How Infrastructure Works

How Infrastructure Works

Transforming our shared systems for a changing world


'Pulsing with wisdom and humanity, How Infrastructure Works is a masterpiece' Ed Yong

'You won't see the world the same after reading this book!' Austin Kleon

Every day, we are granted the power to travel at high speeds, fly, see in the dark, summon water from distant mountains and electricity from the sun. The systems that run our world are invisible to us until they fail.

Infrastructure enables lives of astounding ease and freedom that would have been unimaginable just a century ago. These technological systems - the most complex and vast ever created by humans - have allowed us to work collectively for the public good. But these systems are now beginning to fail us.

Engineering professor Deb Chachra takes readers on a fascinating tour of these essential utilities, revealing how they work, what it takes to keep them running, and just how much they shape our lives - but also the price they extract, who pays it and in what ways, as well as the threats to our infrastructure in a changing world.

From Snowdonia's Electric Mountain to a solar plant in southern India, Chachra shows how we can rebuild our shared infrastructure to be not just functional but also equitable, resilient, and sustainable. We need to learn how to see these systems and to transform them, together, because the cost of not being able to rely on them is unthinkably high.


  • The urgent problems of the modern era have instilled in so many of us a deep craving to more clearly see the systems that define our lives, to better understand when and why they fail, and to regain agency over a world that can seem too complex to understand much less affect. Fortunately, Deb Chachra has written exactly the book we needed. Revelatory, superbly written, and pulsing with wisdom and humanity, How Infrastructure Works is a masterpiece.
    Ed Yong, author of An Immense World and I Contain Multitudes

About the author

Deb Chachra

Deb Chachra is a professor at Olin College of Engineering, outside Boston, Massachusetts, and has a technical background in engineering physics, materials science, and bioengineering. She also creates and communicates widely at the intersection of technology and society, including pieces for The Atlantic, the Guardian, and the journal Nature, as well as her own newsletter, Metafoundry. Her research and ideas have been supported by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Autodesk, and the National Science Foundation (US), among others. Prior to joining the faculty of Olin College, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, and earned her PhD from the University of Toronto.
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