Skip to comments.A Manifesto for Disorder: Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘Antifragile’ Reviewed
Posted on 11/26/2012 5:45:38 PM PST by oblomov
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has little tolerance for, well, a lot of things. But, as his latest book demonstrates, he holds a particular grievance against the mediocre, the safe middle ground, and most forms of moderation.
True to form, Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder, is a work of non-fiction that trades in extremesa book that, in complete earnestness, offers thoughts on everything from the philosophy of Seneca and the structure of the Swiss government to the value of procrastination and the limits of academic research. He is just as likely to bring in Ben Bernanke and Ralph Nader as Hammurabi and Cato the Elder.
Taleb meanders between these and many other far-flung topics in the service of an impressively straightforward point: some things like volatility and some things hate it.
More specifically, his aim is to introduce a new concept he believes has been absent from our discussions of nearly all human endeavor, one called antifragility. Fragile thingsa crystal champagne flute, for instance, or a house of cardsare hurt by stress, randomness, and uncertainty. Antifragile things, meanwhile, are strengthened by itjust as Medusa grows stronger and more multiheaded with every decapitation.
Taleb maintains that living things and complex systems are all antifragile to some degree. Our bodies, for the most part, thrive as a result of regular interaction with stressors in the environment just as firms become weak during long periods of steady prosperity devoid of setbacks and [s]mall forest fires periodically cleanse the system of the most flammable material, so these do not have the opportunity to accumulate. The process of biological evolution, technological progress, and economic growth all rely on some sort of messy, undirected trial-and-error process that is fueled by regular exposure to uncertainty. We insulate ourselves from such natural volatility at our own peril.
(Excerpt) Read more at thedailybeast.com ...
Antifragility is hardly a new concept, although possibly a neologism. Reread the Bible. There’s something about iron sharpening iron.
This is the guy that coined the term, “black swan”. I think he also made a fortune or two (and lost at least one) on a peculiar investing strategy.
i’m not necessarily a big gold fan but, gold has to be the ultimate antifragile investment: the more chaotic and dangerous things become, the more it is worth.
can’t say that about too many other investments...
Iatrogenics = Taleb’s term for naive interventionists who recklessly meddle in complex systems.
A perfect description of the designers of Obamacare.
His investing strategy is consistent with his thesis in Black Swan. We commonly describe behavioral phenomena (markets, wars, etc.) with probability distributions that underestimate the size and frequency of outliers.