I loved this book at first - just as I loved The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. It's interesting, although the sentences get awkward...moreI loved this book at first - just as I loved The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. It's interesting, although the sentences get awkward at times. One subject he mentions is hating 'useless copy editors' and you can tell at times he rejected their help or advice. I had to push through the last 50 pages or so, they took longer than the first 400, but overall I recommend the book highly.
The central idea: fragile things dislike change/uncertainty, antifragile things like change/uncertainty, and time is change. He translates this across many fields, with a basic concept such that building institutions to try to prevent uncertainty actually makes things more fragile. Pretty interesting, believable and inspirational.
Another interesting concept: iatrogenics or via negativa versus via positiva. This is the concept that things have negative side effects, such that overdoing one item will cause more harm than not doing anything at all. An example from Taleb, paraphrased badly by me: pediatricians collectively do too many tonsillectomies. When any surgery is a risk to the life of the patient, the benefit to the patient should be extremely visible (ie life-saving, pain reducing, et) to be worth the risk, and preventative surgeries are not in that category. Through many similar examples, Taleb makes the argument that it is always less risky to subtract than to add, or to do nothing if you're not in danger.
The book ranges wildly through examples in all walks of life, to the point where expertise in all the fields is impossible, however the argument is consistent, interesting and valid. (less)
Really good, and I think widely applicable in that it gives clues on what info you can't trust. I'm wishing I'd read this before I read Nate Silver's...moreReally good, and I think widely applicable in that it gives clues on what info you can't trust. I'm wishing I'd read this before I read Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't because I feel like they'd be good to inspect each other. Taleb has a disdain for the overuse of models and most predictions, showing they're only useful in very select situation.
My memory is that Silver inspects different fields of prediction and which are successful or not - using some of the techniques Taleb disdains, but at the same time comparing them very practically to the real world, as I feel Taleb would recommend.
A central tenet of this book would be a feel that abstracted models and complex math used with untrustworthy data sources are more dangerous than knowing nothing. Being ignorant, and uninformed, can ofter be safer than believing yourself knowledgable, or believing certain experts, when judging risk.
Also, full of hilarious throw away lines like 'when one must do something unpleasant, such as going to the gym or Jersey, it is best to do it as quickly and intensely as possible' which give a laugh and lighten up the tone enough to make the book much more readable. (less)
So far it's great. Interesting, and he presents multiple theories in a concise and understandable way, and then keeps going with what that means histo...moreSo far it's great. Interesting, and he presents multiple theories in a concise and understandable way, and then keeps going with what that means historically. Another winner, just like History of the World in 6 Glasses.(less)
I loved this book. Some of the things he said I started off agreeing with (re: nuclear power), some of the things I started off greatly disagreeing wi...moreI loved this book. Some of the things he said I started off agreeing with (re: nuclear power), some of the things I started off greatly disagreeing with (re: genetic engineering) but he said a lot of things worth considering. I will definitely regard the issue of GE differently, and think of his points, even if I still end up disagreeing. He makes a great argument for rethinking some of environmentalists long-held positions.
The book is placed as an engineers approach to climate-change - the crisis as a solvable problem. He doesn't propose concrete answers but instead he proposes a tool-box of methods. I enjoyed the anecdotes about the progression of science and approaches to local challenges around the world. I was amazed at the number and breadth of sources he cites and examples of work being done. From Indonesian rice-patties to African staple crops and personal work against invasive weeds in the Bay Area his knowledge of the challenges facing human habitats is informative.
I am not convinced that these methods are all perfect, I am convinced they deserve another look by environmentalists rather than being dismissed out of hand.
The major technologies/concepts he pushes to help the environment are: urbanization, nuclear power, genetic engineering, and investigating geo-engineering.(less)
I really liked this book. It did glorify Greg Mortenson, but what he has done is pretty glorious. The organization is making a real difference by buil...moreI really liked this book. It did glorify Greg Mortenson, but what he has done is pretty glorious. The organization is making a real difference by building these schools, and it is really great to read about people making a difference. It isn't really a book about the culture of Pakistan but it does offer a window into a culture I've never seen.
Another amazing thing I found in this is the girls who are the first educated women of their community. While not being the focus of the book it is amazing that this occurs, and just to find out what was necessary for this made this book worth it.
This was a quick read with quite a few emotional ups and downs. Warning: several parts made me cry. Which was pretty embarrassing commuting on BART.(less)
Stirner "The terrifying significance of an unpremeditated cry of joy cannot be understood while the long night of faith and reason endures" and it goes...moreStirner "The terrifying significance of an unpremeditated cry of joy cannot be understood while the long night of faith and reason endures" and it goes on in a beautiful paragraph that I must stop to savor. Almost overwrought but communicative.
This one took a long time to read - I'd have to constantly reread previous chapters, but I really liked it. Beautiful, describing pieces of deeper truths, and interesting throughout. Sometimes felt like a jump to much greater statements than necessary, but the meanings were there and the arguments rang well.(less)
A good interesting, intelligent history of scientific rivalry. I have always been a fan of Tesla, so the Edison v. Tesla story I felt was particularly...moreA good interesting, intelligent history of scientific rivalry. I have always been a fan of Tesla, so the Edison v. Tesla story I felt was particularly interesting, but the Newton v. Liebniz was also very good. I learned a bit about the foundations of modern physics, chemistry and electronics, the way some of the great innovations have worked and the progress of scientific innovation/culture/methodology through the book. I felt the last story, Gates v. Ellison, was a bit difficult to tackle in this format. Writing a history of living figures and a quickly evolving modern industry is just going to be harder, and has the potential to quickly feel dated. I think that those factors definitely made me feel that the last story was the least interesting - though it made me interested in reading more thorough explorations of that time frame. Also, Steve Jobs and Macintosh & Apple aren't mentioned, which we can definitely see as an oversight at this point. (less)