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Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet by William H. Davidow

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FOUR

Expect More Accidents and Contagions

While studying complex systems, I thought back on Eugene Wigner’s work, which suggested to me that big and complicated economic and social systems were vulnerable to big doses of positive feedback and unpredictability. When I mentioned this idea to a friend, he pointed me to a book written by Charles Perrow titled Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. The title seemed strange, because, like most people, I thought of accidents as being anything but normal. I considered them outliers, something we try to plan for and do our best to avoid.

Perrow, a renowned organizational theorist at Yale, claimed that in highly complex and tightly connected systems, accidents are a normal occurrence, ...

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