Victus Spiritus


The Hydra has many heads, Cheap Disposable Resilience

29 Dec 2009

Systematic Solutions that Crack Under Pressure

It's usually not the fault of the designer. Abnormal circumstances can rapidly cause a functioning system design to fail.

At first we construct solutions that are simple and secure enough to thrive in ordinary conditions (benign weather, light traffic, etc). But over time security demands that systems should survive an endlessly growing number of hypothetical, extraordinary conditions while gracefully degrading in performance. Those types of designs and constructions are heavily specialized, and far from cheap.

Engineers of both hardware and software are faced with a pretty ridiculous task. Designing systems that are near invincible to a diverse set of unknown threats. It's a fools errand. By definition, non-adaptive systems will only be able to function under limited specific toxic environmental elements until they fail.

Cost Driven Solutions

The solution is to drive the system design in a direction that is cost driven. If the cost per unit in a massive system is made cheap enough, even high failure rates due to expensive to endure problems are manageable. Each unit in a network should be simple and durable to local conditions. The ubiquitous nature of network power should be leveraged. Instead of a single hyper expensive system the solution is to rely on millions of cheap "dumb" units.

There are exceptions and other design limitations but consider the following choices as examples.

The trend towards system designs with many units, simple, independent, & cheap (MUSIC) is just one cost driven solution to solve the creeping and unknown failure problem.

In the future we may leverage massive network solutions to build grandiose structures. Imagine a huge bridge that forms from many miniscule independent bots. Just a spin on the draw bridge :).