighbors and the wider community, in part so that we can collectively oversee the government's efforts, and in part to develop a spirit of common interest in case of any Y2K-related incidents that may occur. This could well be an important opportunity for us to squarely confront the negative aspects of technological development, and to build afresh the universal values of love, shared concern, and simplicity of life.

Considering the Y2K issue in a broader context, we can see that every new technology involves risk. The spread of television brought entertainment and information into everyone's homes, but also led many people to readily turn themselves into vegetables-or even "minerals"-in front of the glowing screen. Mobile phones are all the rage in Taiwan at the moment, making it easier for people to get in contact with each other but further blurring the divisions between work and personal life. Our lives become ever more varied, but also more confusing. How about the overblown reaction to the recent arrival of Viagra on the market in Taiwan, which gave the impression that men here are universally afflicted by impotence? In all of this we can see signs of the news media run riot amid an explosion of information.

When did it start, this peculiar interaction between media and the population, in which everyone seems perpetually involved in either collective mania or collective amnesia? By their nature the news media tend to seek out events and topics that create a stir, yet traditionally they never forgot that they had a bounden duty to monitor and reflect on events. In the late 1990's, however, with a slew of news stations battling for ratings, there has been a marked shift in coverage from quality towards quantity, all in the name of catering to viewer tastes. Yet many viewers have been pushed to the point of disgust by what they see. This month Sinorama takes a critical look at the world of television news, giving news professionals themselves a chance to examine the purportedly chaotic state of Taiwan's media, in the hope of generating some answers.

From the millennium bug to media fever, the common background is that our world appears ever smaller, whereas our problems seem to get ever larger. Today, thanks to the march of technology, we are busier and less satisfied than any previous generation. Is this "progress"? What kind of lives do we really want to lead? What would constitute a real disaster for mankind? These are issues we hope to consider together with our readers, as we turn to greet the next millennium.

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