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Why This Book Matters:

In a world where we try to avoid volatility and uncertainty like the plague, this book explains why we need to do exactly the opposite: become antifragile. Find out why Taleb claims that the success of modern society depends on people and organizations learning to benefit from volatility.  

Key Takeaways:

  1. Antifragility is the necessary antithesis to fragility and drives human progress
    1. To be antifragile, you have to learn to benefit from–not just be indifferent to–volatility.
    2. Example: Hydra, a mythological serpent that grew two heads back every time one was cut off in battle is the perfect embodiment of “antifragile.”
  2. The success of an antifragile system is wholly dependent on the fragility of its parts
    1. Each failure of a fragile component shows the overarching system how to evolve.
    2. Example: The failure of firms in competitive markets helps the economy grow stronger.
  3. Antifragile systems grow stronger when their parts are put through stressors
    1. To survive stress, a system overcompensates to prepare for future adversity.
    2. Example: Our bodies grow new muscle as a result of consistent stress from exercise.
  4. Tranquil environments create fragile systems, while volatility creates antifragility
    1. Lack of volatility can lead to fragility because there is no pressure to evolve.
    2. Example: Efforts by governments to avoid economic volatility create fragile economies.
  5. You can take advantage of a volatile system without understanding it completely
    1. Academic knowledge isn’t needed to win in antifragile systems, just street smarts.
    2. Example: Some of the most successful investors do not have a formal education; they just know when to take advantage of certain opportunities.
  6. Becoming antifragile means taking advantage of risky events
    1. Brace yourself for uncertainty by accepting it and preparing for all scenarios.
    2. Example: Smart investing means putting most of your money in safe bets, and a small portion of your money in antifragile systems that are full of big wins and losses.
  7. The larger the antifragile system is, the harder it gets hit
    1. Volatility operates on a sliding scale depending on the size of the antifragile system.
    2. Example: All economic entities are tied together by the global economy. One hiccup in a business can affect a completely different business halfway across the world.
  8. Naive interventionism only pushes problems into dormancy until they explode
    1. Many decision makers today try to remove volatility from existing antifragile systems instead of allowing small flare-ups to occur for the good of the overarching system.
    2. Example: Small forest fires help prevent catastrophic fires by burning up excess brush.
  9. Be wary of making predictions based on past events
    1. People often assume that the worst event they have seen is the worst that could happen.
    2. Example: The Fukushima nuclear reactor could not withstand the 2011 earthquake because it was designed to sustain the intensity of weaker past earthquakes.
  10. We underestimate the value of antifragility in societal progress
    1. Many of our past achievements have been a result of trial and error and antifragility.
    2. Example: The Industrial Revolution came as a result of thousands of amateurs tinkering with inventions, not systematic progress fueled by theoretical, academic knowledge.

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