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Nassim's One Book,
This review is from: Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto) (Hardcover)
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Readers of Nassim's books may have noticed a trend in the direction of his writing, from the street-level view of Fooled By Randomness to the refined prose of The Black Swan. But the route seems somewhat circular, with core ideas revisited in an attempt to refine via more current examples and more simplified prose. Nassim is, in a way, getting simpler, and getting closer to the central point we all knew he had.
We saw signs of this central point with Nassim's web-based documents on what he called antifragility, or the ability to get stronger, smarter, faster, or otherwise better when exposed to disorder in all its forms (AKA "The Extended Disorder Family"). Now, with the book Antifragile, we get to truly see a full rounding of Nassim's ideas complete with their logical conclusion - that we cannot predict black swans or determine what their impacts will be, but we can develop systems that benefit from the inevitability of such events.
I suppose I should have seen this book coming, and in a lot of ways I feel foolish for all the side research I did after reading The Black Swan in 2007. I studied complex systems and got in my share of fights with mathematicians who claimed that quantification was the only way to understand how things "are." Making mathematicians angry almost seemed worth it, but at the end of the day I just wanted to know what I could do, as a practitioner of the art of living, in order to not just survive but make a lively affair of it. After all, not cracking up is one thing, getting stronger when other things crack up is a whole other kettle of seamonkeys.
So here we are, with Nassim's One Book. You can read this and capture all you need to know about black swans, the avoidance of sucker games, and the art of living well in spite of everything that would seem to indicate that you can't control anything in any respect and thus should hit the panic button, visit a iatrogenician for a lifetime supply of thought suppressants, and find a nice "safe" job where you can make PowerPoint presentations without the fear that you may one day have to pay for the results of your actions.
It's all here - Nassim's full scope of antifragile methodologies, given from his uncompromisingly personal perspective. You'll feel like you always do when you read his work, that what you see on the page is very likely the exact thing he'd tell you in person, assuming you can find him and somehow bait him (perhaps with Lebanese wine?) into a conversation he is no doubt growing weary of having. We're lucky he didn't give up in disgust after the financial markets blew up and he started getting pulled into the "what do we do now?!" rhetoric. So I feel it is our obligation, as humans living in these very interesting times, to read Antifragile as both an antidote to any pessimism that has rooted itself in our guts and as an antibody to protect us from the "if this kills you then I'll stand corrected" tendencies of educators, policy makers, historians, businesspeople, health care providers, and babblers of all stripes.
You get all this and more - a full glossary of virtually all the terms Nassim has introduced us to plus a whole section of technical notes which could be read in lieu of the rest of the book should you have the right pair of eyes to do so.
If you haven't read any of Nassim's previous books, I'd advise you continue to do exactly that, and leave them alone until you have pored over Antifragile. All of his other works are supplemental to this, and frankly unnecessary if all you're looking for is the practical application of his ideas.
Cheers, Nassim. You just made the book of the century. Humanity owes you one, and if I ever see you on the street or in a cafe I'll do my part and kindly leave you be.