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Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder Paperback – 6 Jun 2013
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Nassim Taleb, in his exasperating but compelling book Antifragile, praises "things that gain from disorder" - people, policies and institutions designed to thrive on volatility, instead of shattering in the encounter with it (Oliver Burkman Guardian)
More than just robust or flexible, it actively thrives on disruption (Julian Baggini Guardian)
full of important warnings and insights (Julian Baggini Guardian)
Modern life is akin to a chronic stress injury. And the way to combat it is to embrace randomness in all its forms...the great seer of the modern age (Guardian)
Something antifragile actively thrives under the impact of the unexpected...to embrace randomness rather than trying to control it (The Sunday Times)
Enduring volatility is one thing; what about benefiting from it?...That is what Taleb calls 'antifragility' and he thinks that it is the ultimate model to aspire to-for individuals, financial institutions, even nations...may well capture a quality that you have long aspired to without having quite known quite what it is...I saw the world afresh (The Times)
About the Author
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an uncompromizing no-nonsense thinker for our times. He has spent his life immersing himself in problems of luck, uncertainty, probability, and knowledge, and he has led three high-profile careers around his ideas, as a man of letters, as a businessman-trader, and as a university professor and researcher. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University's School of Engineering. He is the author of the 4-volume INCERTO (Antifragile, The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and The Bed of Procrustes). Taleb refuses all awards and honours as they debase knowledge by turning it into competitive sports.
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What is Anti fragile? Many things/institutions/individuals are fragile to volatility. Like a vase which is fragile and breaks if it falls. What is the opposite of fragile? Many think that the opposite of fragile is robust. (Things which are unaffected by volatility). But Taleb says things which gains from volatility is the opposite and he calls it Anti Fragile. We may be intellectually blind to it not organically blind. Example: Hormesis, favourable response to small dose of toxins.
Below are some interesting insights from the book.
In Book one:
Domain independence is domain dependence. Meaning one may be aware X is true in a specific domain and completely blind to the same X in a different domain.
Stress is information. Information is anti fragile. Therefore stress is anti fragile. It is said that best horses lose when they compete with slower ones. If you want something to be done give to the busiest or second busiest person in work.
Touristification of life: Eliminating randomness in life by trying too much to control life makes us fragile. You may find people who do well in academica to be boring. Hence erudition is anti fragile and academia is fragile.
In Book two:
Bottom up design is anti fragile because it has a lot of median variation. Top to bottom design is fragile because it has extreme variation. Therefore some form of volatility is good.
The Great Turkey problem: fooled by the properties of the past and getting the story backward. Turkey is fed everyday by the butcher; everyday it confirms its staff analyst that the butcher loves turkey. Then comes a day when it's not a good idea to be a turkey. Therefore ABSENCE OF EVIDENCES IS NOT EVIDENCE OF ABSENCE.
Modernity is the systematic extraction of humans from the randomness of life. Like a lion in bronx zoo.
Intervention causes iatrogenics. Go for intervention only when the benefits outweighs the cost. Therefore only for extreme scenarios.
In Book three:
Having a library is anti fragile.
Introduces Stoicism, Seneca the practical stoic and the domestification of emotions.
Barbell strategy is the domestic of uncertainty. Instead of going for mid risk options, use 80% conservative risk and 20% extreme risk. In the event of black swan, you will be protected from fragility.
In Book four:
Make use of optionality. Option= asymmetric + rationality.
Negatives of Soviet-Harvard types knowledge. Debunks some common misconceptions of Academia. Example wealth creates knowledge and not the other way around.
Book five is for those who are technically inclined.
In Book Six:
Less is more. Importance of Subtractive knowledge. You get rich by not going bust.
In Book Seven:
Being ethical makes you anti fragile.
Modernity provides talkers (Journalists and Economists)free option. Example Thomas Friedman openly advocate the war on Iraq (2003) .Despite all his predictions and advocacies were spectacularly wrong, he doesn't face any consequences of his action. The ancients were aware of the talker's free option and advocated skin in the game.
Hammurabi code written in 1750BC Mesopotamia advocates skin in the game.
Example: Muscle fibers during workout actually gets break and whenever you go to sleep that night they were over compensate for the pain they felt they will go back stronger and this is basically will enter anti-fragility means it means becoming more better through your struggles.
If you wake up, you go to work for eight hours you come home, you do the same thing every night, you watch TV for a couple hours and then you go to bed. This is called a RUT.
Living in a rut there is no randomness in your body will eventually start to break down. There is no reminder body growth. If there are no stress you should be aware you should try to make something in your life that is a little stressful that way you can grow from it.
Think every situation that happened today over the next month i look, try to look for the bright side then you can grow stronger and make you stronger version of yourself.
i really enjoyed reading this book and the author does an amazing job of making it so fun to read. Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Mr. Taleb is a foremost authority on the subject of Randomness and how Black swan events disturb it.
The book has laid emphasis on learning from ancient scholars / tradition. Since they have tested the time barrier and stood strong now we have to learn from this traditions. Some portions which i liked the most will be presented here ( key points):
"Time is the best test of fragility—it encompasses high doses of disorder—and nature is the only system that has been stamped “robust” by time. But some philosophasters fail to understand the primacy of risk and survival over philosophizing, and those should eventually exit the gene pool—true philosophers would agree with my statement."
"So the longer a technology lives, the longer it can be expected to live. This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not “aging” like persons, but “aging” in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of some robustness. The robustness of an item is proportional to its life!"
Satyam Scandal of India, the classic case where Harvard Stalwarts were part of the Board when the fraud took place. Even Vinod Dham Father of Pentium ( Court fine Rs.20,000) was involved with that board. As Taleb has constantly spoken about Harvard Academicians how there is mismatch in what is thought and what is practiced. The two famous Harvard Professors who were in the Satyam Board are listed below:
1. Mangalam Srinivasan ( was in the board for almost 10 years, when Satyam Scandal was broken) - Court fine Rs.20,000
2. Krishna G. Palepu ( was in the board for around 2 years , when Satyam Scandal was broken) - Court fine Rs.2.66 crores
Overall the book is worth reading to understand the impact of Black swan events. This book it seems is the end of the journey started from Fooled by Randomness and Black Swan.
Kudos to Mr. Taleb for engrossing the reader and sharing innumerable ancient anecdotes as a guide for our journey.
A remarkable book for reading.
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Most recent customer reviews
Could break several illusions the reader might have had. Looks to me, an honest presentation.
Keep up Taleb