Nassim Nicholas Taleb is back with another book on the role uncertainty plays in economic life. Readers of his earlier books Fooled by Randomness and Black Swan will have a fair idea of what to expect from Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder in terms of subject matter. However, Antifragile is the most engrossing of the three books. “Fooled by Randomness” seemed, at times, to be stating the obvious. “Black Swan” suffered from the same problem, albeit to a lesser extent. The sophistication of ideas in “Antifragile” is what raises it a notch or two above both books.
What are these ideas? The title of the book offers a clue. “Antifragile,” a word Taleb coined for lack of an existing word apposite enough to express the idea, refers to the opposite of “fragile.” A fragile object is adversely affected by any uncertainty in its environment, whereas an antifragile one benefits from such uncertainty. Being antifragile is much more than being merely robust. While robustness suggests being unaffected by shocks, antifragility means actually being improved by shocks.