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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) Paperback – January 28, 2014
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- Paperback : 544 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812979680
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812979688
- Dimensions : 5.12 x 1.19 x 7.92 inches
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 28, 2014)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #7,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I wish there were a way to give more nuance when assigning starts to a review. 5 starts to what the book is about, 1 star to how is written.
This book is more of the same, only worse.
From one paragraph to the next, odd “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” factoids and impenetrable/simplistic metaphors are thrown at you, with little pretense at logical sequence. (Taleb tries to explain away the lack of continuity by saying that he’s really writing four different books here, and that in fact, all his past books form a grand oeuvre which you must read the entirety of to appreciate.) Taleb pontificates - hands down the truth from his pulpit - on one subject after another; to underscore his erudition, every few pages he throws in a phrase in Latin or French that he then translates - for the benefit of the less-erudite-than-him readers - into English. It’s tiresome and even a bit sad, like hearing someone at a cocktail party trying to impress you with her social credentials.
The final takeaways? Embrace randomness and unpredictability. Be wary of over-regulation (obsessive attempts to prepare against the unpredictable). The French over-regulate and are successful but can’t in the end be considered to over-regulate because many of the French are really not French anyway [absolutely sic]. It is better to be poor and indifferent (have no goals) because then you cannot be harmed by life’s vicissitudes. If you don’t understand my point [implies Taleb] it’s because you’re stupid, and if you protest my inability to express a simple, clear, and understandable thought, I will just walk out on you [as he proudly recounted doing when a radio talk host asked him to explain something better].
In sum, this book is nothing but the random musings and rants of a windbag.
This book, which introduces and describes the concept of antifragility, is pretty revolutionary. Few books have fundamentally changed the way I think about the world, and this is one of them. My understanding of risk and how to address it has shifted dramatically, and the application of the concepts discussed has yielded surprising results.
That being said, the author is as pretentious as they come. Expect a lot of fancy-pants language for no reason other than to show off, and off-topic stories to illustrate just how much better than the rest of mankind Taleb is.
For example, “We gave the appellation ‘antifragile’ to such a package; a neologism was necessary as there is no simple, noncompound word in the Oxford English Dictionary that expresses the point of reverse fragility.”
It is a frustrating read to say the least. It took me a couple months to slog through this book because of how frequently I wanted to punch Taleb in the teeth, but the content is 100% worth it.
I haven't read many reviews for this book. However, I am sure that there will be a few who will complain about the grammar and syntax Taleb uses when writing the book. While disconcerting at times, you have to look past it. I wouldn't say this about most any author. In a weird sort of way, the variation in grammar and syntax truly makes you more of an antifragile reader! You are more inclined to go back and re-read many of the passages; you are encouraged to take notes. And, like most any book which is worth it's salt, it deserves a second and a third reading to truly grasp the full meaning of what the author is trying to convey.
Top reviews from other countries
I tried to read it and stick with it - I genuinely did. But Taleb literally was repeating the same thing over and over again to the point I thought that there had been an error in printing. The author's disdain towards other academics and scholars using terms like the "Soviet-Harvard illusion" was quite off-putting and his use of "big-words-for-big-words-sake" really started to chafe.
Honestly, I think that the ideas presented in the book are fantastic and worthy of praise but his tone, hubris and diatribes against others made the book unreadable.
I've put it down and I won't pick it up again. What a shame.
In the current book he discusses the concept of anti-fragility, i.e. a feature of systems that benefit, rather than get harmed by unpredictability. There are lots of good points made and I certainly buy into the concept. We do tend to be fooled by randomness (pun intended) and do tend to discount rare events - much to our detriment.
Where the success of the book will depend on the disposition of the reader much more, is it's typically Taleb style. He is confrontational and that to an extent where quite some readers may be put off. While this does not bother me generally, I find that he actually belabored the point somewhat too much and that the book would definitely benefit from an abridgement to something like 300 pages. While I did not find any part of the book completely replaceable, the point does get a bit too repetitive after a while.
If you want to get much of the content in a less confrontational, and slimmer volume, I recommend you try A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits Of Disorder first. If, however you have enjoyed his previous work, do go for it by all means - he is much the same (perhaps even a tad more extreme) as always and the content is certainly worthwhile.
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.