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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

(Incerto #4)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  46,413 ratings  ·  3,828 reviews
From the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost philosophers of our time, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a book on how some systems actually benefit from disorder.

In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem; in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what he
Hardcover, 426 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by Random House
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Chris A I don't think so... it'll be a struggle to finish this one. Taleb is intelligent, but not nearly as intelligent as he seems to think he is. If it's an…moreI don't think so... it'll be a struggle to finish this one. Taleb is intelligent, but not nearly as intelligent as he seems to think he is. If it's any consolation to him, he IS as arrogant as he thinks he is intelligent.(less)
Petko Bossakov What you described is only a specific case of "antifragility" in human beings. The author has invented a much more generic concept here: the fragile <…moreWhat you described is only a specific case of "antifragility" in human beings. The author has invented a much more generic concept here: the fragile <-> antifragile continuum can be applied to non-living objects and abstract things too (e.g. ideas and works of art can sometimes be "antifragile": when they are under attack, the controversy only makes them more popular).(less)

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Val Delane
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
Taleb seems constitutionally angry, dismissive, and contrarian--sometimes to the point of being an asshole. However, one cannot deny his talent of conveying crucially important concepts in a clear and entertaining fashion. I would rather have every one of my biases and heuristics kicked around so I will reconsider where they came from--and whether to keep them--than be coddled and comforted.

Perhaps the best heuristic reminders I received from this book: 1/ Invest (trust) in people, not plans. 2/
Andrew Shaffer
Oct 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
The author goes to extreme lengths to make up new words or turn common sense wisdom on its head. "Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder and stressors.... Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile." Really? The word "adaptable" wouldn't suffice? "Antifragile" is not the last word he makes up, either. Instead of writing the word "brave," for instanc ...more
Pete Welter
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Antifragile" is a book that is difficult to summarize. I'll try to mention a few major ideas. If they come out confusing, it's my fault - read the book :)

Unlike many books of this genre, which spend 200 pages padding a 5 page idea, Antifragile is a fractal of a book, taking it's central ideas and examining and applying them in myriad ways. In that way, it as rich on page 400 as it is on page 2.

Taleb is an independent thinker who is almost impossible to categorize. In fact he revels in question
May 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
Taleb has some great ideas. Unfortunately, he also has what he calls "FU money," which allows him to do what he wants without suffering fools. Which, for Taleb, includes pretty much anyone, including editors, whose help he could use.

When are two similar ideas not really the same? Taleb takes the human immune response and the muscle hypertrophy response to resistance training as examples of the same thing--systems responding to stress by getting better able to handle the stress. And they do have
Jan 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-finishing-it
This book has been such a disappointment...

It started absolutely great and has an idea (antifragility) that is worthy and notable and interesting. Wait, let me back up from the beginning: I could not finish this book.

When I read non fiction I tend to stick to certain rules:

1) I want to learn from the books I read. I tend not to read Mathematics, for example, except in formal context, since normally when I read Math being exposed to the general public I noticed how poorly they are really explaini
Apr 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, nonfiction
What a frustrating book.

10% of it was brilliant and original ideas - I was very glad to learn about antifragility and optionality as it relates to life and business.

Unfortunately, the other 90% of it was spent whining (I can't describe it any other way) and moralizing, of the most weaksauce variety. Ugh.

Still worth reading, if you're patient, or if you can skim heavily through his "modern society sucks, the Romans were awesome!" diatribes.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I've been reading this book, Antifragile, for almost four weeks. I call it reading. I've turned all the pages. I've read all the words. That's reading, right?

Or is it?

I started off pretty well, somehow managing to get my brain around the whole idea of antifragile, a word the author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, admits he made up. There is no real word in English that properly names this idea. Everyone understands the idea of fragile, something that is destroyed when stressed. But the opposite of fragi
James Johnson
Aug 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
The author somehow is able to pull off sounding like an arrogant prick and simultaneously like an insecure whiner. The rare examples when the author wrote something that was true or significant do not offset the hundred of pages of unsubstantiated assertions and purely fabricated nonsense.
David Rubenstein
I had previously read Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable; I enjoyed it, and this book is definitely better. Taleb has a very non-traditional style of writing--often conversational, historical, philosophical, and scientific--all at the same time.

Taleb's basic thesis is that people and institutions are either fragile, robust, or antifragile. A fragile person is one who thinks he can predict the future--and when things go very sour, he is sorely hurt, usually in a f
Mario Tomic
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I've ever read, it opened my eyes to entire new mindset and gave me a new framework for understanding the world. I know some of you reading this book will find the cocky tone of the author unbearable but just keep plowing through, the ideas shared inside are based on a very powerful logic that's hard to argue against. If I had to pick the 2 big ideas of the book I would say they are:
1. Design your life around anti-fragility (allow the stress of life to st
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
Antifagile points out the value of systems that gain from disorder, chaos, or volatility. For example, a fragile state is catching a disease, a neutral state is avoiding exposure to anyone infected with the disease, and antifragile state is being vaccinated (where a small dosage produces immunity to the disease). There are many examples in the book, like lack of physical exertion, walking, and jogging. The rigorous activity of jogging increases health benefits, whereas no stressors to the body m ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science, economics
I sat on this review for a long time, because this book bothered me. I really disliked both the author and his work. The writing is punchy, blustery, privileged, and utterly without charm. Taleb barely dips his toe into each topic before asserting that he has proven another point. Antifragile is very weak on evidence.

You have to worry about an author that thinks he can vocalize an argument through Tony Soprano that defeats Socrates(!!!). Further, he is on Al-Ghazali's side, a Spanish Muslim who
Will Ansbacher
I sometimes receive emails from demented would-be Nobel prizewinners with titles like “the Fallacy of Einsteinian Hadronic Universes” that academics have apparently conspired to have suppressed. They’re incomprehensible of course, and I don’t read them. But I did read Antifragile. All of it, including the appendix.

Oh, god, where to begin? This is one big ol’ mess of a book. It would be mildly entertaining as an autobiography, and bears a resemblance to Monty Python in places, but it isn’t suppos
Janet Eshenroder
Feb 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
I really tried to finish this e-book (I might not have picked it if I had realized it was so long and would be so hard to stomach). I hate to give an opinion on any book until I've finished and given it every possible chance of redeeming itself. I struggled through more than a third of the 500+ pages before calling it quits. It is just not worth wasting the time.
The author has such a pompous view of himself that the first quarter of the book left me positively nauseated. I tried to put personal
Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett
In the conclusion of this book, Taleb reports that a friend of his asked him to explain his core argument while standing on one foot. Obviously an allusion to the famous story in which a gentile promises to convert if Rabbi Hillel can explain Judaism while standing on one foot, Taleb offers, "the best way to verify if you are alive is to check whether you like variations."

I'll admit at the beginning of this review: there were sections of this book I had to skip. More on why in a bit.

Taleb's the
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
What hilariously self-important hypocrisy! I should give it 5 stars though just because it's nice to read a book that makes your blood boil and that helps you crystalize your world view.

Let me say up front that I wholeheartedly agree with the nugget of his thesis, which is basically (though he would claim it's much more original than this): what doesn't kill you makes your stronger. Basically, we need to embrace certain kinds of shocks and risks and that developing anti-fragility is key. I also
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Here’s probably one of the toughest review I ever had to write and I am not sure it is a good one, even if the topic I am addressing is great and important. But it’s been a challenge to summarize what I learnt: Nicholas Nassim Taleb gives in this follow-up to the Black Swan a very interesting analysis of how the world can be less exposed to Black Swans, not by becoming more robust only, but by becoming antifragile, i.e. by benefiting from random events. His views include tensions between the ind ...more
Douglas Wilson
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: culture-studies
I really enjoyed Taleb’s book The Black Swan, and picked up his Antifragile shortly after it came out. I started it, and was enjoying it, but stalled out for some reason. I don’t remember. It was dark. They were big. His book found itself in my lamentably large and scattered collection of partly read books. But somewhere in my mind was the thought of finishing it, which I just did a short time ago. Really glad I did.

There are places here and there where you have to tolerate some dogmatic bombast
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading this audiobook is like being stuck on a long flight next to an intelligent but cranky old man who won't stop talking for 12 hours about random factoids and pet peeves that he tells you are all connected somehow by some grand concept except he never dives deep enough on any part of his stream of consciousness discourse to really clarify what the radical paradigm shifting theory is because as far as you can tell it sounds a lot like what people in psychology have been calling resilience/co ...more
Mark Galassi
Apr 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
I could not point to a worse book that I have read.

The author is disorganized and throws a bunch of random factoids together with an unconvincing unifying theme. The lack of clarity in thinking is reminiscent of the kind of pseudo-intellectual numerology or fact-correlating that you find in works of fiction, but it is made even worse by the fact that the author seems to have a long list of axes to grind, and fills the book with petty name calling. Why is he so obsessed with the "soviet-harvard c
Jun 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
pretty interesting basic idea that some things are not just robust/resilient/non-fragile (able to stay the same or bounce back after being subjected to stress) but actually "antifragile" or improved from their encounters with stress or disorder. An obvious example is the stress/recovery/supercompensation cycle with strenuous exercise, such that you come back from the challenge improved. He applies it much more broadly -- medicine, economic system, evolution, etc. Highly erudite writer. Makes som ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
A truly dreadful text.

The author is an extremely poor writer, both in command of language (see "non-sissy risk") and in general structure. He is also rather egomaniacal.

The claims made are either commonsensical (see other reviews) or simply wrong. Take the argument that the consolidation of the banking sector caused the recent financial crisis. The Canadian and Australian banking sectors are extremely concentrated in a handful of firms, yet both countries did not endure systemic banking crises
Moeen Sahraei
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Greatest book ever written in this subject, very practical in real life. Nassim Taleb is one of the greatest sage of the current era
Michael O'Brien
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another thought-provoking book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the succession of his prior books, "Fooled by Randomness" and "The Black Swan", where, well before the 2008 Great Recession, his analysis of the limitations of statistical methods predicted such an event. Such events occur, ones with low predicted probability but high consequence, largely because of a misplaced confidence in the reliability of estimates and forecasts on complex systems with multiple variables --- in which a small variati ...more
Apr 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
I just can't continue this book. This guy is SO full of himself. Not to mention that he keeps contradicting himself, based on whatever he feels like ...more
Aug 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
What a self-centered jerk with an overly simplistic premise. Paraphrased 'Do those things which, regardless of outcome, make you better able to handle change.'

I just saved you from listening to his blathering and bragging.
Shane Parrish
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Indeed, our bodies discover probabilities in a very sophisticated manner and assess risks much better than our intellects do. To take one example, risk management professionals look in the past for information on the so-called worst-case scenario and use it to estimate future risks—this method is called “stress testing.” They take the worst historical recession, the worst war, the worst historical move in interest rates, or the worst point in unemployment as an exact estimate for the worst futu ...more
Jurgen Appelo
Well researched important concepts presented with flair, if you can stomach the prose, and the tantrums.
Tim Pendry

This is not an easy book to review so let us start with the basics. I recommend it despite its flaws. There is a lot of truth, albeit approached with a dose of healthy scepticism, in Taleb's critical view of how our society has developed and how we lack courage in facing our own condition within it.

The basic thesis is not as simple as he likes to pretend in his Conclusion but suffice it to say that he sees our total existence as enhanced in the long run in every way by disorder - you could call
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Black Swan is one of the three books that have influenced me the most so my expectations for this book could not be higher. This exceeded my expectations. I half-expected to see Kanye West listed among his acknowledgements because this book has swagger. Taleb calls out those he disapproves by name (Tom Friedman, Alan Greenspan, and Joseph Stiglitz receive direct criticism), and takes full credit for what he gets right. In The Black Swan, Taleb makes an offhand reference to how an aside in an ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Antifrágil - ASIN B087WGF36K - Number of page 3 29 Jul 05, 2022 12:53PM  
Science and Inquiry: January 2021 - Antifragile 14 178 Jun 15, 2021 08:41AM  
Recommendation for BREC book in July 1 8 Jun 25, 2020 11:04PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Missing number of pages in book edition 3 13 Mar 13, 2020 12:08PM  
Reader Research Opportunity--Gift Card For Interview 1 10 Aug 28, 2017 05:36PM  
Indie Revolution ...: Creativity 8 20 Mar 18, 2017 10:23PM  

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb spent 21 years as a risk taker (quantitative trader) before becoming a flaneur and researcher in philosophical, mathematical and (mostly) practical problems with probability. 

Taleb is the author of a multivolume essay, the Incerto (The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, and Skin in the Game) an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human erro

Other books in the series

Incerto (5 books)
  • Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
  • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
  • The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms
  • Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

News & Interviews

Here at Goodreads World Headquarters, we tend to read a lot of books. Like, a lot a lot. And every December, as we finish up our...
19 likes · 8 comments
“The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference” 224 likes
“Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility; it results from some ecological or naturalistic wisdom, and is not always bad -- at an existential level, it is my body rebelling against its entrapment. It is my soul fighting the Procrustean bed of modernity.” 210 likes
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