What the Death Star Can Tell Us About System Safety

Guy H Walker, Paul Salmon, Neville A. Stanton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


Resilience engineering requires that organizations review their own systems to proactively identify weaknesses. Imagine, then, having to identify a critical flaw in a highly complex planetoid sized orbital battle station, under extreme time pressure, and with no clear idea at the outset where the vulnerability will lie? This was the challenge faced by the Rebel Alliance in the film Star Wars. One of the belligerents, the Imperial Empire, considered it highly unlikely a weakness would be found even if the other belligerent were in possession of a full technical readout of the Station. How could it be done? The first option presented in this paper is to employ traditional error identification methods. The findings show the limitations of this component-based approach because it did not predict the actual vulnerability exploited. The second option is to use a systems-based method to model the Death Star’s functional constraints and affordances. This method did detect the film ending, and several others. It also provides a compelling narrative around the use of reductionist methods for systems problems, and some wider implications for method selection in more earth-bound settings.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEngineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics
Subtitle of host publication12th International Conference, EPCE 2015, Held as Part of HCI International 2015, Los Angeles, CA, USA, August 2-7, 2015, Proceedings
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-20373-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-20372-0
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science
ISSN (Print)0302-9743


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