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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 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 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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