You Are All Soft !!! Embrace Chaos !!!
18/12/2012 Deja un comentario
A reader could easily run out of adjectives to describe Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder”. The first ones that come to mind are: maddening, bold, repetitious, judgmental, intemperate, erudite, reductive, shrewd, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, provocative, pompous, quite penetrating, perspicacious and pretentious. “Antifragile” is a kind of sequel or logical follow-on to Taleb’s best-selling 2007 book “The Black Swan”, his earlier book “Fooled by Randomness”. In those and other writings he has argued “Black Swans”, large, improbable and highly consequential events like World War I or the rise of the Internet, are not predictable. Despite the human beings’ taste for rational patterns of cause and effect, and their eagerness to impose narratives on the world, he observed, it’s impossible to calculate risks of Black Swan events or predict their occurrence. In world today, says in “Antifragile,” “Black Swan effects are necessarily increasing, as a result of complexity, the interdependence between parts, globalization and the beastly thing called ‘efficiency’ that makes people now sail too close to the wind”. So how to deal with the dangers posed by this proliferation of uncertainty and volatility? Taleb contends that we must learn how to make our public and private lives (our political systems, our social policies, our finances, etc.) not merely less vulnerable to randomness, chaos, but actually “antifragile”, poised to benefit or take advantage of stress, errors, change, the way, say, mythological Hydra generated two new heads, each time one was cut off. In Mr. Taleb’s view, “We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything” by “suppressing randomness and volatility,” much the way that “systematically preventing forest fires from taking place “to be safe” makes the big one much worse.” In fact, he says, a top-down efforts to eliminate volatility (whether in the form of “neurotically overprotective parents” or former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s trying to smooth out economic fluctuations by injecting cheap money into system) end up making things more fragile, not less. Overtreatment of illness or physical problems, he suggests, can lead to medical error, much the way American support of dictatorial regimes “for the sake of stability” abroad can lead to “chaos after a revolution.” This is the central argument, the naked Christmas tree, as it were, in this highly discursive book, which proceeds to hang every sort of intellectual garland, philosophical ornament on its branches. Not only is “Antifragile” a wildly ambitious and multidisciplinary, addressing issues in the realms of politics, economics, social policy, philosophy, medicine, but it also suffers from a kind of attention-deficit disorder, jumping from subject to subject, while continually looping back on itself. It’s a book that could have benefited enormously from some judicious editing. Taleb, who has worked as a derivatives trader and quantitative analyst, and who holds the title of distinguished professor of risk engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, writes with great certainty, vigor. At his best he serves up provocative theories that encourage us to look at the world anew. He reminds us of the limits of Enlightenment reason, goads us into thinking about why small might be less fragile than big (a rule, he implies, that applies to animals and corporations alike) and gives us a renewed appreciation of practical knowledge (of sort possessed by engineers and entrepreneurs) as opposed to the sort of academic knowledge acquired in school (…..)