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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

(Incerto #4)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  27,640 ratings  ·  2,366 reviews
Antifragile is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and The Bed of Procrustes.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black S
Paperback, 519 pages
Published January 2014 by Random House (first published November 27th 2012)
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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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4.09  · 
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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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
"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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
James Johnson
Aug 29, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 17, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, science
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
Mario Tomic
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Janet Eshenroder
Feb 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 31, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't get past the prologue the tone was so snarky it was like being back in middle school with the mean girls.

On page 5 - the Soviet-Harvard intellectuals
On page 6 - ...we are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-spending members of the I.A.N.D (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power...
On page 7, referring to Mother Nature - succeeded in getting here without much command-and-control instructions
Mark Galassi
Apr 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 11, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 07, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A horrid book. I really looked forward to this book, but beyond the central concept of how there are things which become better/ strengthen in the face of adversity, and how they ought to be termed 'antifragile' - the book has very little to offer.
I think the book ought to have been worth 50 odd pages; in the end, it's a very badly written book that is difficult to follow.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Douglas Wilson
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jim Witkins
Aug 01, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: skimmed
I wanted to like this, but found it inscrutably long winded and obnoxiously dull. What is the practical takeaway? Adaptability is preferable to overly complex systems that break down? Why didn't I think of that?!
Sep 25, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This guy fundamentally misunderstands evolution on the second page of the prologue. NEXT.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm predisposed to like new ideas, unexpected outcomes, and even a bit of irreverence. But after just 13 pages of Taleb's narcissistic, contrarian-for-contrarianism's-sake drivel, I decided I had better things to do with my life.
Jun 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The idea about evolutionary processes in life is old as ... the theory of evolution itself. Science, technology, economics, etc. are the part of evolution and follow the same evolutionary laws. So, page after page of angry "tea partish" rant against education, science, etc is just tiresome.
Conrad Burkholder
Don't waste you time. This book is a bunch of nonsense!
Apr 18, 2013 marked it as partially-read  ·  review of another edition
The prologue set off my crackpot bullshit alarms and skimming the rest of the book didn't reassure me. Just think of all the time I saved!
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
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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 error

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
“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” 140 likes
“Some can be more intelligent than others in a structured environment—in fact school has a selection bias as it favors those quicker in such an environment, and like anything competitive, at the expense of performance outside it. Although I was not yet familiar with gyms, my idea of knowledge was as follows. People who build their strength using these modern expensive gym machines can lift extremely large weights, show great numbers and develop impressive-looking muscles, but fail to lift a stone; they get completely hammered in a street fight by someone trained in more disorderly settings. Their strength is extremely domain-specific and their domain doesn't exist outside of ludic—extremely organized—constructs. In fact their strength, as with over-specialized athletes, is the result of a deformity. I thought it was the same with people who were selected for trying to get high grades in a small number of subjects rather than follow their curiosity: try taking them slightly away from what they studied and watch their decomposition, loss of confidence, and denial. (Just like corporate executives are selected for their ability to put up with the boredom of meetings, many of these people were selected for their ability to concentrate on boring material.) I've debated many economists who claim to specialize in risk and probability: when one takes them slightly outside their narrow focus, but within the discipline of probability, they fall apart, with the disconsolate face of a gym rat in front of a gangster hit man.” 138 likes
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