Monthly Archives: April 2011

Mercenary Trader » Cockroaches, Extinction Events and Anti-Fragility

Shared by JohnH

Post also quotes Rick Bookstaber who uses a biological metaphor – survival over time – in weighing investment strategies.

This train of thought was jogged by a Wharton discussion with Nassim Taleb on fragility and over-optimization (available via Paul Kedrosky here).

In arguing why an oil shock could actually be a good thing — a sort of wake-up call to get us off our butts — Taleb brings up the concept of “anti-fragility,” also the subject of his “Black Swan” follow-up:

There is robustness, fragility, and anti-fragility. [Anti-fragility] is not robustness, it is beyond… you give someone a little poison and they get stronger.

Economic life gets stronger not with bailouts, but with bankruptcies. Evolution works not with bailouts — there are no bailouts in nature — but with competition and natural selection.

So you need to have some stressors. And we have not been stressed enough (in regard to oil prices)… this is the fragility of depending on one source, one product.

It is optimal to use oil, but more dangerous… almost 99 cases out of 100, optimization makes you vulnerable and fragile.