Antifragile is a concept coined by Nassim Taleb.  It is a study of systems that actually benefit from disorder and uncertainty (volatility).  This is an import distinction from systems that are strong and resistant to to disorder.  For example, a glass is very fragile to beng dropped, a plastic cup is not antifragile but perhaps just resistant.  If it was a magic cup that somehow grew STRONGER every time it was dropped, then it would be antifragile.  Make sense?

A little background on Nassim.  He made his fortune betting against the crash of 2008 in the stock and housing markets.  He did it by investing in instruments (options contracts) that actually grow in value when markets are uncertain and volatile.  Hence they are an antifragile investment, they like when things get wild and crazy and make significantly more money.

The book goes really in depth discussing the philosophy of antifragility and how fragile our current financial system is.  For non-finance people it’s a very accessible read still and doesn’t get too deep in the weeds on financial instruments etc.  Conceptually recommend the book to anyone, and it’s on my top 10 books of all time list most definitely.  “Fooled By Randomness” is another one of my all time favorites by Taleb, if you’re a trader or a poker player it will be fascinating to you no doubt.

At the end of the day, Taleb’s point is to understand risk.  Most importantly understand the small highly unlikely risks that can really hurt you should they actually occur.  In investing there are ways to protect against them if you’re savvy (and actually read his and Mark Spitznagel’s books).  In life and your career, there are also ways to ‘tail-hedge’.  Those methods are better described in Reid Hoffman’s  ‘The Startup of You’.   

Categories: Book Club

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