This amazing book is brilliant, confusing, idiosyncratic, useful and irritating – sometimes, all at once. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s core idea, which is profound and close to revolutionary, is this: Everyone is familiar with the idea of fragility. If something is fragile, it breaks. Fragility is a danger in all complex systems, and it is a growing danger in the increasingly interrelated global economy. The opposite of fragile is not “robust” or sturdy. “Antifragile” doesn’t refer to things that don’t break. Those qualities fall somewhere in the middle of a spectrum between fragile and antifragile. Something is antifragile – a term Taleb coined – if it benefits from shocks, stress, disruption, randomness or volatility. Thus, he teaches, people must learn to create systems, habits and practices that survive and benefit from disruption. In discussing ethics and antifragility, he argues against generalized responsibility and against decisions in which the consequences don’t affect the decision makers. He relishes challenging modern orthodoxies and argues for better ethics from those with “skin in the game.” If you’re short on time, read Taleb’s prologue. It gives a clear explanation of antifragility, a concept you can apply usefully on your own.
About the Author
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a distinguished professor of risk engineering at New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering and a distinguished research scholar at Said Business School at Oxford. He also wrote The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness and The Bed of Procrustes.