Antifragile

  • by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Narrated by Joe Ochman
  • 16 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the best-selling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a book on how some things actually benefit from disorder.
In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what Taleb calls the "antifragile" is actually beyond the robust, because it benefits from shocks, uncertainty, and stressors, just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension. The antifragile needs disorder in order to survive and flourish.
Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. The antifragile is immune to prediction errors. Why is the city-state better than the nation-state, why is debt bad for you, and why is everything that is both modern and complicated bound to fail? The audiobook spans innovation by trial and error, health, biology, medicine, life decisions, politics, foreign policy, urban planning, war, personal finance, and economic systems. And throughout, in addition to the street wisdom of Fat Tony of Brooklyn, the voices and recipes of ancient wisdom, from Roman, Greek, Semitic, and medieval sources, are heard loud and clear.
Extremely ambitious and multidisciplinary, Antifragile provides a blueprint for how to behave - and thrive - in a world we don't understand, and which is too uncertain for us to even try to understand and predict. Erudite and witty, Taleb’s message is revolutionary: What is not antifragile will surely perish.

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What the Critics Say

"[This] is the lesson of Taleb...and also the lesson of our volatile times. There is more courage and heroism in defying the human impulse, in taking the purposeful and painful steps to prepare for the unimaginable." (Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point)
"[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne." (The Wall Street Journal)
"The most prophetic voice of all.... [Taleb is] a genuinely significant philosopher...someone who is able to change the way we view the structure of the world through the strength, originality and veracity of his ideas alone." (GQ)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Some good ideas, smart guy, not smart as HE thinks

As a longtime reader of Taleb, I find him at best mostly bracing, sometimes head-turning with new twists of ideas, sometimes charmingly abrasive. He can be like a bright, independent-thinking pal to spend a walk with (and I walk with books mostly). This book is worth it on that level. There are important ideas here which the herd misses, probably to its ultimate regret. But plenty of time is spent here with ideas not as new and revolutionary as he touts them as, and of course the self-absorbed cheap-shot attacks on straw-man "academics," etc. Why spend so much time attacking mediocrities in that corner of the world? It gets repetitive, and that's where (despite his protestations) a SMART editor (unlike, again, the mediocre straw-man editors he criticizes) would come in handy. There seems to be a framing effect, a saliency bias, Mr Taleb is brilliant but very wrapped up in his world of airport luggage, dinners, academics, with a certain adolescent resentment about elements of it. I feel sometimes like I'm trapped in an airport luncheon with him and his loathsome dull academics, as he prattles on.
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- Phil O.

How to focus on impact instead of risk

There are two things to say about this book: one is about the intellectual content, which is brilliant and thought-provoking. The other is its tone and character, which is nauseating at times and simply boring at most others. Enough is said about that in other reviews, suffice to say that he does it even more in this book than in his previous tomes.

Back to the content then: Taleb asserts that we cannot KNOW the probability or risk of certain events, that is why instead we should focus on its consequences, bad or good. Almost all relevant events are 'non-linear', meaning that the potential benefits far outweigh the potential costs or vice versa. If we focus on reducing the potentially large negative consequences of events and expose ourselves to potentially large positive consequences of others (at little cost) than we are really progressing. He advocates a barbell strategy, of limiting your biggest risks while exposing yourself to the biggest upsides.

Some interesting elements:
(1) the 'via negitiva' or subtractive way of doing things. It is easier to predict the things that in the future will no longer be there (the fragile), then the new things that will arise and be successful. The old is more likely to stay around than the new (it has been around longer). (2) The small, decentral is less harmful than the big central which drags everybody along. (3) 'stressors'. Minor stressors (pains, damage) due to volatility are good for strength. Too much stability creates comfort and lack of strength. This is true for humans: no effort, no strength. But also for government monopolies.
And finally (4) his main point: let us try to intervene less in society, economy and human beings, because practically all intervention has large negative and unknown consequences. Only intervene when not intervening ends most likely very bad. This could be a policy for the military too?

I for one can recommend the content of this book if you can stomach the tone, and am myself still digesting its consequential conclusions.
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- E. Smakman

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-27-2012
  • Publisher: Random House Audio