Antifragile

A book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Artwork by Jane Lin

Artwork by Jane Lin

To live is to experience randomness. Things will happen that you can’t foresee; Murphy’s Law, whatever you want to call it, the unplanned will occur. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, “Antifragile” describes three categories of people and institutions: the fragile that are hurt by randomness, the robust that can handle randomness, and the antifragile that thrive on randomness.

An alternative way of life is antifragility. Antifragility involves accepting small, known downsides with seemingly unlimited upsides. An example of this that the author integrates into his own life is avoiding certain foods on certain days, so that his body can better absorb nutrients when he eats those foods later. The human body is antifragile. So the small downside of a temporary lack of food on specific days influences the upside of better utilizing the nutrients later. In Taleb’s book, consistency in diet is detrimental.

For the antifragile, random events bring benefits, and nothing brings random events like time. Wait long enough, and something sporadic will happen. This means that concepts that are fragile are withered by time, but the antifragile is what remains. New concepts need to prove themselves over the old, because the old have already proven themselves by surviving. The author gives the example of people demanding evidence that smoking is harmful, when the onus should be on smoking proving itself, instead of refraining from smoking proving itself.

The book offers advice on how to live by making the most of antifragility. The antifragile accept the unpredictability of life and embrace volatility. Taleb’s biggest advice: we live in a random world, use it to your advantage.