We have reached chapter 16 of Antifragile, following our reading calendar.
This chapter is a sort of interlude in which Taleb reflects on what has been told in the former chapter about theoretical knowledge and education using his own life as an example.
That way we learn how Taleb is an autodidact who used the barbell strategy to move around college: studying the minimum to pass grades and then reading as much as possible of any interesting subjects that won’t be taught in college.
His strategy was (and is) to jump into a book and read as long as it is interesting, when it becomes boring, or he is saturated with the subject, to move to another subject. In a sort of Borges fashion he explained us how he decided to pick every possible book about small probabilities and spent two years just reading that stuff until we felt confident enough to apply that knowledge to real life.
Instead of following course books he uses a trial and error process that gives him lot of options to choose from
Despite the mostly autobiographical nature of this chapter there are several ideas which are worth pointing at:
“What is picked up in the classroom stays mostly in the classroom”
How modernity has ruined our chance to learn and enjoy life in a non deterministic way, having
instead the busy CEO that even his leisure time is scheduled.
The metaphor of the lion in captitivy versus the lion that runs free in the wild. The first lives longer but, who wants to be a lion in captivity? This is an image that I’ve seen also used a lot in paleo life-style books.
Schools makes a twisted selection bias favoring those that do well in the rarified ambient of college, neglecting those abilities that are relevant for real life.
And let me finish with this powerful quote:
“Avoidance of boredom is the only worth mode of action. Liife otherwise is not worth living”