Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, reveals how to thrive in an uncertain world.
Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.
In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. Here Taleb stands uncer�tainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resil�ient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.
What's more, the antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. Why is the city-state better than the nation-state, why is debt bad for you, and why is what we call "efficient" not efficient at all? Why do government responses and social policies protect the strong and hurt the weak? Why should you write your resignation letter before starting on the job? How did the sinking of the Titanic save lives? The book spans innovation by trial and error, life decisions, politics, urban planning, war, personal finance, economic systems and medicine, drawing on modern street wisdom and ancient sources.
Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world.
Erudite, witty, and iconoclastic, Taleb's message is revolutionary: the antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge and has led three careers around this focus, as a businessman-trader, a philosophical essayist, and an academic researcher. Although he now spends most of his time working in intense seclusion in his study, in the manner of independent scholars, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University's Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is "decision making under opacity," that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don't understand.
His books Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan have been published in thirty-three languages.
Taleb believes that prizes, honorary degrees, awards, and ceremonialism debase knowledge by turning it into a spectator sport.
A thought provoking book to me, especially the proposition "no stability without volatility". The book uses lots of analogy to justify this claim. Like the periodically small forest fires:
(these) cleanse the system of the most flammable material, so this does not have the opportunity to accumulate. Systematically preventing forest fires from taking place "to be safe" make big one much worse.
This is in total contrast of the "broken window theory" I treasure. It makes me think deeply about my own approach to different aspects in life.
Another proposition that leads me think deeply is the "barbell strategy". Together with the convexity and non-linearity of most events, I have to reflect on my approach to investment, even parenting!
Last but not least, the olds are more anti-fragile than the news. The ancient-stuff we can find today is likely to out-last those recently-developed/built counterparts. I should teach my kids to read more classics!...Continua
It's another very interesting book ! But I sometimes feel that the author is too long-winded when the same ideas have been repeated again and again in a hope to get across to the readers.
Antifragile (a word not found in dictionary) is more than just robust or resilient. Systems being antifragile would benefit from uncertainty/volatility/disorder and even some errors/mistakes which may be detrimental to other systems. We definitely want to be antifragile if possible ! Systems are fragile or antifragile because the consequences of volatility are asymmetric, more upside than downside or vice versa. Cynically, as a negative example, the CEO's and the managements of the banking industries have been handsomely rewarded when the risks they took worked out; nevertheless, they have still kept their salaries and probably even bonuses when the risks blew out the financial system, as the taxpayers bailed them out. We probably all want to be antifragile as these CEO's whereas the true "owners" are very fragile. The example illustrates exactly the agency problem and the footnote on p. 405 even said: "There seems to be a survival advantage to small or medium-sized owner-operated or family-owned companies." This remark is kind of interesting as we all thought that the family-owned companies would sooner or later have problems in managing their companies as the latter generations are not as capable as the founders of the companies. But the author here provides one reason why family-ownedd business may not be all bad :-)
The author also seems to strongly believe that we or Mother Nature make progress by trial and error, rather than following any rigid predefined scheme. The author dislikes the theorists (especially in economics of course) and he thinks most discoveries were made by accident after some trials and errors by the practitioners. This is very true in technological innovation or invention. But as for research in fundamental physics research, theories and experiments have helped each other a lot and one couldn't live without the other. It's probably true though, all fundamental revolutions were not planned. Many discoveries in fundamental research didn't seem to be useful at all at the beginning as scientists didn't have the intention to invent any new technology. Only later come some other innovators/inventors who think of ways to find applications or otherwise make use of the new fruit of the fundamental research. The most extreme of his diction may be found on p.362: "I avoid any fruit that does not have an ancient Greek or Hebrew name, such as mangoes, papayas, even oranges." Because he thinks the old foods, unlike the newer foods, have been tested by Mother Nature and us to be harmless for thousands of years (otherwise we would have long stopped eating them). As a result, anything sweet (as they didn't seemed to be present thousands of years ago ?!) is unnatural and harmful to the author. I don't like the author's taste here but this makes me think a bit as I like eating sweet stuff a lot :-)
The author has repeatedly advocated the principle of "skin in the game" that people should live and die with a theory or scheme that they have proposed, rather than doing things differently from what they say. In fact, we should believe in those theories only if the persons who have proposed these theories actually act consistently in accordance with their theories. Another major point or methodology is that of "via negativa" as we typically know what wouldn't work much better than what would work. So really, we work by eliminating all those strategies that have shown to fail.
I've jotted down some other exceptionally interesting sentences which also help to make the author's point in some stunning way.
p. 87 (7-8th lines) : “Ask random Swiss citizens to name their president, and count the proportion of people who can do so --- they can usually name the presidents of France or the United Sates but not their own.” I lived in Geneva for 15 months or more and I didn't think I'd seen Swiss Chancellor in TV at all and I certainly didn't know who s/he was/is.
p.104 (5th line) : "...naming them by raffles and removing them at random...". Yeah, it doesn't really matter who are elected as long as there is the election procedure. I've said this a few times to friends myself.
p.180 (lines 6-11): 'growth in society may not come from raising the average the Asian way, but from increasing the number of people in the "tails," that small, very small number of risk takers crazy enough to have ideas of their own, those endowed with that very rare ability called imagination, that rarer quality called courage, and who make things happen.' Aha, maybe this explains why Asian countries haven't shown to be the most innovative yet ?! Good education can produce doctors, lawyers and bureaucrats but not really innovators. Nevertheless, even the author has got the best kind of education in his early life. It's probably easier not to want something after you already have it !
p. 331 (5-6th lines): "career professionals are to knowledge what prostitutes are to love." This is probably the most funnily outrageous and extreme statement. The author told us that "amateurs in any discipline are the best". His reasoning is that the professionals all try to create new things (what he called "neomania") to help further their careers. But these new things may not last and may be fragile. I like his "Lindy effect" that for example, "a book that has been a hundred years in print is likely to stay in print another hundred years" (p. 432 under "GLOSSARY").
Some unimportant typos/mistakes are as follows: p.33 (18th line): "...from it own ashes" is probably "...from its own ashes". p.106 (4th line): "tried" in "...who did tried to block me..." should be "try". p. 250 (25th line): I believe "talking" in "...no clue as to what he was taking about" probably should be "talking". p. 313 (5th line): "...will be not be repairing ..." seems to have one "be" too many....Continua