Have you seen great ideas or apparently-solid organizations fail because of some random event or unexpected shock? Does your organization spend significant resources on trying to avoid volatility or uncertainty? What if shocks, volatility, and uncertainty were actually what your ideas or organization need in order to really take off? This summary shows how the key to thriving is not avoiding stress but embracing the concept of “antifragility.”
The antifragile is the opposite of fragile; it is something that loves randomness and uncertainty and is strengthened by a shock. Antifragility is inherent in all the natural and complex systems that survived over time. Our modern civilization is intent on damping down volatility and randomness and avoiding stressors; but once we grasp the importance of antifragility, we realize that our modern approach actually causes harm.
Suppressing volatility and randomness in our economy, our health, our education, or our political life makes those systems more fragile. Without stressors, complex systems become weak and even die.
Black Swans—large, irregular, and unpredictable events—are what make history. We cannot predict them, but we can determine which object or system is more fragile to Black Swans than another. The fragile systems are the ones that do not like volatility, randomness, errors or stressors.
Modern society assumes that anything can be ‘fixed,’ but most of the time it is better to leave well alone. Socioeconomic life and the human body can actually be harmed by intervention, leaving the whole more fragile to shocks and uncertainty. Often, the best course of action is to ignore the noise from too much data and let time take care of the problem.
One of the worst aspects of modern society is the way that fragility and antifragility get transferred from one group to another, usually with one side getting all the benefits and the other getting all the harm.