Antifragile: 5. The Souk and the Office Building

Following the schedule of our reading calendar.

We enter now the second book of the book:

Book II

Modernity and the Denial of Antifragility

where he has promised us to talk about the social and political implications of the concept of antifragility. Of course, he has already talked a lot about it but, you already know by now, observing chapter conceptual boundaries is not one of Taleb’s virtues.

He reviews the fundamental concepts of The Black Swan:

1. The difference between mediocristan and extremistan systems together with the property of the later of being subjected to catastrophic non predictable events.

2. The impossibility of prediction by induction from the past in extremistan environments (with the Bertran Russel chicken converted into a Turkie).

3. The fact that our modern economic and financial world is extremistan-like.

From here he offers an approach to try to create systems less fragile (I will try to avoid the word “antifragile” as much as I can along the whole book, because I am not convinced of it). We need a bottom up diversified organizations of our political and social systems that creates constant noise but prevents catastrophic big fluctuations. And his model is the city state versus nation states and his beloved example is Switzerland with its chaotic political organization.

All that is not that different from what we had in The Black Swan. However, Taleb seems to have approached libertarian political positions. In the former book, every idea seemed invented from scratch by him. Now his ideas and examples seem much more in line with the traditional liberal / libertarian movement for the political points and with the Austrian school of Economics for the economic ones. I cannot say that this disappoints me.

Just a quote:

(talking about Switzerland) this bottom-up form of dictatorship provides protection against the romanticism of utopias

It is difficult to be more conservative than that.




2 thoughts on “Antifragile: 5. The Souk and the Office Building

  1. Why are you not convinced with the world antifragile? I’d say that the book looses most of its punch if you remove the idea of “things that gain from disorder” instead of things that cope well with it or, even worse, things that are less fragile.
    Also, Taleb himself insists in several parts of the book stating that things are antifragile to a point, too much stress and you destroy the system or creature.
    To me, processing whether something is fragile or antifragile is a very helpful tool to understand the world we live in.

  2. My only problem with the concept “antifragile” is that Taleb tries too hard to push the concept in some situations where other, sometimes simpler explanations would do.
    For instance, when you take the story of the two brothers, it is possible to interpret it as if the taxi driver is getting advantage from its exposure to randomness. And it is so in relative terms to his brother. However you can interpret it in another conceptual framework. Humans are machines developed by evolution to navigate random environments. You need information of what is around you to make the right decisions. The bank brother is just cut off for the relevant feedback and does not adapt to changes. It is like driving blindfolded. It is a pathological situation while the taxi driver is in the normal state. No need to resort to antifragility.
    But anyway, as I have said before several times, all this refers to conceptual details. It doesn’t affect the intellectual core of the book.

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