Antifragility

Personally, I don’t agree with life-support machines… unless you’re keeping a human being alive, that is. Then I’m all for them. For economies, not so much.

I have zero patience for the myth that we should all join in and put our resources and our energy into protecting a failing man-made system. Why? Good question. Maybe because if something is so fragile, if it needs so much propping up, so much protection, so much intervention… it’s not worth saving.

If something like that fails, it’s not because we didn’t do enough to save it. It’s because we bet on the wrong horse.

And when something man-made, like the economy – which, don’t forget, benefits a handful of people a lot more than it benefits most of us – is viewed as infinitely more sacred than are the humans it depends on for its continuation… well, I have a really hard time holding my tongue. “Pull the plug.”

I read a fascinating book about five years ago called Antifragile. The basic idea was that – everywhere in the universe – systems that are vulnerable to disorder are called “fragile.” Systems that are resilient to disorder are called “robust.” And systems that actually gain from disorder are called “antifragile.”

I’ve thought about it a lot recently.

Yes, there is widespread disruption and disorder in the world at the moment. But this is NOT a sign that something is wrong. Nature doesn’t get things wrong. Everything that’s breaking down at the moment is telling us where we were fragile all along. The NHS, the economy, the food supply…

COVID-19 has not made things fragile. It has revealed what was fragile all along. When we have to rebuild our world, why not try and do it in a more anti-fragile manner?

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness.

The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb – “Antifragile”

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