Safely managing the emergent properties of complex systems
Complex systems are composed of multiple elements that interact with each other. These interactions can produce emergent properties that cannot be attributed to any single element and may not have been expected by the system’s designers.
This complexity is not determined by the size of the system or the number of system elements and interactions but is instead determined by the nature of these interactions and their relationships with other systems and the environment. These factors make complex systems difficult to understand and their behaviour difficult to predict.
To develop a system that is safe, a sufficient understanding of its properties is needed. For a complex system, this must include emergent properties, without which understanding is not complete and confidence in its safety cannot be claimed.
This flyer has been created to help managers and engineers understand complexity and emergent properties to guide systems more clearly and safely through their life cycles. In doing so, there is greater potential to develop safe products that are fit for purpose, produced efficiently, and supported effectively.