Solving today’s thorniest social and technical problems- Prof Nancy Leveson, Aeronautics and Astronautics Dept, MIT, USA
We are trying to solve problems today using a relatively simple causality model that is at least 200 years old. The traditional approach to dealing with complexity is to decompose a system into parts, analyse the parts separately, and then put the results together. But because today’s systems have thousands and sometimes millions of critical parts, we end up oversimplifying the problems we are trying to solve. Traditional decomposition (‘divide and conquer’) no longer works well because the complexity in the interactions among system components today swamps the complexity of the individual components.
New properties not seen in the individual components ‘emerge’ when the system components interact. We need to move from trying to ‘prevent component failures’ to instead ‘enforcing constraints’ on behaviour of the system as a whole.
Although these ‘system thinking’ ideas arose after WW II, they have not yet had the impact they should have. In this presentation, I’ll describe a new, much more powerful model of causality based on system theory and illustrate, using real examples, how it can help us to better understand and solve some of today’s thorniest social and technical problems.
Dr Nancy Leveson is a professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. She has spent 35 years working to make the world safer in such fields as transportation, healthcare, petrochemicals, nuclear power, aerospace, etc. One common element throughout all her work is an emphasis on applying systems thinking to complex systems and incorporating humans and social systems with engineering considerations. She consults extensively in many industries on the ways to prevent accidents and has served on numerous national and international committees and accident investigations including being an expert consultant for the Columbia Space Shuttle Accident Investigation Board, the Presidential Commission on Deepwater Horizon, the Baker Panel on the Texas City oil refinery explosion, and others. Her latest book, Engineering a Safer World, describes a paradigm changing approach to preventing unacceptable losses.
Date: 12th June 2019
Time: 7.30am - 9am
Venue: The Northern Club, 19 Princes St, Auckland, 1010
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