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Increasing global connectivity is making the world vulnerable to catastrophic failures. Local failures can cascade into a world wide collapse. The recent economic crisis and the rapid spread of the swine flu pandemic are examples of such global vulnerability.
NECSI research was instrumental in demonstrating that this type of vulnerability exists.[1-4] Now NECSI researchers are engaged in identifying vulnerabilities and determining what can be done to prevent catastrophic failures.
A recent article by NECSI researchers shows how we can detect vulnerabilities and unstable systems.  Using pattern recognition methods modeled on the brain’s neural circuitry, the research develops a method to characterize the dynamics characteristic of collective failures. The method is applied to Internet routing data to show how cascades lead to a collective network failure, where attempts to route traffic switch ineffectively back and forth among overloaded routes. The method can be applied to a wide variety of infrastructure, social and economic systems to identify vulnerability to cascading failure.