Anti-fragile Strategy

Following are the usual operational strategies against fragility of engineered systems:

a) Breakdown Strategy:

With this strategy we are basically reacting to surface events as and when they occur. It is a sort of knee jerk response after a failure happens.

For instance, as a reaction to the brutal killing of school children in Peshawar, the Pakistan government reacts by lifting the blanket ban on pronouncing death sentences as a form of punishment. Does it make the system anti-fragile? (Fragility as defined by Taleb)

Similarly if a manufacturing organization only reacts when things stop functioning in an attempt to fix those, would it be an anti-fragile strategy?

Likewise, in our personal lives, if we go on reacting to events as and when those crop up would such manner of response make us ant-fragile?

Needless to say that lot of cost and resources are involved in following such a strategy. It also needs centralised control to run such a strategy.

b) Preventive Strategy

Such a strategy aims at preventing failures from happening. The line of thinking is — if we take care about certain conditions failures should not happen at all. Though logical, it doesn’t work quite well in real life since more than 68% of all failures are random in nature.

It means we are never quite sure when things would break down or what exactly would go wrong. In other words it means that failures would keep happening irrespective of our efforts to prevent those.

So is this strategy anti-fragile?

c) Condition Based Strategy:

It is an obvious improvement over the earlier strategy in the sense that we only respond according to the condition of a system before failures actually surface. Condition of a system is assessed in advance through predictive methods and techniques. The idea is to catch the problems at their incipient stage before these grow into full blown  destructive problems.

It helps in planning effective responses in time to prevent failures from happening. Such planning ensures stoppage of a system for the minimum possible time. It also brings down costs and efforts.

However, it is evident that it can’t increase the effective productive life of a system beyond a certain limit. The randomness remains more or less the same. The degree of randomness determines the fragility of a system. Higher the randomness; higher is the fragility.

Though this is an effective anti-fragile strategy it seldom helps to transform an otherwise fragile system into a robust system.

d) Design Out for Reliability Strategy

Gaining inspiration and insights from an ongoing Condition Based Strategy we are better equipped to apply our intelligence and imagination to understand the inherent imperfections of a fragile system.

Armed with such understanding, we may now develop the intention to implement design improvements, usually simple and minimal, to transform fragile systems into robust ones thereby improving the overall reliability of an engineered system aimed at improving availability of productive resources.

Hence this strategy may also be termed as Availability Centered Strategy to enhance performance of productive resources.

Can such a strategy be called anti-fragile?


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