Thursday, December 20, 2012

“Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Chaos Explored

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Series: Incerto
Release date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 544
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)

From his previously-published book The Black Swan, it is no secret that Nassim Nicholas Taleb doesn’t believe this world to be an orderly and predictable place; the events which truly dictate humanity’s fate are almost always the ones nobody sees coming. In Antifragile, Nassim digs deeper into the concept of chaos and how its existence is necessary.

What does the title refer to exactly? Well, it seems that in this book Nassim coins the term "antifragile" in reference to that which flourishes under stress and disorder. For instance, when human bones are broken they grow back stronger and revolutions become more powerful as people try to suppress them.

Somewhat controversially, Nassim look as the concepts we would usually consider negative, such as stress, turmoil, volatility and disorder, arguing that they are essential components for humans to be able to not only survive, but also progress.

As you can probably guess, he argues that the world should be built following an antifragile model, for whenever it is subjected to negative events it gets stronger and better… this is the model we ought to follow instead of the one we have now, that of resilience.

Thankfully, Nassim doesn’t spend the entire book dryly arguing philosophical concepts. He looks at how they apply in the real world, looking at various historical events as well as those taking place in our day-to-day lives.

For instance, he looks into why governments tend to protect the rich and shun the poor, why the Titanic crash actually led to more lives being saved, why the human race is inefficient, and much, much more. He doesn't pull any punches and explores practically every topic imaginable, ranging from giant-scale wars all the way to individual life decisions.

All in all, I have to say that just like with The Black Swan, I was quite fascinated by the thoughts Nassim expressed this time around. It is very interesting to note that without unpredictability, without having to deal with any kind problems, our lives would very quickly lose meaning.

If you think about it, your entire life is focused on dealing with problems one way or the other: work to pay bills, spend time with your kids to raise them, find a good plumber to fix the kitchen sink… etc…etc… Let’s put it this way: apart from the natural fear of death, would there be anything driving humanity to continue existing if we could predict everything and never had to deal with a single problem?

Basically, Antifragile builds upon what was discussed in The Black Swan, exploring how humanity ought to live in a world driven by chaos.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (1960)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (1960)

Personal site

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese-American author, essayist, scholar, statistician and risk analyst whose main topic of concern is that of probability, and everything that comes associated with it. He is well-known for his 2007 book, The Black Swan, in which he rather interestingly analyzes the concept of unpredictable events.

More of the Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book reviews:
The Black Swan

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