Borrowing heavily from Charles Perrow’s work, Kazys Varnelis gives a great discussion of how complexity makes an optimized system, almost by definition, a brittle one. An excellent case for how city design - whether physical infrastructure or governance mechanisms - should focus more on resilience and robustness, rather than “smartness” and efficiency.

Another great example of the “normal accidents” hypothesis recently surfaced with the successful transcription of the cockpit recorder from the Air France flight that crashed into the Pacific a few years ago. As with Varnelis’s automobile-based examples, the failure of Air France 447 began with a sensor failure, which propagated across several sub-systems, and eventually led to operator error and the death of all on board.  Read the transcripts, it’s absolutely riveting stuff.

  1. panopticonopolis posted this
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