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Read and become Anti Fragile
21 April 2017
If you had read "The Black Swan" or if you follow Nicholas Nassim Taleb on twitter, you are probably aware that many people find his style to be arrogant, pompous and cantankerous. And yet you will find there is a significantly group of individuals who love and values his insights and style of writing. Anti fragile is a hard book to summarise and categorise. (It cut across different domains like anthropology, economics, medicine, history, religion). Let me try to summarise the content nonetheless.
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.