Two disasters in Europe are the latest examples of the decline of infrastructure—as an idea as much as a physical thing.

.... age and decay aren’t the only causes of infrastructural collapse. A portion of Interstate 85 in Atlanta collapsed in 2017 after a fire lit underneath it by a homeless man raged into an inferno. And earlier this year, a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami collapsed, killing six people. The bridge was brand new, making its collapse a failure of engineering, not of maintenance.

It’s not just bridges and roads breaking. Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that Facebook is a kind of social infrastructure, but it feels broken now, too. This week, at the Defcon computer-security conference, hackers demonstrated how to gain back-door access to voting machines used in 18 states. There’s evidence that Russia has hacked the U.S. power grid, along with nuclear and commercial infrastructure, too. 


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The same feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability that now accompany employment, education, health care, and so many other aspects of contemporary life have seeped into the foundational structures in which that life operates. That condition is not necessarily an undesirable one either, for those who might benefit from precariousness as a means of social control. It’s funny to laugh about the ongoing, unrealized promise of President Donald Trump’s “infrastructure week,” even while an estimated $123 billion backlog mounts for U.S. bridge repairs alone. But withholding solutions to infrastructural precariousness produces confusion and fear, which agitate bitterness, blame, and, sometimes, zealotry. In the case of the Miami pedestrian bridge, some focused scorn on an all-woman engineering team employed by the Cuban-American–owned contractor responsible for construction. In Flint, Michigan, a public official blamed black people who “don’t pay their bills” for the city’s ongoing water crisis.