This first introductory chapter is intended to be an “orientation” for the reader of this book in two ways. First, this chapter starts out by comparing some of the more traditional heuristic assumptions about system safety engineering with a few assumptions of the mathematical approach. Although the two ways of thinking, sometimes agree, they can also lead to drastically different interpretations of the same facts. At the end of this book, in the Epilogue, some of these assumptions will be revisited with the insight provided by hindsight.
The second “orientation” function of this chapter is pedagogical rather than philosophical, and starts with a review of the basic mathematical tools and ideas used in this book (Probability and Statistics, Calculus, Matrix Algebra, Linear Programming, and Game Theory). Basic system safety ideas about populations, and the failure of hardware, software, and firmware are also introduced. Furthermore, hazard prediction, detection, and correction, and the effect these activities have on product development is discussed. Finally, the division of system safety engineering into four “classical” branches provides an overall framework for the discussion of various system safety problems.
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