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Antifragile Paperback – 27 Nov 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (27 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781846141577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141577
  • ASIN: 1846141575
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.1 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,178,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent two decades as a trader before becoming a philosophical essayist and academic researcher. Although he now spends most of his time either working in intense seclusion in his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés across the planet, 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.

His works are grouped under the general title Incerto (latin for uncertainty), composed of a trilogy accessible in any order (Antifragile, The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness) plus two addenda: a book of philosophical aphorisms (The Bed of Procrustes) and a freely available Technical Companion. Taleb's books have been published in thirty-three languages.

Taleb believes that prizes, honorary degrees, awards, and ceremonialism debase knowledge by turning it into a spectator sport.

""Imagine someone with the erudition of Pico de la Mirandola, the skepticism of Montaigne, solid mathematical training, a restless globetrotter, polyglot, enjoyer of fine wines, specialist of financial derivatives, irrepressible reader, and irascible to the point of readily slapping a disciple." La Tribune (Paris)

A giant of Mediterranean thought ... Now the hottest thinker in the world", London Times
"The most prophetic voice of all" GQ

Product Description


Wall Street's principal dissident (Malcolm Gladwell)

The hottest thinker in the world (Bryan Appleyard The Sunday Times)

A guru for every would-be Damien Hirst, George Soros and aspirant despot (John Cornwell Sunday Times)

A superhero of the mind (Boyd Tonkin)

Nassim Taleb, in his exasperating but compelling book Antifragile, praises "things that gain from disorder" - people, policies and institutions designed to thrive on volatility, instead of shattering in the encounter with it (Oliver Burkman Guardian)

More than just robust or flexible, it actively thrives on disruption (Julian Baggini Guardian)

full of important warnings and insights (Julian Baggini Guardian)

Modern life is akin to a chronic stress injury. And the way to combat it is to embrace randomness in all its forms...the great seer of the modern age (Guardian)

Something antifragile actively thrives under the impact of the embrace randomness rather than trying to control it (The Sunday Times)

Enduring volatility is one thing; what about benefiting from it?...That is what Taleb calls 'antifragility' and he thinks that it is the ultimate model to aspire to-for individuals, financial institutions, even nations...may well capture a quality that you have long aspired to without having quite known quite what it is...I saw the world afresh (The Times)

Taleb takes on everything from the mistakes of modern architecture to the dangers of meddlesome doctors and how overrated formal education is. . . . An ambitious and thought-provoking read . . . highly entertaining (Economist)

This is a bold, entertaining, clever book, richly crammed with insights, stories, fine phrases and intriguing asides. . . . I will have to read it again. And again (Wall Street Journal)

[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)

What sometimes goes unsaid about Taleb is that he's a very funny writer. Taleb has a finely tuned BS detector, which he wields throughout the book to debunk pervasive yet pernicious ideas. . . . Antifragility isn't just sound economic and political doctrine. It's also the key to a good life (Fortune)

A new kind of strength...not invincible but better able to handle life's inevitable surprises...such a combination leaves open the possibility of big rewards while minimizing exposure to risk (Los Angeles Times)

At once thought-provoking and brilliant, this book dares you not to read it (Los Angeles Times)

Antifragility is the secret to success in a world full of uncertainty, a system for turning random mutations to lasting advantage... (Economist) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a radical no-nonsense philosopher for our times. He has spent his life immersing himself in problems of luck, uncertainty, probability, and knowledge, and he has led three high-profile careers around his ideas, as a man of letters, as a businessman-trader, and as a university professor and researcher. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University's School of Engineering. He is the author of the 4-volume INCERTO (Antifragile, The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and The Bed of Procrustes). Taleb refuses all awards and honours as they debase knowledge by turning it into competitive sports. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 3 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found the underlying points made by Taleb interesting and enlightening in the sense that it offered a fresh perspective albeit that the underlying issues are not novel. To an extent his subject material is the behavioural equivalent of evolution. Our behaviour is informed by negative events as well as positive and this makes us more resilient. Someone who has the occasional minor prang in a car is probably going to be safer than those who have never experienced a shunt and go round in a bubble of false security.

I do not pretend that this is a comprehensive deconstruction of Taleb's thesis but neither am I sure it should have taken 425 pages for him to make his point and a bibliography running to 24 pages to have got there. They say that a driver should drive for the comfort of their passenger and I believe that a writer should write with much the same objective in mind.

A point can be made in a pithy way and 'Freakanomics' achieved this on the subject of statistics. That brace of books may have been more frothy in tone but Levitt and Dubner succeeded in communicating some quite intricate concepts. Taleb made some interesting observations in Black Swan but I would not use the word succinct.

I often worry that popularity causes individuals to become caricatures of themselves, identifying and emphasising those characteristics which they believed made them popular to the degree that it becomes irritating. The comedian who ceases to be funny, the actor who elongates their dramatic emphasis, the writer who takes interesting thoughts but turns them into a belief system which they then name.

To my taste, Taleb laboured his points as if he relishes the cleverness of his own words and this rather put me off.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mobi on 24 July 2015
Format: Paperback
The concept is good but the book is written is very terse manner. It is not and easy read and there is a fair chance that you'd lose interest.

The central idea is simple (explained below) but the author stretched it over hundreds of pages unnecessarily!

Antifragile is opposite of fragile (obviously). We try to design fragile item by making it strong so that it does not break from external forces.

Antifragile is something (event, movement, object etc.) which becomes stronger (physically or emotionally or gains popularity) when external forces try to destroy/damage it.

A movement of people for freedom/social change is an antifragile event. The rulers try to kill/arrest few early protesters but that brings more protesters in to the event and whole movement becomes stronger. This is antifragile.

The concept of antifragility always existed in the world but author argued that it went on unnoticed in the past.

Historically people tried to "strengthen" weakened "things" e.g. like desiging a ship to survive in massive sea forces etc. Author claims that such actions are somewhat counterproductive because of his previous "Black Swan" theory. You can design an object to sustain unpredicable force when you don't really know what that can be (and as such your design will fail under Black Swan event).

So, what you do then? Well, the author didn't answer that question directly. For example, how to make a ship to be stronger as it suffers more and more sea storms?

The author answers this by using "Barbell strategy". You can read on Wikipedia what that is. In short, it is a way to design for max risk and max safety.

How to use it in your own life?
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. Hughes on 14 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I haven't read Black Swans or Fooled by Randomness so came to this book with no preconceptions (aside from an interview with Taleb from the Guardian which piqued my interest in his ideas). I imagine that if the reader is fond of his previous work the frequent back-references will be appealing, whereas I found this a little repetitive and excluding.

It seems that the successes Taleb has experienced both intellectually and financially have lead to him being able to indulge in an over-long exposition of ideas that could fit into a single essay (as opposed to this 5-books-of-essays collection). He also seems to have many axes to grind and a need to boast about his physique and luxurious dining habits.

The most frustrating aspect of putting the time into reading and making notes on this is that: it is all "set up" and very little conclusion. Just as a neat summation/distillation seemed immanent he changes track. The best way to read might be to take the 1st paragraph of each essay and no more - the rest is just bloat.

I did enjoy aspects and have taken away some food for thought, but would take Taleb's own advice and stick to proven thinkers with a little more track record. It's fine but nothing special.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mosta67 VINE VOICE on 4 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author of Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness author becomes a one man think tank in his latest title. Spanning many chapters, I now understand why the author was revulsed by academia (and has quite a few detractors from being outspoken), the reason behind his trading strategy and understandable unpopularity at refusing to ride the wave and follow the masses. He uses a lot of finance theories and assumptions (which were always criticised in this and preceeding books) to demonstrate real world examples of anti-fragility, or vulnerability to change, in very simple terms; however these are always explained in non mathematical terms, and in all cases not quoted in the manner of a literature review that you may find in a post graduate thesis; you won't need to have studied stochastic calculus to understand it.

There are lots of interesting points made about our society, economy, history and humanity; each with many anecdotes and no formal treatment of what are mostly qualitative arguments. Each can usually be attributed to specific circumstances of the environment, but the overall message is one of coping with unpredictability and seeking to not only survive so called negative events but thrive on them. In an odd way, natural disasters followed by the 'disaster economics' of companies buying up cheap/ruined real estate is a simple example of how it negatively impacts human lives, but benefits large corporations, which are themselves vulnerable to the stability of systems that they were built on.

Taleb has taken an interesting if controversial stance in his book, I thought he was trying to write his version of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' when I was reading it, and whilst it's not as readable as Pirsig's novels, it is an interesting book, and I applaud the author.
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