There’s a mathematical form to systems too big to succeed:
Three years ago, Stanley and his colleagues discovered the mathematics behind what he calls “the extreme fragility of interdependency.” In a system of interconnected networks like the economy, city infrastructure or the human body, their model indicates that a small outage in one network can cascade through the entire system, touching off a sudden, catastrophic failure.
First reported in 2010 in the journal Nature, the finding spawned more than 200 related studies, including analyses of the nationwide blackout in Italy in 2003, the global food-price crisis of 2007 and 2008, and the “flash crash” of the United States stock market on May 6, 2010.
“In isolated networks, a little damage will only lead to a little more,” said Shlomo Havlin, a physicist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel who co-authored the 2010 paper. “Now we know that because of dependency between networks, you can have an abrupt collapse.”