Thursday, December 9, 2010

Boeing 787 Dreamliner difficulties are emblematic of our modern world

Last month, Air Transport World reported:

Boeing said a power panel in 787 flight test aircraft ZA002's aft electronics bay suffered a "failure" during a Nov. 9 flight, leading "to a fire involving an insulation blanket" that caused main cabin smoke necessitating an emergency landing that has brought the Dreamliner flight test program to an indefinite halt.

Today NPR in a follow up story noted that solving the plane's problems is complicated by the fact that all systems are so interconnected and t=integrated that it's almost impossible to fix just one glinch in isolation from the whole massive system that is the plane itself.

This observation echoes the thesis of Ted G. Lewis in this new book, BAK'S SAND PILE (due out from the Naval Postgraduate School, where he's on the faculty, soon). In a draft manuscript Professor Lewis says, "Our natural inclination is to optimize and improve efficiency in every possible modern system. In fact this benefits society by delivering goods and services to large populations at the lowest prices. It spurs development and efficient use of resources, but it also increases (what Lewis calls "self-organized criticality"). By doing the 'right thing,' we set ourselves up for the 'big thing.' The longer we postpone the inevitable collapse." (p.31)

This, he explains, is why our modern society if so vulnerable to terrorists. Our highly integrated telephone, power, and computer systems, for instance, make a catastrophic attack more feasible for terrorists... just as the highly integrated nature of the Dreamliner may make it more vulnerable to a fatal crash.

By contrast, terrorists are learning to use the concept of Leaderless Resistance... are reverting to low tech methods of communication... are becoming ever more decentralized. That's also why Wikileaks is proving to be so resilient in the absence of Julian Assange.

Here's more from Ted Lewis:

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