Scarlett Johansson sketch
Image by rymix via Flickr

I think one big thing that is different here is that in most of those systems the snowball effect is less than in the financial system. But I have to say that I feel for the sentiment and hope that the small individual actions of each company/individual/Government end up to be enough to fix things!

But then it didn’t happen. January 1st 2000 went by, and pretty much nothing happened. While some people then pronounced that the whole Y2K thing had been a fraud, the truth was much more interesting and important. It hadn’t been a fraud; there had been real and consequential risks in important and complex systems. If those problems hadn’t have been addressed, many of the consequences imagined by the apocalypticists might well have happened. We could, in the limit, have been facing real breakdowns in societal fabric.

So, why didn’t the worst happen? In part what happened is this: People acted. While they were late, slow, stupid, and error-prone, they did what people do when a big enough alarm bell is rung loudly and long enough: They tried to figure out what they could do in the time they had to reduce their risk, and they did those things. They didn’t think other people would get there, but they knew they would.

Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed.

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