What is Anti-fragile?
Anti-fragility refers to a class of things that not only benefit from chaos, but may even require it in order to survive and thrive. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a professor and former trader and hedge fund manager, developed the notion and coined the term “anti-fragility” because he considered existing phrases for the opposite of “fragility,” such as “robustness,” were inappropriate.
Anti-fragility goes beyond robustness; it indicates that something not only withstands but also improves as a result of a shock. Taleb provided the following definition in his 2012 book, Anti-fragile: Things That Benefit from Disorder:
“Some things thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and pressures, and they enjoy adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Despite the prevalence of the occurrence, there is no word for the polar opposite of fragile. Let us refer to it as anti-fragile. Anti-fragility is more than just resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and remains constant; the anti-fragile improves.”
The basic thesis of the book is that we must learn how to make our public and private life (policies, social policies, economics, etc.) anti-fragile, rather than simply less exposed to randomness and chaos. We can benefit or take advantage of stress, errors, and change by positioning for nonlinear events, which are all but certain.
“We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, nearly everything,” according to Taleb, by “suppressing randomness and volatility,” in the same manner that “systematically preventing forest fires from occurring ‘to be safe’ makes the big one much worse.”
The notion of anti-fragility can be used to a wide range of subjects, including physics, molecular biology, transportation planning, physical fitness, engineering, project management, computer science, and risk analysis (Taleb’s area of expertise).
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