"The most persuasive forecast of the 21st century I have seen." -- E.O. Wilson, author of Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge and twice winner of a Pulitzer prize "Human beings have been smart enough to turn nature to their ends, generate vast wealth for themselves, and double their average life span. But are they smart enough to solve the problems of the 21st century " -- Thomas Homer-Dixon Can we create ideas fast enough to solve the very problems -- environmental, social, and technological -- we've created Homer-Dixon pinpoints the "ingenuity gap" as the critical problem we face today, and tackles it in a riveting, groundbreaking examination of a world that is rapidly exceeding our intellectual grasp. In The Ingenuity Gap, Thomas Homer-Dixon, "global guru" (the Toronto Star), "genuine academic celebrity" (Saturday Night) and "one of Canada's most talked about and controversial scholars" (Maclean's) asks: is our world becoming too complex, too fast-paced to manage The challenges facing us -- ranging from international financial crises and global climate change to pandemics of tuberculosis and AIDS- converge, intertwine, and remain largely beyond our ken.
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August 13, 2002
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Excerpt from The Ingenuity Gap by Thomas Homer-Dixon
CAREENING INTO THE FUTURE
At 3:16 p.m. on 19 July, 1989, the jet's tail engine blew apart. Twelve thousand meters above the U.S. Midwest, shards of the engine's fan rotor cut through the rear of the aircraft, shredding its hydraulic systems. As fluid bled from hydraulic tubing, the pilots in the front of the plane lost command of the rudder, elevators, and ailerons essential to stabilizing and guiding the craft. Immediately, the plane twisted into a downward right turn. United Airlines Flight 232 from Denver to Chicago -- with 296 people aboard -- was out of control.
By itself, the failure of the tail engine was not catastrophic: the DC-10 had two other engines, one under each wing. But cockpit gauges showed a complete loss of hydraulic quantity and pressure. When the first officer tried to halt the right turn, the plane didn't respond. As the rightward bank became critical, the captain took over, pulling back on the control column and turning the wheel hard left -- but still there was no response. In a last-ditch effort to regain command, he cut power to the left engine and boosted it to the right one. The right wing slowly came up, and the plane rolled back to a horizontal position. The right turn stopped.
Yet the situation remained critical. The plane was no longer turning, but it was still losing altitude. The captain sent crew members to look out of the windows in the passenger cabin. They saw that the inboard ailerons were slightly up, the spoilers were locked down, and the horizontal stabilizers were damaged. None of the main flight-control surfaces were moving. And it appeared that the airframe might have suffered structural damage severe enough to cause it to break apart in flight.
Back in the cockpit, the captain and first officer worked the flight controls feverishly -- they still believed they could change the plane's trajectory. But their efforts produced no obvious effect. The captain also manipulated the thrust of the two remaining engines, sometimes giving extra power to the left engine, sometimes to the right engine. This action did have a noticeable effect. It helped keep the plane level and countered its tendency to turn right. But changes in engine thrust gave the captain only minimal control. In fact, from the perspective of the passengers, the plane was moving in three dimensions simultaneously: it was rolling from side to side and pitching up and down, as if riding long waves across the sky.