Complex Systems - Sudden Consequences
So many people try to "get away with" small infractions, small breaking of the rules, and slacking off on safety. Most times, they manage to not have major ramifications. However, micro failures and micro slacking sometimes lead to rare and deadly macro failures. This is a normal part of complex systems: a rare, sudden chaotic change to the system with major consequences. As humans, we push the limits - not having consequences most of the time, but sometimes, we have major consequences.
Complex systems can be described as noisy chaotic systems. City traffic is often such. When we break the rules in small ways, often those rule breaks are hidden in the noise of the system, just like how most people speeding get away with it. Sometimes, a group or family will go for generations breaking the rules without having consequences. But there are always the times when we don't get away with breaking the rules. Sometimes, breaking a rule results in major consequences.
These failures are rarely failures of a major component. In most cases, we experience a "cascade of failures" where many small failures add up to a major failure.
The Texas power failure is a prime example of many small failures suddenly adding up to a major catastrophe. Pipes freezing in one spot normally doesn't affect the whole state. But when the pipes are the natural gas supply to the electric generating plant, the freeze shuts down power. Shutting down that power shut down pumps supplying gas to other power plants. Failure cascaded upon other failures.
A few years back, a business owner was speeding down the road as he usually did. It was a Sunday morning without much traffic to get in the way. But, suddenly, there was a car in the way. The resulting crash cost him his life and the lives of several people in the car.
In computer systems, we operate as if they will always work. They don't. On large scale, they are always failing. Large data centers are constantly replacing equipment that broke. Those who do not back up their home and office computers are surprised by the failure (or ransom attack) and lose data and precious memories.
The more complex the system, the more the small failures occur. In computer systems, we have a number of techniques to minimize failures, but these techniques do not complete eliminate failures. We try to balance the risk of those failures against the cost of identifying and fixing failures. For example, we know that space radiation comes down and in some very rare cases, changes data in a computer memory. Because it is so rare, we don't worry about it in consumer computers. In data center servers, many have error detection and correction circuits on the memory to catch these and other memory failures. But the error detection circuits can fail also. Everything can fail.
Complex or chaotic systems are known for these sudden changes in the system and sudden consequences.