How Complex Systems Fail

This is a simple little article that’s worth reading. I don’t agree with every point made but all 18 are interesting and every one of them leads to some introspection on how it compares with the situations I have come across over the years. It’s nice and concise with unusually good reading time to value ratio.

How Complex Systems Fail

Thanks for Rodolfo Velasco for pointing this article out. Somewhat related, some time back I wrote up some of what I’ve come across over the years on how to avoid systems failing:

Designing and Deploying Internet Scale Systems

6 comments on “How Complex Systems Fail
  1. Yury says:

    I enjoyed watching Dr. Cook presentation/keynote on YT (Velocity conference). From there I learned about Jens Rasmussen “boundary of acceptable performance” model (available here: https://backend.orbit.dtu.dk/ws/portalfiles/portal/158016663/SAFESCI.PDF )

    • Thanks Yury. The authors core point appears to be that fault understanding and modeling is best done by a cross functional team which seems reasonable and not particularly controversial.

  2. Paul says:

    interesting read. Thanks for sharing James. I felt like one of the major points being communicated is that success is mostly as a result of experience and positive recalibration.

    • It’s true that few lessons have been learned without a cost. That’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in learning about systems failures of all types from all domains. Sometime we can learn from someone else’s mistakes so systems can get better without having to experience all failures directly.

  3. Andrew Cencini says:

    thanks, James – will share this with my Failure class. hope you are staying well and healthy.

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