Graceful Collapse – Part 3 : Dynamic Reconfigurability and Resilience in Complex Systems

By Douglas Owen FSI

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series I have looked at the potential contribution of traditional ‘predict and withstand’ defences in technical systems to resilient performance, even in the face of pernicious common mode failures. If you haven’t stumbled across these defences yet, they are:

·        Redundancy – having more than one system that can perform the same function

·        Segregation – splitting a system up

·        Diversity – having more than one system that performs the same function, but are different from one another

·        Resistance – the inherent capacity of a system to withstand whatever is thrown at it

Now in Part 3, I look at what happens when we design in the ability to dynamically reconfigure a system on the fly using the principles behind traditional defences. I call this deep plasticity. The figure below gives you a sneak peak as to what it could mean for a system to be able to add more or less of each defence when it’s needed.

Figure 1. Reconfiguration of traditional defences in systems for resilient performance

There are no silver bullets here. Greater system complexity is always on the cards as a result. With this in mind, I highlight a couple of important human factors implications of having reconfigurable systems on users, namely competence requirements and situation awareness.

 You can access the full paper here:

Jan 2017 Graceful Collapse - Part 3 - Reconfigurable Systems
Jan 2017 Graceful Collapse - Part 3 - Reconfigurable Systems
Jan-2017-Graceful-Collapse-Part-3-Reconfigurable-Systems.pdf
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