“Disaster Prediction…Is A Growth Industry”

Nathaniel Rich has a post on the New Yorker blog about the field of disaster forecasting, which can be approached from many disciplines. (Even Cliodynamics, which focuses on mapping dynamics that are historical, can help us divine the future.). Of course, knowing doom is approaching isn’t the same thing as preventing it. From the post:

“The Philippines could have been better prepared, but the best preparation is no match for two-hundred-mile-per-hour winds.

Nevertheless, our knowledge of how disasters occur, and how they will occur in the future, has never been more sophisticated. We are now able to prophesy impending cataclysms with a specificity that would have been inconceivable just several years ago. Several factors have contributed to this progress: a growing public anxiety about disasters; advances in disciplines as disparate as computer science, fluid mechanics, and neuroscience; and an infusion of funding from governments, universities, and especially corporations, which have figured out that disaster planning saves money in the long run. But the field remains in its infancy. Disaster prediction—like disaster science, disaster economics, disaster-response technology, disaster art, disaster cinema, disaster lit—is a growth industry. All indications suggest a growth curve that will continue to steepen well into the next century. Disaster is big business, and its prophets will profit.

Milestones in the past year include the March publication, by a team of U.C.L.A. scientists, of a new computer model that predicts where the next global pandemic will originate.”