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Antifragile book summary

Antifragile book cover
  • Anti-fragile things are anything that has more upside than downside from random events or shocks. The reverse is fragile.
  • If antifragility is the property of natural and complex systems that have survived, depriving these systems of volatility, randomness and stressors will harm them.
  • Chief ethical rule: thou shalt not have antifragility at the expense of the fragility of others.

Book 1: The Antifragile: An Introduction

  • You want to be Phoenix, or Hydra. Otherwise the sword of Damocles will get you.
    • Hydra is a serpent-like creature in Greek mythology that grows two heads for every one that is cut off. A phoenix dies and is reborn from its own ashes. Damocles enjoyed the luxury of a fancy banquet, but with a sword hanging over his head, tied to the ceiling with a single hair from a horse's tail.
  • Antidotum Mithridatium is a method of becoming immune is large doses of a substance, by exposes to small doses at a time. Hormesis is when a small dose of a harmful substance is actually beneficial for the organism, acting as medicine.
    • The abundance of calories in today's world / the absence of periods of caloric restriction is depriving humans from the stressor of hunger which is making us less healthy. Hormesis is the norm, and the absence of it is what hurts us.
    • Depriving systems of stressors is not necessarily a good thing and can be very harmful.
  • For society, the record shows that the richer we become, the harder it gets to lives within our means. Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity.
  • Undercompensation from the absence of a stressor, inverse hormesis, degrades the best of the best. Overcompensation, where you're constantly in a state of effort, helps push us forward.
    • Mental effort moves us into higher gear, activating more vigorous and more analytical brain machinery.
    • e.g. If you're lethargic from international travel, exercise instead of resting. Writing in a café with background noise might be easier than being alone in a dead silent room.
  • Nature likes to overinsure itself. Layers of redundancy are the central risk management property of natural systems.
    • Humans are terrible at this due to the Lucretius problem where we believe the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one he has observed.
    • Humans fight the last war, whereas nature fights the next one. Your body is more imaginative about the future than you are, e.g. weightlifting, where continuous practice means you're able to lift increasingly heavier weights.
  • A system that overcompensates is necessarily in overshooting mode, building extra capacity and strength in anticipation of a worse outcome and in response to information about the possibility of a hazard.
  • Information is antifragile - it feeds more on attempts to harm it than on efforts to promote it. Books and ideas are similarly antifragile.
  • Somehow it is only when you don't care about your reputation that you tend to have a good one. Just as in seduction, people lend the most to those who need them the least.

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