21 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Boastful charlatan; some good ideas,
This review is from: Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder (Hardcover)Reading `Antifragile' is a bit like being locked in a padded cell with a raving mad man for a week. And not your benign, eccentric, well meaning type of mad man either. This one is puffed up, me first, money grabbing, smug, selfish, spiteful, bigoted, uncaring, harshly critical, sarcastic and mocking.
The thing is, even nasty mad men occasionally have good ideas, and Taleb is no exception. Periodically the fog lifts and a beautifully lucid passage emerges. But such spots of clear sightedness rarely last long, before we descend back into a fog of boasting, bitterness and pythonesque silliness.
Taleb loves randomness, and he is himself rather like a random ideas generator. Occasionally he hits gold, as with the central `antifragile' idea, and as with the `black swan' concept.
Paradoxically, he is also rather narrow minded. He has two particular hobby horses:
- He dislikes the modern world, preferring almost anything from the past;
- He doesn't like education, at least the formal classroom type.
Most points discussed in the book are fitted to support one of these prejudices - in fact the whole work could almost be considered a study of what Taleb doesn't like about the modern world. In that sense both the title and the marketing are a little misleading, as these themes have nothing to do with the 'antifragile' concept.
There is so much here that is plain silly, like his ideas on aging (apparently caused by too much comfort), public speaking (as unclearly and mumbled as possible), and war (apparently a good old killing spree periodically is beneficial). He constantly over simplifies complex problems.
The author does not seem to understand business, or what it means to be an entrepreneur, or the 2007 financial crisis - do not expect any insights in these areas.
Taleb is comically lacking in self awareness. Time and again he mercilessly ridicules other people, only to turn the page and fall victim to exactly the same type of behaviour himself. The book could thus be read as a humorous self parody (though Taleb himself seems unaware of the joke).
However, despite the serious flaws, there is much wisdom buried within, and I wish that a more disciplined, self aware author could recycle this material into a really useful work.
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Initial post: 7 Jul 2013 01:32:17 BDT
Thank you for writing this review. Having just finished reading this book, I could not agree more with your two last paragraphs. I was at times stunned in disbelief at how obviously and frequently he contradicts himself in this book. The prime example would have to be his frequent use of anecdotes and examples as support for his theories, an approach he himself condemns in Book VI ('disconfirmation is more rigorous than confirmation'). How reassuring that this is spotted by others too, and how worrying that the great majority does not seem to notice it.
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