A selection of quotes from “Antifragile”

I enjoyed reading Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile, and recommend it to anyone who is interested in learnings about financial investments and risks in general, although it’s a quite long and very dense read. New Nassim Taleb readers should be warned that, at times, he express a somewhat harsh opinion about people he disagrees with.

Here is my selection of quotes from the book:

I have always hated employment and the associated dependence on someone else’s arbitrary opinion, particularly when much of what’s done inside large corporations violates my sense ethics. (Page 155)

If something is fragile, it’s risk of breaking makes anything you do to improve it or make it “efficient” inconsequential unless you first reduce that risk of breaking. (Page 160)

Practitioners don’t write; they do. Birds fly and those who lecture them are the ones who write their story. So it is easy to see that history is truly written by losers with time on their hands and a protected academic position. (Page 220)

There is this error of thinking that things always have a reason that is accessible to us - that we can comprehend easily.  … mistaking what we don’t see for the nonexistent, a sibling to mistaking absence of evidence for evidence of absence. (Page 249)

For the fragile, the cumulative effect of small shocks is smaller than the single effect of an equivalent single large shock. For the antifragile, shocks bring more benefits (equivalently, less harm) as their intensity increases (up to a point). (Page 271)

If I spot black swan I can be quite certain that the statement “all swans are white” is wrong. … one small observation can disprove a statement, while millions can hardly confirm it, disconfirmation is more rigourous than confirmation. (Page 302)

People in risk management only consider risky things that have hurt them in the past (given the focus on “evidence”), not realising that, in the past, before these events took place, these occurrences that hurt them severely were completely without precedent, escaping standards. (Page 334)

I just want to understand as little as possible to be able to look at regularities of experience. So the modus operandi in every venture is to remain as robust as possible to changes in theories. (Page 351)

The three traditions in medicine: rationalists (based on preset theories, the need of global understanding of what things were made for), skeptical empiricists (who refused theories and were sceptical of ideas making claims about the unseen), and methodists (who taught each other some simple medical heuristics stripped of theories and found an even more practical way to be empiricists).  (Page 351)

Random variability is often mistaken for information, hence leading to intervention. (Page 353)

It seems that medicine has a hard time grasping normal variability in samples, it is hard sometimes to translate the difference between “statistical significant” and “significant” in effect. (Page 354)

Never ask anyone for their opinion, forecast, or recommendation. Just ask them what they have -  or don’t have - in their portfolio. (Page 389)

Suckers try to win arguments, nonsuckers try to win. More generally … opinions and predictions don’t count, surviving is what matters. (Page 390)

Everything gains or loses from volatility. Fragility is what loses from volatility and uncertainty.  (In the conclusion)