I have no advice to give on our current situation, but rather will offer some examples to help you understand and question what is being discussed.
----The Fall of the Soviet Union and Highly Enriched Uranium "Waste"----
Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, a newly independent republic discovered it was in possession of a large quantity of Highly Enriched Uranium (possibly up to weapons grade). Why was this "discovered" rather than "known"? It was at a processing plant that had improved its efficiency over the years, so it was producing more HEU than its quota. But the managers didn't want to commit to those higher production levels to avoid punishment if there was a decline. Because the managers didn't have control over who their suppliers were, they couldn't reduce the amount being sent them. Similarly, they didn't control the shipping to the next plant -- they wouldn't know whether the shippers or the recipient could handle any extra, and not report them. What to do, oh what to do? Brilliant idea: Label it as "waste", and store it among the legitimate nuclear waste generated during the processing. Simply Kicking the can down the road -- postponing the reckoning.
That reckoning came with the break-up of the Soviet Union. There was no longer an internal need for HEU, and properly guarding it was more than that republic could afford. However, unlike many businesses in the former Soviet Union that failed because they didn't know their suppliers and/or customers, the republic easily found a motivated and deep-pocketed customer for its HEU: the US government. It was buying nuclear stockpiles and weapons to keep them from falling into the hands of rogue states or terrorists.
----How many nuclear bombs would be needed ...----
The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) between the US and USSR reduced strategic nuclear weapons by 80%. An important part of the discussion was the question of how many nuclear bombs were needed by each country to ensure deterrence, and, in case that failed, that the other would be utterly crippled. That was simplified to asking how many bombs were needed to hit the crucial targets. The surprising answer was only 10 to 20.
The crucial targets were the oil refineries and associated facilities, including ports and pipeline hubs. There wouldn't be enough stored and alternate energy to mine, refine, fabricate parts, and rebuild the facilities. And while this was being done, you still needed to support the existing population. The assessment was that long before any significant oil refining resumed, the populations of the cities would need to disperse into rural areas to be close to food and work to produce it.
If you could manage to get the parts needed to rebuild, you would need to find and re-assemble the teams of designers, construction workers, ... from among those who had survived and the many places they had scattered to. Supporting the workers at the reconstruction sites also involved supporting those who supported them, ... With the population dispersed, the surviving facilities, equipment, and materials in the (abandoned) cities would deteriorate, imposing additional costs to returning. There was a lot of additional detail -- which I don't remember -- but you get the idea.
In February 2011, President Obama asked Apple's Steve Jobs what it would take to have the iPhone manufacturing jobs brought back to the US and Jobs replied "Those jobs aren't coming back." Much discussed was a resulting article "Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class" by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher in The New York Times, ^2012-12-21^ (updates: ^2017-04-05^, ^2019-11-01^, ^archive.today^). Apple's marketing strategy to be a luxury brand resulted in an ecosystem that was somewhat larger and more tightly integrated.
However, the article does give a sense of why such ecosystems are important and how large they can be. For example, the automobile industry was centered in Detroit but extended to distant cities because part suppliers there could use the railroads to provide overnight, 2-day ... delivery of many tons of parts to the assembly plants.
Many companies underestimate the skills of their workforce and the effort and time involved acquiring them because so much of it is comes through on-the-job training by fellow employees, experience, and repetitions.
In World War I, many critical workers enlisted and only months later did the British government realize the impact on war production, and recall some of those workers from the front, if they were still alive. For example, Britain had very good quality coal that facilitated its industrialization and powered most of its fleet. But with so many miners in the army, coal production suffered so much that an energy crisis developed. A more obscure example: It was not recognized that the skills needed by a machinist to produce a timing fuse for an artillery shell took about 3 years experience. Many of the replacements in the factories had no prior experience and there were too few experienced machinists left to train and mentor them. In the 1916 ^Battle of the Somme^, it is estimated that 30% of the British shells were duds (did not explode).
My father worked for a glass-manufacturing company, and handling tasks such as scheduling batches and furnaces. Shortly before he retired, the company realized that many of their furnace workers were about to retire -- they were the WW2 generation -- and that much of knowledge about the tweaks for the idiosyncrasies of the raw materials and the furnaces existed only in the heads of those workers. My father got reassigned to observe and question the workers about what they were doing, and document it. This is more difficult than you might expect -- the early time-and-motion studies found that what skilled workers described themselves as doing was often very different from what was observed.
When a business is interrupted, employees may move away or commit to another employer. The business may fail to restart because there isn't enough time/money to skill-up new employees and re-establish a company culture and teamwork.
----Invisible dependency changes / Invisible weak links in a chain----
In the 200x's, I was involved in the Emergency Preparedness activity of Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN). One of the cautionary examples was of unstated assumptions being built into the plan, and thus not likely to be tested in the typical exercise. Back when the plan was created, there was a lag time between ordering medications and supplies and them being delivered, so hospitals maintained a cache sufficient to handle high demand and shipping delays. The County Health Department also maintained a cache of important supplies in case any hospital ran short. Well, budget cuts came, and County Health decided that they could drop their cache because the hospitals could back up each other. And because deliveries had become fast and reliable, the hospitals reduced the size of their cache. And neither thought to inform the other that they were doing this. Fortunately, the lack of a proper cache was revealed by a situation where it was only inconvenient, and not disastrous.
Many computer software developers and administrators have their own stories in this area, me included.(foot#2)
----An earlier failure of centralized systems failing under stress----
Much earlier: 1200-1150 BC. The ^Late Bronze Age Collapse^ of the Eastern Mediterranean. One day there is prosperity -- at least for the elites -- benefiting from extensive trading, and general stability provided by large, centralized, bureaucratic governments. The next day, the palace is sacked, the government disappears, and the population heads for the hills, creating small villages in defensible, obscure locations. In only a few centuries, recovery starts to become visible. Or at least, that's the story.
1. "^What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage^" - Will Oremus, Marker.medium, 2020-04-02. "It isn't really about hoarding. And there isn’t an easy fix."
2. Invisible dependencies in software: Personal example:
In the late-1980s and early 1990s, I managed a computer network for a department of a company that was plagued by power interruptions. I tested that the internal network could continue operating if it was cut off from the Internet, and that if the main server didn't come back up, the backup server would support the clients (desktop workstations). That is, until an "improvement" was made to the OS that was thought to be so inconsequential that it wasn't mentioned in the Release Notes. When the backup server came back up, it first checked with the main server to confirm that its data was up-to-date. And if the main server didn't answer? I would wait until it did. And wait, and wait. And the main server did something similar, freezing up until it could get confirmation from the external networks.
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.
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