ANTIFRAGILE by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


This is my summary of Antifragile. Underlines are notes from me. The rest of the text is quoted from the book. It consists entirely of passages I underlined while reading the book.


“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, culture, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance…even our own existence as a species on this planet.”

“Anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile.”

“While in the past people of rank or status were those and only those who took risks, who had the downside for their actions, and heroes were those who did so for the sake of others, today the exact reverse it taking place. We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D. (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price. At no point in history have so many non-risk-takers, that is, those with no personal exposure, exerted so much control. The chief ethical rule is the following: Thou salt not have antifragility at the expense of the fragility of others.”

“Man-made complex systems tend to develop cascades and runaway chains of reactions that decrease, even eliminate, predictability and cause outsized events. So the modern world may be increasing in technological knowledge, but, paradoxically, it is making things a lot more unpredictable.”

“Consider that Mother Nature is not just “safe”. It is aggressive in destroying and replacing, in selecting and reshuffling.”

“The antifragile gains from prediction errors, in the long run. If you follow this idea to its conclusion, then many things that gain from randomness should be dominating the world today–and things that are hurt by it should be gone. Well, this turns out to be the case. We have the illusion that the world functions thanks to programmed design, university research, and bureaucratic funding, but there is compelling–very compelling–evidence to show that this is an illusion, the illusion I call lecturing birds how to fly.”

“The fragilista belongs to that category of persons who are usually in suit and tie, often on Fridays; he faces your jokes with icy solemnity, and tends to develop back problems early in life from sitting at a desk, riding airplanes, and studying newspapers. He is often involved in a strange ritual, something commonly called “a meeting”. Now, in addition to these traits, he defaults to thinking that what he doesn’t see is not there, or what he does not understand does not exist. At the core, he tends to mistake the unknown for the nonexistent. The fragilista falls for the Soviet-Harvard delusion, the (unscientific) overestimation of the reach of scientific knowledge. Because of such delusion, he is what is called a naive rationalist, a rationalizer, or sometimes just a rationalist, in the sense that be believes that the reasons behind things are automatically accessible to him.”

“In short, the fragilista (medical, economic, social planning) is one who makes you engage in policies and actions, all artificial, in which the benefits are small and visible, and the side effects potentially severe and invisible.

Where Simple Is More Sophisticated…Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects…I will produce a small number of tricks, directives, and interdicts–how to live in a world we don’t understand, or, rather, how to not be afraid to work with things we patently don’t understand.”

“Only distilled ideas, ones that sit in us for a long time, are acceptable–and those that come from reality.”

If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud. Just as being nice to the arrogant is no better than being arrogant to the nice, being accommodating toward anyone committing a nefarious action condones it. Further, many writers and scholar speak in private, say, after half a bottle of wine, differently from the way they do in print…And many of the problems of society come from the argument “other people are doing it.” So if I call someone a dangerous ethically challenged fragilista in private after the third glass of Lebanese wine (white), I will be obligated to do so here.”

“Compromising is condoning. The only modern dictum I follow is one by George Santayana: A man is morally free when . . . he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity.” I don’t trust myself nearly enough to do this.

“Commerce, business, Levantine souks (though not large-scale markets and corporations) are activities and places that bring out the best in people, making most of them forgiving, honest, loving, trusting, and open-minded. As a member of the Christian minority in the Near East, I can vouch that commerce, particularly small commerce, is the door to tolerance–the only door, in my opinion, to any form of tolerance. It beats rationalizations and lectures. Like antifragile tinkering, mistakes are small and rapidly forgotten.”

“Books to me are not expanded journal articles, but reading experiences; and the academics who tend to read in order to cite in their writing–rather than read for enjoyment, curiosity, or simply because they like to read–tend to be frustrated when they can’t rapidly scan the text and summarize it in one sentence that connects it to some existing discourse in which they have been involved.” This is me a little bit. Maybe this book summarizing thing makes that obvious. On the other hand, I totally enjoyed reading Antifragile and I enjoy looking back over my underlines and notes as I write this summary.

“I write about probability with my entire soul and my entire experiences in the risk-taking business; I write with my scars, hence my thought is inseparable from autobiography. The personal essay form is ideal for the topic of incertitude.”

“The Triad classifies items in three columns along the designation


…take the health category. Adding is on the left, removing on the right. Removing medication, or some other unnatural stressor–say, gluten, fructose, tranquilizers, nail polish, or some such substance–by trial and error is more robust than adding medication, with unknown side effects, unknown in spite of the statements about “evidence” and shmevidence.”

To be continued with Chapter 1…


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