Antifragile: 11. Never Marry the Rock Star

Following the schedule of our reading calendar.

We were presented in the previous chapter with Seneca’s approach to the domestication of emotions, on one side, and his method for the creation of the “upside-downside” asymmetry, on the other.

This chapter comes to give us details of that later idea. Taleb labels it “the barbell strategy” to simplify the, according to him, too technical term “bimodal strategy”. I think that this is an unfortunate decision that blurs unnecessarily things. Bimodal would be perfect.

The idea is clear. (In fact this is an unusually highly structured chapter). Activities in every domain of life have to be divided into extremely conservative and very risky, forgetting all the middle range. The conservative actions have to guarantee survival,

One finds similar ideas in ancestral lore: it is explained in a Yiddish proverb that says “Provide for the worst; the best can take care of itself.” (p. 163)

the risky have to create the possibility of big success.

The chapter is full of examples where such rule can be applied and points at a central misconception of our times: we measure efficiency, growth rate and other dynamic traits of systems and forget about its survivability. All the economic procedures and financial mechanisms of our world are not prepared to handle this question. And this is a disaster.

Indeed, growth was very modest, less that 1 percent per head, throughout the golden years surrounding the Industrial Revolution, the period that propelled Europe into domination. But as low as it was, it was robust growth -unlike the current fool’s race of states shooting for growth like teenage drivers infatuated with speed. (p. 161)

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