About the book
As the world becomes ever more complex, connected and automated, the challenge of designing and operating critical systems increases exponentially. The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that many critical systems – from healthcare to just-in-time supply chains to societal lockdown compliance – are remarkably fragile. If we are to learn anything from the pandemic it is that our critical systems need to become a lot more resilient. The ability of complex critical systems to survive unpredicted stresses and perturbations is one thing, but when solutions are responsible for the wellbeing of potentially millions of people, what is really needed, and this book proposes, are systems that are antifragile. That is, the more they are stressed the stronger they become.
Antifragility is a property found in many natural systems, but almost never in today’s human-engineered systems. Achieving antifragility demands new and better ways of specifying, designing and operating the world’s critical systems. More specifically, it demands the management and resolution of three overarching contradictions:
1) The divergence between system complexity of operating environments and the design capability of those tasked with creating such systems
2) The divergence between the levels of reliability required (twelve-9’s are not uncommon requirements) and the ability to identify or test failure modes that are increasingly unknown and unknowable
3) The divergence between the vulnerability of critical systems and the amount of damage that an individual ‘bad actor’ is able to inflict.
The book examines pioneering work to address these challenges and to ensure the timely arrival of antifragile critical systems into a world that currently sees humanity at the edge of a precipice.