economics | October 30, 2019

How Technical Debt Threatens a Nation: Annie Lowrey Explores the Crippling Problem in America’s Infrastructure

Climate disasters, like the California fires currently displacing hundreds of thousands of people, are revealing an insidious problem of toxic debt embedded into the framework of our communities. Annie Lowrey explores the high cost of maintaining the status quo in her new article for The Atlantic.

“For decades, corporate executives, as well as city, county, state, and federal officials, not to mention voters, have decided against doing the routine maintenance and deeper upgrades to ensure that electrical systems, roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure can function properly under a range of conditions,” writes The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey. The proverbial “kicking the can down the road” may appear advantageous, either financially or politically or both, but the reality is, as Lowrey points out, we’re only borrowing against our future. The California fires, potentially caused by a lack of maintenance on the part of The Pacific Gas and Electric company, are but one example.

In software circles, developers call this path—the easy way out of coding problems—a form of technical debt. “Like other kinds of debt, this debt compounds if you don’t deal with it, and it can distort the true cost of decisions. If you ignore it, the status quo looks cheaper than it is. At least until the off-the-books debt comes to light.” Now, climate change is calling attention to the long-term costs we’ll have to pay—a hefty price for taking the easy way out.


Read the full article here.


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