Reliability Theory

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Robin Hanson demonstrates a concept from reliability theory with a figure of a platform supported by three columns — in various states of disrepair:

The top diagram shows the system built exactly according to its design. Every such system should give pretty much the same pattern of support. The second diagram shows the columns having fallen over, but still intact. Different ways the columns could have fallen should lead to very different patterns of support for the platform. The third and fourth diagrams shows the columns breaking into increasingly smaller pieces. The smaller the pieces of rubble, the more predictably even is the support this rubble gives the platform. The support capability is less, as the platform is lower to the ground and more disruptable via shaking. But that lower capability is still more predictable.

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