Monthly Archives: November 2012

Anti-Fragile Book: Why We Should Eat Like Cave Men, Embrace Religion, and Hate Bankers

At the Brooklyn launch of his book on Wednesday, Taleb declared that, “The only anti-fragile systems now are Silicon Valley and the New York Restaurant industry.” Both entities are extremely innovative, and prone to high levels of failure and reward. The ability for individual disasters to benefit the overall quality of the collective qualifies them as anti-fragile.

Taleb is a notorious jerk, and the event Q&A proved to be no exception. Audience members who were taken to task for asking stupid questions can at least flatter themselves to be in the company of everyone and everything from Nobel prize winning journalists, academics, heads of state, artists, and bankers, to um, oranges. His scorn is abundant. But so is his insight.

via Anti-Fragile Book: Why We Should Eat Like Cave Men, Embrace Religion, and Hate Bankers.

He’d have us embrace change and uncertainty –

Taleb says the restaurant and airline industries are good examples of antifragile systems: The death of a specific company doesn’t affect the whole industry. The industry as a whole learns from the company’s mistakes and improves.

“The airline industry is set up in such a way as to make travel safer after every plane crash,” he wrote in a recent newspaper piece.

Similarly, when individual restaurants fail, the industry as a whole learns and grows from the experience. “The collective enterprise benefits from the fragility of the individual components,” says Taleb.

The opposite is true of the financial industry, Taleb says: Dominated by companies so large that their failure would bring down the entire economy, they were unable to adapt. Yet, Taleb notes ruefully, many of the men and women who ran failed companies walked away in 2008 with millions in their pockets.

“At no time in the history of humankind have more positions of power been assigned to people who don’t take personal risks,” he writes. Corporate leaders, he insists, ought to flourish or fail according to – not despite – their company’s performance and health.

Antifragile asks a great deal of us: to embrace the idea that we live in a world shot through with uncertainty. Its lessons, Taleb insists, aren’t useful only in the corporate world, but translate into an existential plan for individual living.

“The question we need to ask,” he says, “is how to live in a world we don’t understand.”

via He’d have us embrace change and uncertainty.