Conceptualizing Antifragility of Dense Urban Areas

Authors: Allan Shearer*, The University of Texas at Austin, David J Kilcullen, Cordillera Applications Group
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Military Geography
Keywords: Dense Urban Areas, Fragility, Antifragility, Resilience
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


N.N. Taleb coined the term "antifragile" to characterize things that gain from disorder and disturbance. While originally based on an understanding of financial markets, his notion has been extended to other domains of knowledge and professional practice. This paper reviews positions on antifragility across disciplines and provides an approach to conceptualize and test for antifragility in dense urban areas. This work is motivated by the role of large cities in current and future national and international security, economic and environmental issues. With regard to urban planning, the paper expands normative pursuits of sustainability and resilience by providing a framework to consider the development of abilities to manage presently unknown sources of stress. With regard to security studies, it provides an approach to qualify the effects of internal dynamics of cities that exist on the edge of failure. It suggests that order in city-systems emerges through combinations of political-security-infrastructure sub-systems and/or social-economic-information sub-systems. Configurations of order enable urban societies to meet needs and, critically, manage “disturbances”—perturbations in the flow or functioning of urban systems. Disturbances are graded by intensity and the extent of their effects. Exposure to increasing or new types of disturbance prompts responses that can improve urban ordering systems. Marginal gains (becoming more antifragile) or losses (becoming more fragile) may emerge through re-allocation or re-distribution of resources. Transformative improvement or deterioration may come though fundamental re-ordering of systems. Issues for experimental validation will be presented.

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