Anti-fragile ICT Systems - first book in the series Simula Springerbriefs on Computing

Professor Kjell Jørgen Hole recently published the first book in the series on Simula Springerbriefs on Computing, and the first book to exclusively introduce anti-fragile systems.

This series is a collaboration between the publisher Springer and Simula Research Laboratory, with the aim to provide introductions to research in computing. The books are available under the open access license, which entails that they are free of charge to download as e-books. The aim is to improve the availability of introductory material to research topics that may be otherwise difficult to navigate. The series will present both state-of-the-art overviews and raise essential critical questions in the field. SpringerOpen will publish all Simula SpringerBriefs.

Professor Kjell Hole (Photo: Simula/Vegard Fimland)

Professor Hole (pictured) states the following: “I wrote the book Anti-fragile ICT Systems because information and communications technology systems of critical importance to society are too fragile to coincidental errors and malicious attacks. The tightly integrated software in current (monolithic) ICT systems causes local errors to propagate into systemic failures leading to prolonged downtimes. Furthermore, attackers funded by nation states have long deployed malicious software, or malware, to penetrate ICT systems and steal highly sensitive information. Traditional anti-malware software and intrusion detection/prevention systems have not been able to stop these attacks.”

The large inherent complexity of ICT systems makes it impossible to prevent all negative events caused by coincidental errors and malicious attacks. While highly skilled and resourceful attackers will penetrate most ICT systems sooner or later, it is possible to limit the damage they can cause. Since the large complexity makes it impossible to reliable predict and mitigate events with large negative impact, we need non-predictable techniques to build and operate future ICT systems with limited downsides.

In 2012, Nassim N. Taleb published the book Antifragility: Things That Gain from Disorder. Unlike robust systems, anti-fragile systems learn from events with negative impact how to adjust themselves and become stronger in a changing environment. An example of an anti-fragile system is the human immune system, with its ability to adapt and self-repair. My book discusses how to build and maintain anti-fragile ICT systems. These systems fail early with small, local impact to avoid extreme global behaviors with intolerable impact. Stakeholders can then learn about new vulnerabilities from small-impact incidents and introduce countermeasures to avoid future extreme behaviors.

The book applies four design principles and one operational principle to achieve anti-fragility for different classes of negative events. It discusses how systems can achieve high availability, prevent malware epidemics, and detect anomalies. Analyses of Netflix’s media streaming solution, Norwegian telecom infrastructures, e-government platforms, and Numenta’s anomaly detection software show that cloud computing is essential to achieving anti-fragility for classes of events with negative impacts.

More information about the book Anti-fragile ICT Systems is available at, or on Simula's Springerbriefs on Computing pages. 


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