Slowly, then all at once

How complex systems fail: slowly, then all at once.


All complex sytems are full of non-linear feedback loops. In a healthy complex system, these will have balancing feedback loops, holding each other in dynamic equilibrium. Given a small purturbence, these systems tend to fall back toward equilibrium, but a complex system is only ever metastable. If the purturbation is too intense, the feedback loops that make it up will fly apart, resulting in a sudden failure.


Pace layers: different systems seem to boom and bust on different timelines. Failures at lower layers tend to create catastrophic discontinuities for those above.