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Density Giveth and Taketh Away

In a prescient article for the events of this week, John Seo looks at how the global march towards increased density (in technology, land use, and financial markets) has consequences, both beneficial and catastrophic.

"Learning to live with the risks of density requires recognizing that density is here to stay -- and that's a good thing," proclaims Seo. But the risks of disaster that can afflict the world's many types of dense networks - whether global financial markets, information technology networks, or coastal cities - are profound and must be managed proactively. 

For instance, says Seo, "[c]ramming more than half the world's population and production onto a relatively small area of mostly coastal land means that the cost of natural catastrophes of all kinds will rise dramatically. This year's earthquake in Japan, which caused more than $300 billion in economic damage, was just a preview; a decade and a half from now, a single hurricane or earthquake will come with a potential price tag of $1 trillion or more."

"Recognizing the importance of the density dynamic is essential not only to harnessing its benefits but also to managing its costs -- and they can be managed. Technology made megacities possible, while at the same time making catastrophic citywide fires a thing of the past. Now that we are building megacities of financial risk, we need to put the equivalent of new building practices and fire codes in place to keep an ill-timed and poorly placed financial fire from burning down a third of the metropolis."

Full Story: Everything Will Be Too Big to Fail

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