Safety-Critical Systems: Prescient, Presignifying, Public-Good Systems?

  • Khurshid Ahmad
  • AI Group


The emergence of safety-critical systems and their much desired institutionalisation involves domain- and applications-independent issues that, in some sense, can be related to the interdependent issues of knowledge, language, and ethics. The design, maintenance, upgrading and decommissioning of existing networks for carrying, for example, water, gas or oil, are good examples where the triumvirate, that of knowledge, language and ethics, makes its presence felt. Knowledge based on experience, complemented by archives of regulatory, legislative, learned and popular texts, has to be articulated across and within groups of well-motivated individuals and organisations involved in making decisions regarding safe design, safe maintenance, safe upgrading and safe decommissioning in part, or in whole of an in-situ network. The safety-critical systems community should consider ways in which experiential knowledge of safe operation/design and so on can be collected and used in conjunction with a given textual archive through the use of an intelligent information system. This ever burgeoning knowledge, which is simultaneously being extended and being rationalised, is articulated through an expanded vocabulary but within a restricted syntax when compared with everyday language. The knowledge, and the language in which it is articulated, are both motivated by ways in which the individuals and the organisations act. This motivation can be related to what they consider they ought to do, what obligations and duties they have. The user-led SAFE-DIS project, concerned with the repair and design of urban water carrying networks, has demonstrated how the knowledge of safe design can be acquired, be formalised and be reasoned upon for autonomously generating hazard avoidance messages during the various design phases. The lessons learnt from this project are of relevance to the operators of equally complex energy networks, like electricity or gas networks, communication networks, and logistics networks.


Experiential Knowledge Water Company Computer Ethic System Builder Imperative Sentence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khurshid Ahmad
    • 1
  • AI Group
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Mathematical and Computing SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildford, SurreyUK

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