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Book Review

‘Antifragile’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

In “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder,” Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the blockbuster “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,” explains how a variety of things, from the human body to, ahem, books being reviewed, actually benefit from attempts to harm them. They are “antifragile.” Just as a bout with the flu can bolster one’s immune system in the long run, negative publicity can attract more interest in a book.

There are limits to this effect, of course, but Taleb’s overall point is that whenever possible, we should seek to build technologies and products and institutions that are antifragile (a banking system with many small banks dealing in straightforward financial products) rather than fragile (a banking system composed of giant, too-big-to-fail banks connected to various sectors of the economy in opaquely complex ways). Unfortunately, as Taleb sees it, various cognitive biases — not to mention many aspects of modern human culture — defeat us in this aim.

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