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Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Taleb’s previous books, such as Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan (although the title for the latter — which is meant to represent occurrences of rare events — has always made me scratch my head, as I grew up somewhere where all swans are black!). Taleb’s other books are more along the lines of practitioner’s manuals, while Antifragile reads more like a memoir, or a journey through Taleb’s psyche. He is a very interesting author and I share a lot of similar opinions with him when it comes to the assessment of risk in financial markets and shortcomings of our current system of governing them, so I found myself nodding in agreement a number of times as I read. His repeated lambasting of the economics establishment in Antifragile, supported by data, was an enjoyable read although resorting to name calling when it came to certain academics of which he is not fond was a little much for me. I must admit I did skip through a few sections when he began ranting… Another worthwhile read, but I have a feeling readers will either love this (if you’re practically minded) or hate it (if you’re an academic or have a theoretical bent).

From Booklist: Judging by his anecdotes, Taleb interacts with the economic masters of the universe as he jets from New York to London or attends business-politics confabs in Davos, Switzerland. Anything but awed by them, Taleb regards them as charlatans, not as credible experts. Such skepticism toward elites, which imbued Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, continues in this work, which grapples with a concept Taleb coins as “antifragile.” Not readily reducible to a definition (Taleb takes the whole book to develop the idea), suffice to say here that antifragile’s opposites — economic, political, or medical systems that are vulnerable to sudden collapse — tend to be managed by highly educated people who think they know how systems work. But they don’t, avers Taleb. Their confidence in control is illusory; their actions harm rather than help. In contrast, Taleb views decentralized systems — the entrepreneurial business rather than the bureaucratized corporation, the local rather than the central government — as more adaptable to systemic stresses. Emphatic in his style and convictions, Taleb grabs readers given to musing how the world works.



  1. Auntie Anita says:

    Sam, I always enjoy reading your book reviews.