This is the longest and deepest I've gotten into a book since high school, and I found pretty much every chapter thought-provoking and lifestyle-questioning. I already felt like my mind had been blown, and that was just after finishing the prologue.
"Antifragile" is the word that Taleb coins for the concept of gaining from disorder (the real opposite of fragility, which is not the same thing as "robust"). The book covers the topics of philosophy, finance, math, statistics, lifestyle, food, fitness, education, and history, and it applies various strategies and concepts to finding ways to live more naturally and with more antifragility.
I can see how many people will be angered and offended by the direct manner in which Taleb denounces the professions of consultant, banker, economist, academic, business school professor, soccer mom, and tourist. I think books that question a lot of fundamentals are the only ones that bring actual progress to our lives as human thinkers, and this book does exactly that.
Overall, I took 47 pages of notes on the book (see below), and that sheer quantity is enough to show how much I liked it. It's not easy to distill these into a few bullet points, and I will be trying over the next couple months to come up with some concrete suggestions and techniques to put the book's ideas into practice in my own life. Here are just a handful of lessons and broad concepts that come immediately to mind:
- There are important nonlinearities in life that many professionals and advice-givers totally ignore but which make a much bigger difference over time than the first-order obvious effects.
- Many human interventions in health and government come with really bad iatrogenic effects.
- Things that are in nature are right until proven wrong; things that are human-made are wrong until proven right (which only time can show).
- Don't be a turkey, and avoid sucker problems. That's 95% of being successful.
- Via negativa: Focus on what to avoid and remove instead of what to do and add.
- Find ways to make your life antifragile in the sense of having limited, small downside and high potential upside.
- Be an adventurous flaneur. Live life to take advantage of new, unforeseen opportunities and volatility.
- Entrepreneurs are the unsung heroes of antifragility and deserve way more respect than politicians and other non-practitioners and non-risk takers.
- Innovation is antifragile.
- Use barbell methods to manage investments and black swan risks. Focus on your exposure (f(x)) instead of trying to predict some variable (x). Predicting or following averages is for suckers.
- Study the classics, eat and drink the classics, and avoid the media hype or technology for its own sake.
Below are the rest of my notes. I really want to discuss some of this stuff with other readers, so let me know what you think.