Stress is best? How surprises make you stronger
2012-11-21 0:00

From: The Economist

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder.

What is the opposite of fragility? Though not quite right, “resilience” and “robustness” are two words that come to mind. If fragility means something that breaks under stress, its exact opposite should mean something that grows stronger under pressure. There is no word that quite captures this, says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an American essayist and scholar, so he has invented one: “antifragile”.

The neologism is necessary because antifragility, he argues, is the secret to success in a world full of uncertainty. Mr Taleb’s earlier books were devoted to showing that no one can measure the likelihood of rare events—or “black swans”, in his now famous phrase. From the financial crisis to the tsunami that struck the Fukushima nuclear reactor in 2011, the worst-case scenario will never be quite bad enough. So instead of trying to predict the future and failing, the best thing to do is try to benefit from shocks when they occur.

That, after all, is what nature does. Evolution is a system for turning random mutations to lasting advantage. The body responds well to certain pressures; the bones in the racquet-holding arm of professional tennis players are stronger than those in the other arm, for example.

There are all sorts of ways in which bad events contain useful information. Pain teaches children what to avoid. The failures of past entrepreneurs steer the next lot of start-ups away from the same mistakes. Plane crashes yield data that make the next flight safer. (Bank failures have the opposite effect; because of the interconnectedness of the financial system, one blow-up makes another more likely, not less.)

Indeed, Mr Taleb thinks the big mistake is trying too hard to avoid shocks. Long periods of stability allow risks to accumulate until there is a major disaster; volatility means that things do not get too far out of kilter. In the economy cutting interest rates at the first sign of weakness stores up more trouble for later. In markets getting rid of speculators means prices are more stable in general but any fluctuations cause greater panic. In political systems the stability brought by regimes such as Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt was artificial; without any effective way for people to express dissent, change leads to collapse.

The principle applies to career choices too. An apparently secure job within a large company disguises a dependency on a single employer and the risk that unemployment will cause a very sudden and steep loss of income. Professions that have more variable earnings, like taxi-driving or prostitution, are less vulnerable to really big shocks. They also use volatility as information: if a cabbie is in a part of town where there are no fares, he heads to a different area.


[...]

Read the full article at: economist.com






Related Articles
Are Entrepreneurs Healthier Than Other Workers?
How your stressful job could be making you old
How Stress Wreaks Havoc on Your Gut -- And What to Do About It
Your Child May Be Stressed
The Danger of Stress
Scenes Of Nature Trump Technology In Reducing Low-level Stress


Latest News from our Front Page

Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female
2015-04-25 4:52
Shieldmaidens are not a myth! A recent archaeological discovery has shattered the stereotype of exclusively male Viking warriors sailing out to war while their long-suffering wives wait at home with baby Vikings. (We knew it! We always knew it.) Plus, some other findings are challenging that whole “rape and pillage” thing, too. Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided ...
Off Your Knees, Germany! Ernst Zundel 1983 - 2003
2015-04-25 1:15
For more information on the holocaust, how the war was forced upon Germany, and the REAL victims of the second world war see: http://gblt.webs.com/Real_Holocaust.htm http://web.archive.org/web/20130806074314/http://www.666blacksun.org/ http://www.zundelsite.org/
IRS Drops Attack For Six Years – No Evidence of Jurisdiction
2015-04-24 20:29
A big congrats to a friend I’ve been working with for several years, he stood up to the predators commonly called the “IRS” and they dropped their attack. Thanks also for providing me with the proof below. The criminals called the “IRS” initiated an attack claiming my friend was required to file six tax returns, or explain how he made ...
Into Eternity - Finland's 100,000 Year Massive Underground Spent Nuclear Fuel Program
2015-04-24 20:49
Into Eternity is a documentary about a deep geological repository for nuclear waste. The concept of long-term underground storage for radioactive waste has been explored since the 1950s. The inner part of the Russian doll-like storage canisters is to be composed of copper. Hence in the case of Onkalo it is tightly linked to experiments on copper corrosion in running ...
SPLC Accuses Oath Keepers of Inciting “Armed Confrontation” Over Sugar Pine Mine
2015-04-24 20:22
The Southern Poverty Law Center has accused Oath Keepers of inciting an armed confrontation with BLM authorities over the Sugar Pine Mine dispute in Oregon, despite the fact that the organization has explicitly stated that it is not promoting armed confrontation with the feds. In an article provocatively posted on the organization’s ‘Hatewatch’ section entitled Oath Keepers Descend Upon Oregon with ...
More News »