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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder…

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (edition 2012)

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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Title:Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
Authors:Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Info:Random House (2012), Hardcover, 544 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:statistics, risk management

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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Excellent book exploring how Hormesis manifests itself in many systems throughout life.

One needs to become resilient through harnessing gradual stressors and employing a barbell strategy.

Fear the domain specificity of "taking the elevator to the stairmaster". ( )
  shakazul | Jul 3, 2017 |
Taleb the erudite Levantine contrarian holds forth at length on his favorite subject, variations on volatility. ( )
  pheinrich | Sep 19, 2016 |
This book had some interesting points but I listened to it and misses many of the concepts presented. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This book had some interesting points but I listened to it and misses many of the concepts presented. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
I just completed “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder,” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Nassim gave a strategic introduction to his book, point out how critical receptions would benefit him - so here you go Nassim.

I was very resistant to pickup the book. Someone’d been recommending it to me for a long time, but I just refused to read it because of the title; antifragile just sounded like a dumb word to me, a cheap form of marketing.

But then when my book portfolio freed up, I decided to read it anyways. I was right about the title. The entire book was full of jargon that just seemed kind of paranoid and insider to me. Most of the words I never became familiar with, even though they were repeated many times.

Nassim seems to be onto something, but his culture is so divergent from my own that I had a very hard time finding common context. I only got about twenty percent of his references in the book. The rest came from classics, that were probably perfectly good examples. Except, because I had no familiarity with them, they further confused his points. Nassim points out in the book that, “much of what other people know isn’t worth knowing;” I couldn’t agree more in the choice of his examples.

Nassim’s framing is very imprecise. He uses the word antifragile as the title of fragile. What does it mean? That’s unknown, and undefined. It’s just not fragile. Then, how does he describe this word? As things that gain from disorder. What is disorder? The lack of order. Again, instead of defining the thing in the definition, he repeats what it isn’t. So right from the cover I’m left knowing what he isn’t talking about, but not any more than that.

Eventually, after he talks about the concept for a while, he introduces his triad. First, triad is a technical term, and what he defines as a triad [fragile, robust, antifragile] is actually a spectrum - don’t get mislead by the name. But so with this spectrum idea, I could start to catch his drift. Some things are hurt by volatility. Some things are left untouched. And some things gain from volatility. This is an interesting idea, but could only gain value with application.

Nassim continues for the rest of the book without talking about a single good application of the idea of antifragility. There are a few reasons that this is the case:

1) Antifragility oscillates through scales of a fractal. Say we take a subset of a system - like a politician. Increasing their fragility deceases the fragility of the system that they’re a part of. Nassim doesn’t discuss this interesting dynamic - that it matters where you optimize antifragility.

2) The entire book seems devoid of purpose. Although Nassim says that he’s a religious man, I couldn’t identify how. Is he an environmentalist? Maybe he’s motivated by aesthetics? Or possibly he likes to bask in the oneness of existence? He doesn’t state his motivations in the book, so we’re left with a hollow shell of this theory of antifragility, unsure how it leads to any deeper sense of meaning.

3) I grew up in a culture of antifragility. It’s such a fundamental part of who I am that it took me a while to understand what we was talking about. There are probably thousands of great examples of antifragility, but he doesn’t reference them. This lead us to think that he doesn’t actually live the concept, for if he did, he would have bumped into some of these things.

Antifragility in the real world:
*Gurdjieff: “conscious labor and intentional suffering”
*Christianity: The way of the cross - enlightenment through suffering
*Spirituality in general
*Education: Waldorf, Essential Schools, GaiaU
*Calvin and Hobbes: “it builds character”
*Systems Thinking
*Chaos Theory

Nassim does talk some about entrepreneurialism, but he spends more time talking about standing up for the weak, and about why artisans are nice and big corporations aren’t. There isn’t any problem with this, but it doesn’t have to do with antifragility.

As Nassim has a background in finance, I was really looking forward to seeing how he applies the idea of antifragility in designing financial systems, but he never got there.

There’s a point where Nassim correlates size to fragility. Size doesn’t scale with fragility. Yes, if you increase the size a fragile system, it becomes more fragile. But this is the same with antifragile systems. Take gene pools for example - a gene pool with a thousand members will be less antifragile than a gene pool with a million members.

In summary, I think that the concept of antifragility is a good one, but Nassims book doesn’t explain what antifragility is nor how it can be used. Hopefully someone will pickup where he left off and do something meaningful with the concept. ( )
  willszal | Jan 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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.
added by Taphophile13 | editWall Street Journal, Matt Ridley (Nov 27, 2012)
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"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"--… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1846141567, 1846141575

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