📝 Highlights & Notes: Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

1. Someone who has made plenty of errors — though never the same error more than once — is more reliable than someone who has never made any

A common theme throughout this entire book promotes practice over theory. In a world ridden with uncertainty, an individual that is familiar with overcoming errors and setbacks have a favourable chance of survival over another who might only have been minimally exposed to them.

2. Fragility of individual pieces can contribute to the antifragility of a system at a macro level

The book raises Switzerland as an example — where there is a lot of noise and variations at a local level, but stability on the aggregate.

3. Stressors reward additional rewards to a system

Motorists rely on their heightened sense of danger for attention and risk controls. More people die at regulated crossings than jaywalking.

4. Growth in society does not come from raising the average.

It is fairly common to see Asian societies raise the floor of education while neglecting (sometimes even punishing) the risk takers that have ideas of their own. While that helps us do great in various forms of standardised testing, practical gains are made via the dispersion of outcomes; perhaps it is time to ignore the average? (I wrote an article that discussed this topic in more depth)

5. We risk setting ourselves back by naively projecting the past.

With the luxury to process massive amounts of data and hindsight, our modern capabilities give us the impression of a “predictive edge” over our predecessors. However humans will try to play through all permutations until they fit our hypothesis. Hence it is best we do not grow an over-reliance on narratives, putting us at risk of being domesticated by uncertainty.

6. Practitioners do not write, they do. Theory is the child of the cure.

7. Logic seeks a binary solution when truth is always somewhere in the middle

Logic excludes nuances. Especially in moral and political spheres, these nuances matter.

8. Learn by leveraging optionality

You do not need to be right that often, you just need the wisdom to omit and ovoid the overly obvious ideas that can expose yourself to negatively asymmetric outcomes (lower downside than upside)

9. Top-down effects vs Bottom-up effects

The former is usually irreversible with mistakes that stick around for a very long time. The latter is gradual and incremental and often is paved by destruction with a positive slope; hence, antifragile.

10. Decisions should be made principally on consequences, not probability.

List the sides and makes decisions based on the weight of the consequences on each side. Probability is not a reliable metric because telling someone they have a 95% chance of winning a game might not produce the same emotional response as telling them that their plane has a 95% of landing safely.