Reading Notes: Antifragile

It’s been quite a long time since a book changed or chal­lenged so much of the things I believed in, and this is exact­ly what Antifragile has done on an unbe­liev­able amount of lev­els (pol­i­tics, health, work, ethics, …). All along, Nassim Nicholas Taleb writ­ing is exquis­ite, it’s real­ly rare for such pro­found sub­jects to be treat­ed in such a blunt, hon­est and straight-to-the-point way (even with some snarky com­ments that made me laugh out loud while read­ing). The book attacks a lot of things that build our soci­ety with a won­der­ful sense of wis­dom and clar­i­ty. Armed with a bull­shit detec­tor, Nassim N. Taleb attacks every­thing : the way we envi­sion soci­ety, tech­nol­o­gy, youth, med­i­cine, drugs, busi­ness, finances, … It’s real­ly hard to express how much this book encom­pass, but what is sure is that read­ing it will change your mind forever.


Lesson: Avoid the­o­ret­i­cal think­ing as much as you can, act every time you can in the most hon­est way you can. Learn and grow from every dif­fi­cult moment, as each of those moments will bring you some­thing. And be wary of the peo­ple who don’t have their skin-in-the-game and are too prone to make deci­sions they won’t have to assume directly.

My note: 5/5

GoodReads note : 4.02/5

Amazon link : here we go

Reading notes

At no point in his­to­ry have so many non-risk-tak­ers, that is, those with no per­son­al expo­sure, exert­ed so much control.”

I want to live hap­pi­ly in a world I don’t understand.”

We didn’t get where we are today thanks to pol­i­cy mak­ers — but thanks to the appetite for risks and errors of a cer­tain class of peo­ple we need to encour­age, pro­tect, and respect.”

If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”

Humans some­how fail to rec­og­nize sit­u­a­tions out­side the con­texts in which they usu­al­ly learn about them.”

If humans fight the last war, nature fights the next one. Your body is more imag­i­na­tive about the future than you are.”

So here is a sim­ple rule of thumb (a heuris­tic): to esti­mate the qual­i­ty of research, take the cal­iber of the high­est detrac­tor, or the cal­iber of the low­est detrac­tor whom the author answers in print — whichev­er is lower.”

With few excep­tions, those who dress out­ra­geous­ly are robust or even antifrag­ile in rep­u­ta­tion; those clean-shaven types who dress in suits and ties are frag­ile to infor­ma­tion about them.”

My mood, my sad­ness, my bouts of anx­i­ety, are a sec­ond source of intel­li­gence — per­haps even the first source. […] Had Prozac been avail­able last cen­tu­ry, Baudelaire’s “spleen,” Edgar Allan Poe’s moods, the poet­ry of Sylvia Plath, the lamen­ta­tions of so many oth­er poets, every­thing with a soul would have been silenced.…”

Some parts on the inside of a sys­tem may be required to be frag­ile in order to make the sys­tem antifrag­ile as a result.”

You may nev­er know what type of per­son some­one is unless they are giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ties to vio­late moral or eth­i­cal codes.”

Every time you use a cof­feemak­er for your morn­ing cap­puc­ci­no, you are ben­e­fit­ing from the fragili­ty of the cof­feemak­ing entre­pre­neur who failed. […] Someone paid a price for the sys­tem to improve.”


No sta­bil­i­ty with­out volatility.”

It is gen­er­al­ly accept­ed that harm from doc­tors — not includ­ing risks from hos­pi­tal germs — accounts for more deaths than any sin­gle can­cer. The method­ol­o­gy used by the med­ical estab­lish­ment for deci­sion mak­ing is still inno­cent of prop­er risk-man­age­ment prin­ci­ples, but med­i­cine is get­ting better.”

A the­o­ry is a very dan­ger­ous thing to have.”

Consider the iatro­gen­ics of news­pa­pers. They need to fill their pages every day with a set of news items — par­tic­u­lar­ly those news items also dealt with by oth­er news­pa­pers. But to do things right, they ought to learn to keep silent in the absence of news of sig­nif­i­cance. Newspapers should be of two-line length on some days, two hun­dred pages on oth­ers — in pro­por­tion with the inten­si­ty of the sig­nal. But of course they want to make mon­ey and need to sell us junk food. And junk food is iatrogenic.”

The more data you get, the less you know what’s going on, and the more iatro­gen­ics you will cause.”

Our track record in fig­ur­ing out sig­nif­i­cant rare events in pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics is not close to zero; it is zero.”

Invest in good actions. Things can be tak­en away from us — not good deeds and acts of virtue.”

The error of think­ing you know exact­ly where you are going and assum­ing that you know today what your pref­er­ences will be tomor­row has an asso­ci­at­ed one. It is the illu­sion of think­ing that oth­ers, too, know where they are going, and that they would tell you what they want if you just asked them.”

No one at present dares to state the obvi­ous: growth in soci­ety may not come from rais­ing the aver­age the Asian way, but from increas­ing the num­ber of peo­ple in the “tails,” that small, very small num­ber of risk tak­ers crazy enough to have ideas of their own, those endowed with that very rare abil­i­ty called imag­i­na­tion, that rar­er qual­i­ty called courage, and who make things happen.”

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Simon Vandereecken

Freelance UX Designer living in Brussels (Belgium), with a deep interest into philosophy, personal growth, self improvement, books, music, ... well in many things ! I use this website to write thoughts going through my head as well as ideas, observations and reading notes. Feel free to get in touch ;)