Complexity Economics Society

Ryanair, a Fragile Complex Giant.

FILE PHOTO:A Ryanair plane prepares to land at Manchester Airport in Manchester

The laws of systemantics are said to be pseudo-science. Fair enough. A few of these laws are listed below. They apply to highly complex systems. Think of these laws and then think of the EU, the Euro or, most recently, Ryanair.


  • Le Chatelier’s Principle: Complex systems tend to oppose their own proper function. As systems grow in complexity, they tend to oppose their stated function.
  • A complex system cannot be “made” to work. It either works or it doesn’t.
  • A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.
  • A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.
  • The Functional Indeterminacy Theorem (F.I.T.): In complex systems, malfunction and even total non-function may not be detectable for long periods, if ever.
  • The Fundamental Failure-Mode Theorem (F.F.T.): Complex systems usually operate in failure mode.
  • A complex system can fail in an infinite number of ways. One is pilot shortage.
  • The larger the system, the greater the probability of unexpected failure.
  • As systems grow in size, they tend to lose basic functions.
  • Colossal systems foster colossal errors.
Ryanair has cancelled thousands of flights because of pilot shortage. So much for planning, risk management, huge IT investments, Big Data, etc., etc. It is the infantile linear and flat thinking that induces many people to imagine that Big Data, AI and other old technologies will miraculously solve problems inherent to high and uncontrolled growth of complexity, the greatest impediment of sustainable development.

Excessive complexity makes things fragile. Recall the Principle of Fragility:
Complexity X Uncertainty = Fragility
What this means is that a highly complex, or excessively articulated business, will experience high fragility (low resilience) in an uncertain/turbulent economy. Sounds familiar?
Dear Ryanair, instead of using old and outdated technology to manage your business, reach out for something a bit more modern, a bit more cutting edge: Quantitative Complexity Management. Oh, and remember, Too Big To Fail no longer works. Today it is Too Complex to Survive.

Established originally in 2005 in the USA, Ontonix is a technology company headquartered in Como, Italy. The unusual technology and solutions developed by Ontonix focus on countering what most threatens safety, advanced products, critical infrastructures, or IT network security - the rapid growth of complexity. In 2007 the company received recognition by being selected as Gartner's Cool Vendor. What makes Ontonix different from all those companies and research centers who claim to manage complexity is that we have a complexity metric. This means that we MEASURE complexity. We detect anomalies in complex defense systems without using Machine Learning for one very good reason: our clients don’t have the luxury of multiple examples of failures necessary to teach software to recognize them. We identify anomalies without having seen them before. Sometimes, you must get it right the first and only time!

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