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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newb

*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Monday, December 17, 2012.

The concept of fragility is very familiar to us. It applies to things that break when you strike or stretch them with a relatively small amount ...
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Monday, December 17, 2012.

The concept of fragility is very familiar to us. It applies to things that break when you strike or stretch them with a relatively small amount of force. Porcelain cups and pieces of thread are fragile. Things that do not break so easily when you apply force to them we call strong or resilient, even robust. A cast-iron pan, for instance. However, there is a third category here that is often overlooked. It includes those things that actually get stronger or improve when they are met with a stressor (up to a point). Take weight-lifting. If you try to lift something too heavy, you'll tear a muscle; but lifting more appropriate weights will strengthen your muscles over time. This property can be said to apply to living things generally, as in the famous aphorism `what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. Strangely, we don't really have a word for this property, this opposite of fragility.

For author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, this is a real shame, for when we look closely, it turns out that a lot of things (indeed the most important things) have, or are subject to, this property. Indeed, for Taleb, pretty much anything living, and the complex things that these living things create (like societies, economic systems, businesses etc.) have, or must confront this property in some way. This is important to know, because understanding this can help us understand how to improve these things (or profit from them), and failing to understand it can cause us to unwittingly harm or even destroy them (or be harmed by them). So Taleb has taken it upon himself to name and explore this curious property and its implications; and in his new book 'Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder' Taleb reports on his findings.

Taleb presents a very intriguing position, and offers up some very interesting evidence in support of it (though at times we may wonder whether he is resorting to the same kind of cherry-picking of information that he accuses others of). Also, Taleb has a lot to say, and a bone to pick, so his style often comes across as arrogant--even bombastic (think Nietzsche). Some will like this, while others will be annoyed (I didn't mind it, but did not think it truly added anything for the most part). Also, Taleb jumps around and repeats himself often. This was more annoying to me than his style, but ultimately I think the content rose well above this, and I truly enjoyed the book, and think it deserves a read. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Monday, December 17; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.

posted by popscipopulizer on December 9, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

disappointing

I thought this would be more about the science world, instead it's all about the political/economic world.

posted by mellow on January 18, 2013

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  • Posted December 9, 2012

    *A full executive summary of this book will be available at newb

    *A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Monday, December 17, 2012.

    The concept of fragility is very familiar to us. It applies to things that break when you strike or stretch them with a relatively small amount of force. Porcelain cups and pieces of thread are fragile. Things that do not break so easily when you apply force to them we call strong or resilient, even robust. A cast-iron pan, for instance. However, there is a third category here that is often overlooked. It includes those things that actually get stronger or improve when they are met with a stressor (up to a point). Take weight-lifting. If you try to lift something too heavy, you'll tear a muscle; but lifting more appropriate weights will strengthen your muscles over time. This property can be said to apply to living things generally, as in the famous aphorism `what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. Strangely, we don't really have a word for this property, this opposite of fragility.

    For author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, this is a real shame, for when we look closely, it turns out that a lot of things (indeed the most important things) have, or are subject to, this property. Indeed, for Taleb, pretty much anything living, and the complex things that these living things create (like societies, economic systems, businesses etc.) have, or must confront this property in some way. This is important to know, because understanding this can help us understand how to improve these things (or profit from them), and failing to understand it can cause us to unwittingly harm or even destroy them (or be harmed by them). So Taleb has taken it upon himself to name and explore this curious property and its implications; and in his new book 'Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder' Taleb reports on his findings.

    Taleb presents a very intriguing position, and offers up some very interesting evidence in support of it (though at times we may wonder whether he is resorting to the same kind of cherry-picking of information that he accuses others of). Also, Taleb has a lot to say, and a bone to pick, so his style often comes across as arrogant--even bombastic (think Nietzsche). Some will like this, while others will be annoyed (I didn't mind it, but did not think it truly added anything for the most part). Also, Taleb jumps around and repeats himself often. This was more annoying to me than his style, but ultimately I think the content rose well above this, and I truly enjoyed the book, and think it deserves a read. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Monday, December 17; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 4, 2013

    Fantastic - Conceptually Sound, Well Written

    There are three states for things: Fragile: those things that don't do well under adversity; Neutral/Robust: those things that are unaffected by adversity; and, Antifragile: those things that benefit from adversity. Examples are helpful: a system of cooperating governments in which each makes its own decisions and allows the others to see how it fares is antifragile. It is antifragile because a failure of one policy in one government, first, does not affect the others, and, second, the others learn from that mistake and don't repeat it. Contrast that with a single government with a single, central bureaucracy. When that single bureaucracy makes a policy mistake it affects adversely all of the lower levels of the society. The single, central government is fragile because adverse events affect it while the disbursed decision making government is antifragile because an adverse event affecting one does not necessarily affect the others adversely. Once you see that single entities are more fragile than multiple, unconnected entities, the policy implications for banking, industry, and other collections are that the more, independently run entities the more antifragile the system as a whole becomes. Author Taleb explains these concepts clearly with many examples showing the concept of antifragilism is what makes a competitive, capitalist system superior to all currently envisioned alternatives. His approach is neither political nor economic. It is rather well-based in common sense and logic. This is a good read. It helps to understand the world as we see it and suggests that alternative approaches to many organizational choices, while not intuitive, will yield more robust systems as well as the opportunity for improved system results.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Go buy it!

    I bought this book for my husband as a Christmas gift and he really enjoyed it. He is a partner in a mid-sized small cap investment firm and is certainly interested in anything written about the economy or the stock market. A lot of books he never finishes, but this one he did. He certainly recommends it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2013

    Antifragile

    More of a polemic than his previous books, but still interesting.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2013

    disappointing

    I thought this would be more about the science world, instead it's all about the political/economic world.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2014

    B

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    NEW RP

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2014

    Reader Beware! This book could kill you.

    Nassim will ride his ideas into the ground or into the winners circle. Readers must beware the pain they MUST endure to follow this path. Intelligent courage is the real title.

    To become antifragile NECESSARILY means you will suffer tremendous pain. Survival is not likely, so beware of this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    Unreadable

    This would probably have made a good long essay/article, but it felt stretched out and unreadable as a full book. Also the term "antifragile" drove me crazy because anti-anything usually means against, like anti-venom, anti-tank or anti-virus. Nassim is clearly not using antifragile to mean against fragile.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    Fascinating

    ...

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 31, 2013

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    Posted March 5, 2013

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    Posted March 25, 2013

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    Posted December 28, 2012

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    Posted December 28, 2012

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    Posted January 26, 2013

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    Posted December 9, 2012

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    Posted April 11, 2013

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