Antifragile : things that gain from disorder

by Nassim Taleb

Hardcover, 2012




New York : Random House, c2012.


"The acclaimed author of the influential bestseller The Black Swan, Nicholas Nassim Taleb takes a next big step with a deceptively simple concept: the "antifragile." Like the Greek hydra that grows two heads for each one it loses, people, systems, and institutions that are antifragile not only withstand shocks, they benefit from them. In a modern world dominated by chaos and uncertainty, Antifragile is a revolutionary vision from one of the most subversive and important thinkers of our time"--

Media reviews

Wall Street Journal
Sometimes Nassim Nicholas Taleb is led astray by his contrarianism, but then that is his point: If you don't take risks, you don't get results. This is a bold, entertaining, clever book, richly crammed with insights, stories, fine phrases and intriguing asides. Does it achieve its goal, or does it cram and twist the world on to a Procrustean bed of one theory, thereby somewhat contradicting its own empirical and pragmatic outlook? I am not sure. I will have to read it again. And again.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lbeaumont
If you have ever been stuck sitting for a long time next to someone who is as brilliant as he is annoying, you have some idea what reading this book is like. It is almost worth enduring the long-winded and self-indulgent rants while waiting patiently for the next new insight.

The author’s colleague summarized the book succinctly: “Everything gains or loses from volatility. Fragility is what loses from volatility and uncertainty.” But the book is titled “Antifragile” and seeks to focus on “things that gain from disorder.” Any particular restaurant is fragile; it can easily go out of business as a result of an economic slowdown, a change in tastes, the loss of the chief, and many other circumstances. However, the collection of restaurants in the region is antifragile; as any one restaurant goes out of business it is replaced by a more suitable one and the collection of restaurants becomes better. Evolution works in a similar way—the gene pool improves and endures even as individuals die.

The author provides formal definitions of fragile and antifragile in terms of non-linear responses to volatility. Fragile systems are harmed more by large changes than small changes. Antifragile systems gain more from changes than they lose. Consider how one stock, a diversified portfolio of stocks, and a stock broker are affected by volatility in the Dow Jones industrial average. A single stock can have a large change in value, much greater than the change in the index, even over a short time frame. A diversified portfolio will be less volatile, with changes similar to the volatility of the index. A stock broker makes money on every sale whether the stock is going up or down. The single stock is fragile, the portfolio robust, and the stock broker is antifragile. This idea leads to the chief ethical rule: “Thou shalt not have antifragility at the expense of the fragility of others”

Taleb cautions us to beware of people who make predictions without having any skin in the game, agents that gain from risks they advise you take, captains that are absent when the ship goes down, executives who enjoy incentives without disincentives, organizations that are too big to fail, complex regulations, noise interpreted as signal, procedures to treat minor medical conditions that expose you to large risks, iatrogenics, wrong beliefs, shifting the burden of evidence, and novelty.

Become stronger by exposing yourself to the acute stresses of natural exercise, routine failures, and everyday grime. Learn from everyday encounters with randomness and risk. Do more and talk less. Invest like a venture capitalist. Seek (free) options that can have large payoffs. Evaluate payoffs rather than truth. Advance via negativa.

The book relies on many quirky or unusual terms, collected into a glossary, including: Fragilista, lecturing birds how to fly, barbell strategy, Ludic fallacy, hormesis, naïve interventionism, turkey illusion, agency problem, the green lumber fallacy, via negativa, and the Lindy effect.

Perhaps someday these ideas will be presented in a well-written book that is half as long and twice as clear.
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LibraryThing member chaosmogony
It took me five months to read, mostly because I didn't want it to end. Once you grasp the elegance of Taleb's thesis -- that everything gains or loses from volatility -- the rest is just a semi-autobiographical collection of aphorisms meditating on the nature of the world and our place in it. I found myself reading it in small chunks, just to remind myself of the at once profound and hilariously true-to-life wisdoms within.

Taleb's concept of anti-fragility (or convexity) is simple, yet not easily grasped thanks to our default Western way of thinking about things. Taleb's willingness to engage with his critics in his characteristically lively manner makes an otherwise unfortunate (and serious) matter as enjoyable as it can be empowering (or depressing, as you care to look at it).

Not simply worth the read -- this should be mandatory.
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LibraryThing member johnclaydon
This is an insanely crappy book. The author is a self indulgent egomaniac. I found his other books unreadable. This one is worse.

The good news is that there is some organization this time. After an introductory section he applies his big idea to six different areas of application, in six sections. You can read one to see if you find his idea of use.… (more)
LibraryThing member jbuskermolen
'Anti-fragility tells us how to take advantage of catastrophic events, it is very much a sequel to The Black Swan it builds on many of the Black Swan's themes.'

In The Black Swan, Taleb explained the existence of high impact rare events beyond the realms of normal expectations. In his new book, Taleb goes much further. He tells us how to live in a world that is unpredictable and chaotic, and how to thrive during moments of disaster. Antifragility is about loving randomness, uncertainty, opacity, adventure and disorder, and benefitting from a variety of shocks. It is a new word because it is a new concept. Many of the greatest breakthroughs in human endeavour come from the trial and error that is part of antifragility. And some of the best systems we know of, including evolution, have antifragility at their heart. Medicine, economics, even politics, could all be improved by embracing it. It is often what really drives innovation and invention. Our failure to realize this has even led to many huge historical misunderstandings about religion and belief. So, how can we take advantage of antifragility? Taleb ranges over ideas and real-life situations, from why debt brings fragility, why if we lose nothing we will gain nothing, and why we should detest the lack of accountability at the heart of capitalism. He shows us that chaos is what makes us human. (source:… (more)
LibraryThing member spyrunner
Taleb's latest book 'Antifragile' is based on the idea that some things increase from stress, such as muscles. He identifies many different types mostly dealing with finances and business. For example, venture capital is antifragile because the rewards can be huge if the idea and company are successful. I found portions of the book difficult to get through, rereading the occasional paragraphs. Often he will mention ideas that will come later in the book, and frequently using terms he defined elsewhere. Every couple of pages he goes off on tangents that were quite entertaining. As he is well read, devoting 30 hours a week to reading, and comes from a unique background (a Christian from the middle east) I found his anecdotes most interesting. He suggests how to read (switch books if you get bored), states his views on exercise (spend less time in the gym by lifting large weights) and advises to avoid oranges (they are bred for their sweetness). About two-thirds through the book he states that he would have been diagnosed with ADHD if he were back in school in America. I was thinking the same thing. It seemed like he writes what he feels like writing about, and when he gets bored he switches topic. I felt like I was listening to a grandfather espousing his world view and recounting tales of his life instead of reading an academic book on Economics.… (more)
LibraryThing member RandyStafford
This is not an investment guide.

This is not a fitness guide.

This is not a diet guide.

This is not a screed against the dismal science.

This is not a call for fundamental economic and political change.

This is not an autobiography.

This is, as Taleb himself has called it, a work of philosophy which touches on all of the above. I'd also call it a field guide to understanding important parts of the natural and social worlds. It finds much inspiration in the ancient texts of the Mediterranean. Taleb says "moderns have severe handicaps when it comes to wisdom".

We rely, he argues, too much on the illusion of knowledge, too much on false precision, ignorantly intervene, centralize our decisions, try futilely to avoid random risk. Taleb practices "naturalistic risk management" - ways of minimizing bad risk and benefiting from the "Extended Disorder Family": uncertainty, variability, imperfect knowledge, chaos, volatility, time, the unknown, randomness, error, and stressors". Weak things are hurt by disorder; robust things are unchanged, and, as the title indicates, Taleb's coinage "antifragile" designates those things benefitting from disorder.

Taleb's book has whole charts placing everything from types of literature to ways of thinking to stress to economic systems to medicine to errors into the appropriate column of this Central Triad of reaction to disorder. He may be, as he says, given to "angry, dismissive, and irascible" prose, but there is a missionary zeal behind this work. Before thanking the reader at the conclusion for reading the book, he embraces disorder as not only potentially life altering in a good way but the key to life's zest, accomplishment, and ethics. Taleb, as he often notes, has plenty of "F*** you" money by applying his ideas successfully in the world of finance, so money is not the primary motive for this book. He so wants you to be exposed to these ideas that he uses a barrage of ideas to get his points home. There is an opening laying out important concepts of the book and providing a roadmap to the rest of the book. There is a glossary. There is a bibliography. There's a ten page appendix graphically summarizing the book. There is a highly technical appendix with mathematical arguments. Taleb promises a free e-book with the most elaborate supporting technical documents and arguments. There are quotes from Roman and Greek and Arab classics. There are historical anecdotes. There are personal anecdotes - usually negatively reflecting on famous economists - from Taleb's life. There are the dialogues between Nero, a fictionalized version of Taleb, and Fat Tony. The latter is the opposite of Taleb, unintellectual and inarticulate but illustrative of Taleb's caution that unintelligible in not unintelligent and many facts are irrelevant in successfully making money off suckers - the speciality of Nero and Fat Tony.

Taleb on investment: a barbell strategy of investing mostly in safe options with ten percent in highly risky - but potentially highly profitable - stock.

Taleb on fitness: your body probably doesn't benefit most from regular, low-grade exercise but, rather, from random, high output, high stress exercise. He talks about his own experience in bulking up after a bodyguard (hired after Taleb's public and successful predictions of 2008's financial crisis resulted in death threats) introduced him to the idea of simply trying short workouts where he just tries to best his personal record of weight lifted.

Taleb on health: your body probably doesn't like regular feeding or eating things your ancestors didn't eat. It needs the stress of deprivation occasionally.

Taleb on economics: intervention by the "Soviet-Harvard" school of economists causes a great deal of havoc. There is a tyranny of talkers who never pay the price for their bad advice - unlike the old days when bankers in charge of failed institutions were executed.

Taleb on social and political change: we need to force politicians and leaders to put "skin in the game" whether it's making war or running a company. The "principal-agent problem" was solved in the old tradition of the captain going down with his ship, the Roman engineer being forced to camp out under the bridge he built. The modern economic elite too often socialize loses and privatize profits. Limited-liability corporations should be curtailed, corporate officers' personal assets be placed at risk in certain circumstances. Globalization is economic efficiency, but efficiency is the enemy of reliability. We rely too much on the false precision of models. Massive 19th Century building projects were often completed much closer to schedule than modern ones because there was not the illusion of proper planning facilitated by computers crunching metrics.

I don't take Taleb as an absolute guru. I disagree with him somewhat on the harm stemming from large corporations though I would certainly support the notion that, in effect, "too big to fail" is too big to be allowed to exist. On a more minor level, I don't agree with his opinions on science fiction's lack of literary worth -- which partly stems from Taleb's justified suspicion of "neomania" - or his hostility to private gun ownership in America. But I do think this and his [[ASIN:081297381X The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility"]]are important reminders of our systematic mental fallibilities and the inescapable role of randomness in the world. And there is a welcome humanity - as well as a modified application of the stoicism of Senca to the modern world - in Taleb's efforts to acknowledge, accept, and use the chaos around us.

In short, I do consider this a modern work of wisdom.
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LibraryThing member haig51
Extreme empirical skeptic Nassim Taleb strikes again, but this time he offers us some solutions to go along with his ranting. In this latest installment of his series of books critiquing modernity's mismanagement of risk, Taleb puts forth his concept of antifragility, those things that not just resist being damaged from disorder but actually gain from it. Drawing inspiration from nature, Taleb tells us that our modern social edifices have become too mechanistic and must become like the organisms evolution has shaped through bricolage trial and error. While clockwork mechanisms operate in a narrow domain and break if taken outside their comfort zone, organic complex-adaptive systems become stronger when faced with stressors. He wants us to stop placing so much emphasis on brittle theoretical knowledge which seems to work in simple isolated conditions divorced from messy reality but fail on contact with the Extremistan conditions of the real world. Instead of theory, we need to emphasize phenomenology, the actual doing of things and seeing what works, making decisions not on the platonic ideas of true/false or right/wrong but on the cost-benefit analysis of real world results.

The key to antifragile systems, according to Taleb, is convexity. Convex functions are asymmetric in that they limit the downsides but keep open the upsides, so that with high volatility the system can actually reap high rewards and benefit from variability. Convex systems thrive in Extremistan Concave functions are the opposite, they can thrive in Mediocristan, but will blow up in Extremistan where black swans come along and negate any and all gains previously accrued. Concavity is not sustainable, convexity is. The exemplar of convexity is optionality. Taleb uses an anecdote about the pre-socratic philosopher Thales as an example of optionality. Thales leased olive presses using an option contract, so that he has the right, but not the obligation, to use them. If the season is bountiful, he will use his right and profit, if the season turns out to be bad, he has the option to not lease the presses and avoid incurring any losses. Optionality turns a win-lose situation into a win-break even situation, if things work out you win, if they don't you break even or suffer minimal inconvenience. The downside is limited, the upside is unlimited. This is the essence of antifragility.

Taleb describes many other concepts that are synergistic with antifragility in order to derive heuristics to abide by. The Lindy effect gives us a heuristic to expect that older technologies and ideas will last longer than newer ones (on average). Iatrogenics gives us a heuristic to first do no harm by removing harmful things from systems instead of adding on supposedly beneficial things to them. The green lumber fallacy gives us a heuristic to do what works based on cost/benefit analysis in practice without erroneously theorizing why they work and coming up with postdictive fantasies. The heuristic 'small is beautiful' gives us a bias for smaller and more decentralized systems compared with the fragility of bigger and more centralized ones. Finally, the 'skin in the game' heuristic gives a solution to the agency problem by making sure those that take risks that can harm others are personally liable when things go wrong. Taleb uses examples from many domains and colorful anecdotes throughout history to defend these heuristics and get these points across.

I think the overall message of the book is incredibly important and insightful, but my biggest criticism of Taleb is his extreme discounting of the possibility to actually understand complex systems. I agree that there is an aspect of irreducible uncertainty to such systems that cannot be overcome, but there are still ways to use our advancing knowledge of complex-adaptive systems to turn black swans into gray swans (to use Taleb's own idea from his book The Black Swan). I understand that Taleb's main concern is for things to not blow up and for people to first just do things that work in practice, but he is too conservative and skeptical with his epistemological approach. Maybe it is just hyperbolic rhetoric to hammer in his ideas that would otherwise not get the attention they deserve, which is fine, but I'd prefer a middle ground where Taleb's ideas can inform and improve our scientific processes, preserving our ability to create theoretical models of the world instead of abandoning it outright.

Nassim Taleb is polarizing, his ideas doubly so, but I find myself on his side more often than not and recommend this book highly.
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LibraryThing member debnance
I've been reading this book, Antifragile, for almost four weeks. I call it reading. I've turned all the pages. I've read all the words. That's reading, right?

Or is it?

I started off pretty well, somehow managing to get my brain around the whole idea of antifragile, a word the author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, admits he made up. There is no real word in English that properly names this idea. Everyone understands the idea of fragile, something that is destroyed when stressed. But the opposite of fragile is more than just something that survives difficulties. Antifragility, Taleb tells us, is the idea of a phenomenon that goes beyond mere resilience; antifragility is the idea of something that actually improves with difficulties and uncertainty.

Taleb gives us lots of great examples of things that are antifragile: "...evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance...even our own existence as a species on this planet."

I'm high-five-ing him, right and this idea of antifragile, Taleb.

That was the Prologue, however. Round about the second or third page of Chapter 1, I find that I'm reading along, with no idea what Mr. Taleb is explaining. He tries, he really does, and now and then I read a paragraph and think I'm back on the highway. The Soviet-Harvard Department of Ornithology, for example. (How well do I know that department, the people who lecture to birds about proper techniques for flying, observe and write reports about the birds' flying abilities, and then seek funding to ensure that the lectures will continue!) But, soon I'm back driving in the dark again.

I don't know if I really read this book. Can I add it to my 2013 Book Log? Does it count? Please don't ask me to summarize it or outline it or (heaven forbid!) don't test me on it.

But if I didn't really read it, why did I like it so much? And why can't I stop thinking about it?

Maybe what I did when I read Antifragile was antireading. Maybe antireading is the kind of reading where you turn the pages and read the words, but understand only a smidgen of what's there, and then you think about it for weeks, and come back to the book again and again, and maybe try to reread it, and it tweaks your map about this life, even through you really didn't understand much of what you read to begin with.

Maybe antireading is the best kind of reading of all.
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LibraryThing member halsteadt
The latest offering from Taleb is just what you would expect. You ride along with his stream of consciousness style as he attempts to weave personal stories, classical mythology and sometimes even genuine insight into the book. He claims that Antifragile is the manifesto of his philosophy and worldview that he previously explored in Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness. Taleb's main point about volatility and how it affects certain things differently is an interesting read for a good portion of the book. As Taleb starts painting with a bigger and bigger brush, applying his philosophy to a wide range of topics he starts to lose the reader. An healthy editing of the work would have left me with less mixed feelings about the topic and author. Taleb repeats (and repeats) his main proclamation about volatility until the horse is very much dead. His ego being fully on display and his quirks of writing are at times are enjoyable for the reader but it does detract from the message. You end up willing to follow Taleb, wanting to hear more about his proclamations of antifragility yet unwilling to jump off the cliff of logic with him at the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member BenTreat
As someone who enjoyed /The Black Swan/, I was really looking forward to Taleb's latest book, and was excited to receive it through the LT Early Reviewer program. I didn't really like the book, though. Taleb is a very smart man, but the barrage of personal anecdotes failed to hold my interest. The frequency of personal anecdotes seemed much more intense than in /Black Swan/. This culminated in a somewhat odd extended personal narrative in which Taleb portrays himself as a character named Nero Tulip and describes his relationship with someone named Fat Tony, who /Black Swan/ readers will recall. The book argues that some systems improve due to exposure to stressors (antifragile), whereas others are unharmed but unimproved (robust), and others are at risk from stressors (fragile). Taleb recommends that we figure out whether a system is antifragile, before deciding whether to shield the system from stress. A reasonable thesis, reasonably well defended, but the portrayal may be offputting to some readers.… (more)
LibraryThing member fconte
Excellent book. Requires hard thinking and facing up to the truth.
LibraryThing member ridgeclub
Pull your kids out of college, throw out your e-book reader, and don't listen to any of the talking heads on television. Nassim Taleb sees value in volatility and takes a stand on many aspects of modern life using references from Socrates and Seneca to drive his points home. Learning from individual tragedies (the Titanic sinking or an airline crash) results in an enhanced safety level for future travelers. Systems that can learn are more than robust: they are antifragile.

So conventional thinking, government bailouts, and anyone without a stake in the outcome will not help one consider the black swan events that can threaten survival. Besides the philosopher references, Mr. Taleb uses a street-smart contemporary called Fat Tony to explore volatility management in a variety of disciplines. Despite a few diversionary flights (for some of us, e-books and physical books can co-exist without threatening the grand order of things) the book offers interesting insight about risk management that is very pertinent today.
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LibraryThing member zimbawilson
While the ideas presented in this book are extremely interesting Taleb's narcissistic style rubbed me the wrong way. Coupled with the fact that the author has come up with so many new terms that he needs (and has)a glossary in the back makes this a difficult read for the average person. The idea of people, business etc actually benefitting and improving from volatility is fascinating and Taleb makes a great case for it. The idea of caloric restriction extending lifespan has been discussed elsewhere but is a good example and Taleb does well to bring many of these ideas together. Having said that, I was very distracted by all the 'made up' terms and personal stories that Taleb seemed so willing to veer into. As a previous reviewer mentioned, the book needed to be clearer and certainly condensed.… (more)
LibraryThing member eddiemerkel
This may be one of the best books I have ever read. Certainly one of the best books I have read in a long time.

There are books that you might read just for pleasure, an easy escape into some world unlike your own that doesn't require much of you in the reading except that you sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

This is not that kind of book.

This book grabbed me from nearly the very first page and never let me go. It requires a lot of engagement from the reader, a lot of thought and, at least in my case, a good dictionary close at hand. That said in my humble opinion it is well worth the effort. Taleb's premise makes so much sense and his examples are so compelling I kept going and going. In 400+ pages now I can safely say that instances where a page has been left without underlined passages or margin notes are few and far between. There is so much here that I cannot imagine anyone who reads it not finding something to be offended by, marvel at, agree with and be challenged by. It is that kind of book and Taleb is that kind of writer.

This is how good this book is. I won the copy I read from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program. Before I was done I had bought a hardcover copy for myself. I will probably buy another copy for everyone on my Christmas list. They may not read it but it won't be due to not having the opportunity.
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LibraryThing member jpsnow
Taleb is a tail event of his own, a challenge to the accepted methodologies using prediction through point estimates and reliance on squares-based statistics as input to linear models. The right way to avoid bigger crises - financial and otherwise - is to encourage systems that benefit from volatility and feedback mechanisms. For example, "Depriving political (and other) systems of volatility harms them, causing eventually greater volatility of the cascading type" (p. 81). Along the way, he tears apart major theories in economics and finance, introduces some street-smart characters who really run the world, and sketches out an aura around himself that the reader might like and might not. In either case, Taleb won't care; he would much rather the reader accept his ideas for the sake of us all.… (more)
LibraryThing member vpfluke
This is a wide-ranging book. It is not a systematic analysis of factors affecting economics or just life in general. But, it represents a philosophy of we can live with uncertainty and randomness and not be in a state of shock. Fragility likes quiet and order, but is only part of the real world. The concept of fragility speaks to a volatile world, where we cannnot linearly project what may be coming or even what comes next.

I can relat to some of this. Many years ago, was trying to figure out social and economic factors that has led to some precipitous declines in public transit ridership since World War II. When I compared data from the 1970 census on means of transportation to work to that of the 1960 census, only one metropolitan area in the U.S. had an incrase in the proportion of people using public transportation. That was Las Vegas, which had grown into a real city in the intervening ten years, and it became truly meaningful to ride buses up and down the Strip.

I began to realize that non-linearity was present in my data, and that catastrophe (think, Rene Thom) also contributed. I did not have computers of any consequence in the mid-1970's when I was thinking about these kinds of things. But now we have people like Nassim Taleb who is trying to push us into a different way of thinking about disorder and risk.

Taleb puts many stories into his book, so it is not at all dry. Sometimes, in his attempt to be far-reaching, some concepts get a little lost. My review did not have an index, and I found I wanted to flip around the book in some kind of organized randomness to follow some of Taleb's thoughts. I then waited until I could check out another copy of this book from my local library, so I could get a fuller appreciation of "Antifragile".

Taleb has a chapter named, The Cat and the Washing Machine. His point is that many presumably man-made activities, they began to act more like cats, than washing machines. Tha is, they take on a life of their own. We had a cat that would make surprise jumps into the dryer or washing machine, so I was wishing he played out more with this metaphor. I was hoping that the index might give me a pointer to further information before I got there by a linear reading of the book. But cats and washing machines are not mentioned in the index. And I had to think of what Taleb is doing: building an argument, not by deduction, and by his sloppier but more poignant inductive method.

So, you can read "at" this book, and get benefits from it.
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LibraryThing member hardlyhardy
What is the opposite of fragile? We might come up with words like strong, stable or robust, but professional contrarian Nassim Nicholas Taleb disagrees. If what is fragile weakens under pressure, then the opposite would be something that becomes stronger under pressure. That which is strong, stable or robust merely withstands the pressure. So Taleb coins the word antifragile in his 2012 book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.”

This book follows in the footsteps of his best known work “The Black Swan” in which he points out that unexpected things happen. Just because most swans are white doesn't mean some can't be black. Hurricane Florence, the 9-11 attacks and the 1929 stock market crash are examples of black swans. If “The Black Swan” was short on practical advice, “Antifragile” is loaded with it, covering what we should eat, when we should seek medical care, what we should read, how we should get an education and how we should make our living, among other topics.

Taleb has little use for economists, big business, college professors and other intellectuals, politicians, doctors and virtually anyone who claims to be only trying to help. "This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most," he says. Thus he ignores modern advice, except to ridicule it, and consults the wisdom of the past, such as Seneca, Cato the Elder and the Bible. That such writings still exist and remain helpful proves to Taleb that they are antifragile.

One finds wisdom here too, but also a bit of hypocrisy. After all Taleb, like those he criticizes, is only trying to help.
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LibraryThing member jimocracy
The author somehow is able to pull off sounding like an arrogant prick and simultaneously like an insecure whiner. The rare examples when the author wrote something that was true or significant do not offset the hundred of pages of unsubstantiated assertions and purely fabricated nonsense.
LibraryThing member sdmouton
Nassim Nicholas Taleb comes off as an asshole. Much of what he asserts as new or original material is simply redefining concepts like resilience or robustness as slightly less than I had learned them, although that may have more to do with my time spent in social work. Nevertheless, there are some decent points in this book. I think I'd give Taleb's work about as much shrift as Simon Sinek's, and in much the same way - read (or watch) a summary and you'll probably come away as enlightened as you would having mauled the corpus entire.… (more)
LibraryThing member chriszodrow
a hoot of a read. loved it.
LibraryThing member joeydag
Outrageous thinking - so original and yet very ancient. The author uses a "doer" versus "talker" comparison and he is quite the doer. His writing can be entertaining and blunt, but often confusing. I think he would be proud of having one idea, the opposite of fragile is not robust but rather a quality that we don't have a name for so he calls it antifragile. Imagine a package that has a label on it saying "Treat this package very roughly" and the delivery is improved if the package is quite beaten on. That is antifragile. He made a living as an options trader and he knows how volatility can pay off. I recommend this book if you want to be exposed to some quite different thinking.… (more)
LibraryThing member tlockney
Not sure I can distill my thoughts on this one without more time and perhaps a revisit to key parts. Taleb's central idea is certainly intriguing and seems cohesive and perhaps even correct, but his presentation, while entertaining, makes it difficult to judge on its own merits. Nonetheless, I'd highly recommend reading this one. Just know that you may waffle between loving and hating it at various points.… (more)
LibraryThing member chriszodrow
a hoot of a read. loved it.
LibraryThing member devilish2
I don't necessarily disagree with Taleb's arguments, but I completely disagree with his arrogant delivery. I started, got fed up with his attitude, then skimmed.
LibraryThing member jrissman
Overlooking some of the critical reviews of Taleb's writing style, I decided to read "Antifragile" in hopes of learning ground-breaking and fascinating ideas. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Taleb's core idea is that there exist many systems or things that gain from small amounts of noise, randomness, or exogenous shocks, and he gives this trait the name "antifragile" (to distinguish it from "robustness," which is the quality of things that resist shocks but do not benefit from shocks).

Apart from the reasonable observation that "antifragility" is a property that some systems have, and it deserves a name, Taleb's ideas are not really unexpected or revolutionary. It's not hard to think of plenty of examples of antifragile systems (e.g. weight-lifting can make you stronger over time, evolution will better-optimize a species for a changing environment if that species experiences small environmental changes periodically, the Star Trek Borg adapt to attacks used against them, etc.). The implications of antifragility that Taleb discusses seem reasonably obvious, at least as far as I got in the book.

I admit that I didn't finish the book. Taleb's writing style turned me off. Taleb comes across as immature and pompous, spending far too many words attacking academics (and other groups he despises) with childish insults that do more to undermine Taleb's own credibility than that of the groups he attacks. Aside from making Taleb seem like an schoolyard bully, these insults slow down the book and dilute Taleb's presentation of his ideas.

If you are interested in reading a book about antifragile systems that provides wonderful insight, I recommend "The Origin of Wealth" by Eric Beinhocker, an examination of evolution as a substrate-independent algorithm for improving and optimizing systems to external conditions. Beinhocker's thinking is more sophisticated that that of Taleb, and Beinhocker's presentation is both clearer and more pleasant to read.
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