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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder Hardcover – Nov 27 2012


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Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder + The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility" + Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (Nov. 27 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067820
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067824
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.4 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 816 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“Ambitious and thought-provoking . . . highly entertaining.”The Economist
 
“A bold book explaining how and why we should embrace uncertainty, randomness, and error . . . It may just change our lives.”Newsweek
 
“Revelatory . . . [Taleb] pulls the reader along with the logic of a Socrates.”Chicago Tribune
 
“Startling . . . richly crammed with insights, stories, fine phrases and intriguing asides . . . I will have to read it again. And again.”—Matt Ridley, The Wall Street Journal
 
“Trenchant and persuasive . . . Taleb’s insatiable polymathic curiosity knows no bounds. . . . You finish the book feeling braver and uplifted.”New Statesman
 
“Antifragility isn’t just sound economic and political doctrine. It’s also the key to a good life.”Fortune
 
“At once thought-provoking and brilliant.”—Los Angeles Times

“[Taleb] writes as if he were the illegitimate spawn of David Hume and Rev. Bayes, with some DNA mixed in from Norbert Weiner and Laurence Sterne. . . . Taleb is writing original stuff—not only within the management space but for readers of any literature—and . . . you will learn more about more things from this book and be challenged in more ways than by any other book you have read this year. Trust me on this.”Harvard Business Review

“By far my favorite book among several good ones published in 2012. In addition to being an enjoyable and interesting read, Taleb’s new book advances general understanding of how different systems operate, the great variation in how they respond to unthinkables, and how to make them more adaptable and agile. His systemic insights extend very well to company-specific operational issues—from ensuring that mistakes provide a learning process to the importance of ensuring sufficient transparency to the myriad of specific risk issues.”—Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, Bloomberg

About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent nearly two decades as a businessman and quantitative trader before becoming a full-time philosophical essayist and academic researcher in 2006. Although he spends most of his time in the intense seclusion of his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is “decision making under opacity”—that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don’t understand.
 
Taleb’s books have been published in thirty-three languages.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Thibeault TOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 9 2012
Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

The main argument: The concept of fragility is very familiar to us. It applies to things that break when you strike or stretch them with a relatively small amount of force. Porcelain cups and pieces of thread are fragile. Things that do not break so easily when you apply force or stress to them we call strong or resilient, even robust. A cast-iron pan, for instance. However, there is a third category here that is often overlooked. It includes those things that actually get stronger or improve when they are met with a stressor (up to a point). Take weight-lifting. If you try to lift something too heavy, you’ll tear a muscle; but lifting more appropriate weights will strengthen your muscles over time. This property can be said to apply to living things generally, as in the famous aphorism ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Strangely, we don’t really have a word for this property, this opposite of fragility.

For author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, this is a major oversight, for when we look closely, it turns out that a lot of things (indeed the most important things) have, or are subject to, this property. Indeed, for Taleb, all that lives, and all the complex things that these living things create (like societies, economic systems, businesses etc.) have, or must confront this property in some way. This is important to know, because understanding this can help us understand how to design and approach these things (and profit from them), and failing to understand it can cause us to unwittingly harm or even destroy them (and be harmed by them).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Sullivan TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 24 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Taleb is a very intelligent and a well read individual. That is the good news. Taleb does however, have a negative side. Throughout the book, you can expect to find an in your face arrogance. He also enjoys frequent rants, about groups of people he does not like. Even if you agree with Taleb`s opinions, he will at times grate on your nerves.

The material content of the book is exceptional. To quote a line from the concluding chapter, "everything gains or loses from volatility". Something that losses from volatility is fragile. Anything that gains from volatility is antifragile. That is the basic idea, on which the book is based. Taleb then backs up his thoughts, with all sorts of historic and scientific examples. There is no set pattern to Taleb`s data. The reader can expect to figuratively speaking, be thrown in all directions.

One can look forward to an entertaining read, despite Taleb`s swagger. This book receives a very high recommendation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tom R. Dawson on Jan. 19 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I suppose that the reason this book isn't more widely hailed as a masterpiece is that it is eccentric. The highest compliment I can pay the book is that it is the Tristram Shandy of decision theory. The reader must enter into a contract with the author to surrender to him, and give him the courtesy of mining his footnotes as you read. Those conditions met, the result is sustained brilliance cover to cover. Troublingly enough, he is correct in his eccentric thesis. The consequence of his being right is that most of the ways in which we think about decision making (and living our professional lives) are wrong-headed. I usually consume books at a great rate, but this one slowed me down. I read it an hour at a time, went off to mine the footnotes and then came back to it. I'll do the same again. He's another guy I'd like to sit in a cafe in Heraklion with and listen to through a half dozen whiskies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lillian Leese on Feb. 9 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Talbeb's contemplation on real knowledge. Under rigourous scrutiny, what do we really know? A profound book from one of today's most original thinkers. He addresses fundamental questions and suggests practical rules of thumb for dealing with the dilemmas of modern decision making, from medicine to investing. I had to read it twice, it turns coventional thinking on its head. One of the best books of the last 10 years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas on Sept. 16 2013
Format: Hardcover
Review courtesy of [...]

What’s the opposite of fragility? Most people say robustness, resilience, or strength. Most people, says Taleb, are wrong. Fragility is to be weakened by uncertainty or volatility, while resilience is to be unaffected by volatility. What we need is something strengthened by volatility and change – something antifragile.

In antiquity, Taleb points out, he would rather be the hydra which regrew two heads when one was cut off, rather than the phoenix, which rose identical from the ashes when destroyed, or the Gordian Knot, which fell apart at the first unexpected shock (a sword, to be specific). It’s not enough to ignore volatility; we must love volatility.

That, in a nutshell, is Antifragile. Like all the best ideas, it’s a simple idea with immediate, important, and interesting consequences. In particular, Taleb argues that the modern world, in its quest for efficiency and optimization, has ignored the effects of volatility. As a result, shocks (Black Swans) have catastrophic consequences. When one hits, however, we ask the wrong question. We demand to know why we failed to predict the housing bubble or disease outbreak, instead of asking ourselves why we built a system that is tremendously vulnerable to such shocks.

Instead of eliminating centralization and vulnerability in our systems, like big corporations or big bureaucracies, however, we keep trying to predict the future, an endeavor doomed to failure. Shocks, as Taleb has argued in other books, are rare, and so attempting to predict them is impossible because they happen so rarely – we never have enough data points to draw conclusions. (For the economists reading, he believes in fat tails).
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