Taleb coins the term “antifragile” to describe things that benefit from the impacts they receive. These are phenomena that grow or prosper when exposed to volatility, chance, disorder, risk or uncertainty.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has expanded upon and, to a certain degree, revolutionised the concept of resilience with Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, a book that explores the effects of uncertainty in all areas of life.
Taleb, a Lebanese-born author resident in the United States, has worked as a stockbroker and an academic researcher and is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering. Taleb coins the term “antifragile” to describe things that benefit from the impacts they receive. These are phenomena that grow or prosper when exposed to volatility, chance, disorder, risk or uncertainty. Talib has done so because, despite the fact that these phenomena are ubiquitous, no antonym exists for fragility. He suggests the term “antifragility”, a concept that goes beyond mere resilience or strength. Things that are resilient can take a punch without falling over. The antifragile, on the other hand, improves when struck by adversity. Everything that has survived and changed over time has benefitted from antifragility. We cannot understand bacterial resistance, political systems, the stock market or publishing success, or even our own existence as a species on this planet, without the phenomenon of antifragility. As Taleb puts it, “We are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to antifragility. I’d rather be dumb and antifragile than extremely smart and fragile.”
If antifragility is a characteristic of all complex natural systems that have survived, isolating these and depriving them of unbalancing factors will weaken and eventually kill them. A large part of our modern world has been created according to a spirit of overprotection, with policies that have tried to change people’s behaviour from the top down.
Just as almost everything that is conceived from the top down impedes antifragility and tends to weaken growth, that which grows from the bottom up does so under the rightful pressure of stress and disorder.