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Sam Fox '14 Reviews - Antifragile

Monday, May 6, 2013

Antifragile makes a lot of controversial claims. Written by an economist who came to the conclusion that economics was a bunch of baloney, Antifragile is basically the life's work of a man who has few inhibitions about bluntly stating his opinions and beliefs. The author, Nassim Taleb, rejects the notion that anything can be reliably predicted, and that the best course of action is not to act on predictions but to prepare to benefit from all possibilities. People, companies, or institutions that collapse in the face of change he calls “fragile”, and things that endure he calls “robust”. Things that actually improve when faced with disorder and confusion, however, (like the human body or an innovative economy) he calls “antifragile”. The 2008 financial bailout was a bad idea, he argues, because it supported fragility in the economy, and he thinks the human body benefits by skipping a meal every now and then. Smaller, more frequent stresses to an “antifragile” system prevent the rare but massive catastrophe.

 

Taleb comes across as snobby at times, particularly when talking about his own experiences, but overall his digressions are interesting and add to his argument. This book is the antithesis of Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise and of Charles Wheelan's Naked Statistics, as well as many others; so clearly the debate over how to make decisions in the midst of information overload is a raging one. As the age of the Internet leads to the phenomenon of Big Data, the question of what to do with it becomes a vital question. Antifragile's answer, persuasively argued, is to let the information overload pass by.

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