(c) Erik Hollnagel, 2020
The ongoing change from linear to non-linear thinking - which also has been characterised as a transition from the age of simplicity to the age of complexity - has unsurprisingly created some confusion, not least about how to use "new" terms such as coupling, emergence, complexity, and the like.
One example of that is the statement that "safety is an emergent property in (sic!) a complex adaptive system". There are (at least) two reasons why this statement is incorrect.
In most cases, the statement that "safety is an emergent property" actually means the opposite, namely that the lack of safety - accidents, incidents, and other forms of adverse outcomes - is emergent. But the lack of safety is only emergent in the sense that we cannot produce a satisfactory explanation of why it happens - at least not as long as we remain with linear causality. And it is anyway the outcome that is called emergent, and not a mysterious system property called "safety".
(c) Erik Hollnagel, October 31 2015.