Over the past years, we have seen smart people at Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, NASA and the C.I.A. make similarly catastrophic risk assessments. As Gladwell wrote in that 1996 essay, “We have constructed a world in which the potential for high-tech catastrophe is embedded in the fabric of day-to-day life.”
So it seems important, in the months ahead, to not only focus on mechanical ways to make drilling safer, but also more broadly on helping people deal with potentially catastrophic complexity. There must be ways to improve the choice architecture — to help people guard against risk creep, false security, groupthink, the good-news bias and all the rest.
This isn’t just about oil. It’s a challenge for people living in an imponderably complex technical society.
Monday, May 31, 2010
David Brooks on Catastrophic Complexity and the Oil Spill
David Brooks has a very good columnin the NYTIMES on the BP oil disaster titled, Drilling for Certainty.