- Series: Incerto (Book 3)
- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (November 27, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781400067824
- ISBN-13: 978-1400067824
- ASIN: 1400067820
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,048 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) Hardcover – November 27, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2012: Fragile things break under stress. But, according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, there's an entire class of other things that don't simply resist stress but actually grow, strengthen, or otherwise gain from unforeseen and otherwise unwelcome stimuli. Taleb sees degrees of antifragility everywhere, from fasting, mythology, and urban planning to economic, technological, cultural, and biological systems. The wealth of radical thinking in this book astounds; the glossary alone offered more thought-provoking ideas than any other nonfiction book I read this year. That said, Antifragile is far from flawless. As comical as Taleb's rough handling of his favorite targets can be--academics, economists, and tourists, to name a few--his argumentative style boasts gaping holes, non sequiturs aplenty, and at times an almost willfully repugnant tone. Some readers will find Taleb's brashness off-putting; others will embrace it as a charismatic component of the ideas themselves. Either way, no one will finish this book unchanged. --Jason Kirk
Judging by his anecdotes, Taleb interacts with the economic masters of the universe as he jets from New York to London or attends business-politics confabs in Davos, Switzerland. Anything but awed by them, Taleb regards them as charlatans, not as credible experts. Such skepticism toward elites, which imbued Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007), continues in this work, which grapples with a concept Taleb coins as “antifragile.” Not readily reducible to a definition (Taleb takes the whole book to develop the idea), suffice to say here that antifragile’s opposites—economic, political, or medical systems that are vulnerable to sudden collapse—tend to be managed by highly educated people who think they know how systems work. But they don’t, avers Taleb. Their confidence in control is illusory; their actions harm rather than help. In contrast, Taleb views decentralized systems—the entrepreneurial business rather than the bureaucratized corporation, the local rather than the central government—as more adaptable to systemic stresses. Emphatic in his style and convictions, Taleb grabs readers given to musing how the world works. --Gilbert Taylor
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I have to laugh at how the author's point of view makes me feel smart in the places where my actions "agree with" his recommendations -- get out of the stock market, keep options open, trust in and that old school technology will be around longer than anything new with an on/off switch. (He's a man; his examples are fountain pens and paper books vs Mac & iPads; mine are old Singer treadle sewing machines and analog rug looms vs. the latest electronic embroidering machine, which will be obsolete the next time MicroSoft releases a new OS.) At the same time, I observe myself ignoring the bit about staying out of debt, or perhaps pretending "it will be different with me..."
Taleb makes me work to let go of the smaller points that make me excessively irritated (not the word I want but the closest that the review policy will let me use) in the light of my overall agreement with his perspective. Specifically, the three lines about our world being better because we have Silvia Plath's poetry because she didn't have Prozac appear, to me, to fly in the face of his overall position that no-one should benefit because someone else absorbed all the suffering. "Moods," IMO, are not equivalent to suicidal depression. As it is, plenty of "everything with a soul WAS silenced," when anyone commits suicide that medication could have prevented (p. 41, review copy).
And now I've spent six lines ranting about three stick-in-my-mind lines that don't negate the rest of the book. (He has another unsupported position about HRT that could fit in this rant, as well. YMMV.) <end rant>
I read a Harvard professor blog last year that said, "How could we predict three disasters--an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear meltdown?" I thought, "Two of those items are parts of the same thing...." But I went to Duke.
Here's the deal: you don't READ Taleb on the strength of the reviews; you read his books (any of them) because you're tired of your friends talking about his ideas (or not)(maybe it's just one friend, but it's that interesting person who is uncannily correct about stuff some of the time) and you need to get it direct from the source. You may BUY the books, rather than borrow them, because this, and other, reviews suggest strongly that you'll benefit from reading the books more than once.
I doubt I'll be reading this one "every few months," as has been suggested. Art & Fear is the only book that occupies that space in my life, and even that is more like "every 18 months," rather than every 2 or 3. Perhaps, however, I'll stick a reminder in my tickle file to look at Taleb (any) the next time I wonder if I should renew my flood insurance policy. The engineers say "never..." the elevation lines on the topo map say "one of these days."
The central theme is the thesis of what NNT has spend his life researching and trust me he manages to keep it simple, so much so I can summarize the book in one line.
*You don't need know how x behaves, as long as you can control f(x) where f(x) is your exposure to x.*
my contrived example here...
X = depth of river
Average(x)= 4 ft
Past observed Max(x) = 6 ft [ predictors go on to say safe for humans taller than 6ft based on past experience ]-- this is the suckers trap, turkey problem, fragilista... whatever you want to call it.
However Max(x) is really not knowable , i.e. absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, the unintelligible is not unintelligent, also called the black swan, fat tail, ...unknown unknowns whatever you want to call it..
Now because we don't know Max(x), f(x) could be one of [get wet, near drowning, drowning, death,...]
with life jacket though even with unknown Max(x) , f(x) is limited to get wet.
A more real example here ...
I most recently applied this to Winter storm Nemo (as i was reading the book). I don't need to know or predict how extreme Nemo would be( as long as i had a torch, water, gas stove, gas room heater, enough food, gas and cash ). See its that simple, we control the exposure , not the storm.( and such wisdom has been with us humans for ever, until modern day attempts to predict everything ). This example is just one of being Robust and not anti-fragile, an anti-fragile example would be if bought insurance before hurricane Sandy for 10 times the worth of my house say on the NJ beach, i would infact start hoping that the hurricane destroy my house (i.e. i have upside (convex) f(x) with the volalitility of x, and i want x to be volatile in that scenario )
The same principal applied can answer some though provoking questions (you will find answers in the book )
* Why our ancestors are way smarter than we ( moderns ) think they are .
* Why ancestral heuristics though sometimes opaque are still the correct approach to a complex ( nonlinear) world (rather than logicians failing to analyze it and hence discard the heuristic ).
* Why disinfecting with Lysol actually hurts your child more than letting him play with some dirt instead.
* Why the table and chair have lasted for 5000 years and probably will for another 5000, but your smartphone and e-reader wont...
* Why the wheels on your suitcase may be one of the important inventions of the 20th century.
* Why and how mother nature makes the best decisions without actually understanding the variables( as opposed to doctors/ professors/ forecasters who attempt to predict x .. , not control f(x), and by the very nature of fat tails always get the predictions of x wrong !... ).
* Why you cannot trust predictors( charlatans! ) who have no "skin in the game". They predict you loose , they keep the upside , you cover the downside. If someone in 2007 said Fannie Mae is stable force them to buy Fannie Mae stock, so they have tonnes to loose if Fannie Mae goes bust .
and several such other examples.
I am not getting into every detail here, but to end this highly recommended, Like a 21st century bible...will help you going forward in every aspect of existence.