Michael On Everything Else

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nasim Taleb

Thankfully Mr. Taleb has editors because his writings on unedited forums, such as those on social media are rife with misspellings and grammar problems! And while he is an egghead (I mean that in a flattering way) the book is still readable by the non-statistician, though he does skillfully provide asides for the number-crunchers among his readers.

So what exactly is antifragile? It’s a term coined by Taleb to indicate the most-advantageous position in the triad: fragile - resilient - antifragile. Something that is antifragile benefits from disorder and entropy, or in his words;

Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.

How does this apply to our every-day lives? It has a lot to do with experimentation. Not the “toss a bunch of shit against the wall and see what sticks” experimentation, but the “lets think about the outcome we want and then increase our optionality for possible routes towards that goal” type of experimentation.

It’s not necessary to have read any of his previous books, but it would certainly help to at least read The Black Swan. He is also working on publishing the incerto series that includes Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, and Antifragile. I’ve read all but The Bed.

Some of my Kindle clippings from this book:

we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry: anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile.

We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything … by suppressing randomness and volatility.

The process of discovery (or innovation, or technological progress) itself depends on antifragile tinkering, aggressive risk bearing rather than formal education.

We have the illusion that the world functions thanks to programmed design, university research, and bureaucratic funding, but there is compelling—very compelling—evidence to show that this is an illusion, the illusion I call lecturing birds how to fly.

Whether you agree or not with his politics, which creep up from time-to-time, this book has a lot to offer someone looking to increase their success in life.

BibTex reference:

   title     = {Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder},
   author    = {Nassim Nicholas Taleb},
   year      = {2014},
   publisher = {Random House Trade Paperbacks},
   ISBN      = {978-0812979688}