The Roads to Resilience

We hear a lot about the need for sustainable systems and the benefits of sustainability, but not as much on how to make systems sustainable. By ‘sustainable’ here I simply mean ‘enduring for a long time’ or resilient.

Here is a list of all the possible ways I have thought of. I am trying to make this list exhaustive, so please let me know if you can think of others that I have left out.


1. resist damage well

In the X-men series, there is a character named ‘Wolverine’ whose skeleton is made from adamantium, a fictitious material that cannot be destroyed. The elves of the Lord of the Rings has a similar material called mithril. The closest we get in the real world are diamonds, but even they can be split with a chisel or, over the scale of millions of years, devolve back into carbon dust.


2. actively stop opponents

The Death Star has lasers all over it and fighter craft that can deploy to zap away anyone who would try to fire a proton torpedo down into the thermal exhaust port. As long as the defenses work perfectly every time, the station will remain the ultimate power in the universe.

3. encourage/force others to defend you

In Europe and Asia there are some wooden churches and temples that have been around for hundreds of years. Any individual beam hasn’t been there that long, though. The buildings are so rare and elaborately built that people take great care of them, repair any damage and treat them cautiously in order to avoid damage. Babies use a similar strategy.


4. heal quickly and completely

Wolverine does this. So does the T-1000 from Terminator 2. So do vampires. It’s simple in principle: Each evening/instant, repair the damage that occurred the previous day/instant. You’ll wake up each morning looking exactly as you did the day before. Forever.


5. build in redundancies

It’s sort of strange that people have two eyes, two ears, ten fingers and ten toes, but only one heart, one liver and one brain. Personally, I’d rather have one ear, one eye, four hearts, two livers and an extra brain. Even my computer has an external hard drive, just in case. ATMs work this way too. So does the Internet.

6. adapt quickly to changing circumstances

When the road changes from bare asphalt to flat ice, it would be nice if the car could simply change its tires from regular rubber to studded, and then back again when the ice has passed.

I am not saying that all of these techniques are equally desirable or easy to implement. But if you want your body / business / environment / Imperial battle station to last as long as possible, you will need to master at least one.

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