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Judging by his anecdotes, Taleb interacts with the economic masters of the universe as he jets from New York to London or attends business-politics confabs in Davos, Switzerland. Anything but awed by them, Taleb regards them as charlatans, not as credible experts. Such skepticism toward elites, which imbued Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007), continues in this work, which grapples with a concept Taleb coins as antifragile. Not readily reducible to a definition (Taleb takes the whole book to develop the idea), suffice to say here that antifragile's opposites economic, political, or medical systems that are vulnerable to sudden collapse tend to be managed by highly educated people who think they know how systems work. But they don't, avers Taleb. Their confidence in control is illusory; their actions harm rather than help. In contrast, Taleb views decentralized systems the entrepreneurial business rather than the bureaucratized corporation, the local rather than the central government as more adaptable to systemic stresses. Emphatic in his style and convictions, Taleb grabs readers given to musing how the world works.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Taleb's (risk engineering, New York Univ.; Black Swans) unorthodox thinking and luminescent style manifest themselves in a fusillade of neologisms, creative phraseology, and quirky illustrations. In his previous work, the author outlined the impact of rare, unpredictable events and foretold the impending financial crisis. Here he uses the concept of "antifragility" to show how we can protect ourselves from inevitable personal and societal calamities. The global financial crisis of 2008 is the watershed event of the narrative. Yet Taleb adroitly weaves in strands of psychology, child development, medicine, biology, civics, philosophy, education, military strategy, and the classics to explain how antifragility can make people and systems stronger in the same way that bones need stress to grow denser. -VERDICT Taleb's tome is by turns entertaining, thought-provoking, silly, brilliant, and irreverent, yet his logic remains cogent and his message clear throughout. His wit and substance have already found him a worldwide audience; this book is likely to create him an even more robust fan base.-Carol Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin, Whitewater, Libs. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In this overstuffed, idiosyncratic theory of everything we don't know, financial adviser and epistemologist Taleb amplifies his megaselling The Black Swan with further musings on the upside of unpredictable upheavals. Ranging haphazardly across probability theory, classical philosophy, government, medicine, and other topics, he contrasts large, complex, "fragile" systems that try to minimize risk but collapse under unforeseen volatility with small, untethered, "antifragile" systems structured to reap advantages from disorder. Taleb's accessible, stimulating exposition of these ideas yields cogent insights, particularly in finance-his specialty. (He essentially inflates a hedging strategy into a philosophy of life.) Often, however, his far-flung polymathic digressions on everything from weight-lifting regimens to the Fukushima meltdown or the unnaturalness of toothpaste feel tossed-off and unconvincing, given his dilettantish contempt for expert "knowledge-shknowledge." Taleb's vigorous, blustery prose drips with Nietzschean scorn for academics, bankers, and bourgeois "sissies" who crave comfort and moderation: "If you take risks and face your fate with dignity," he intones, "insults by half-men (small men, those who don't risk)" are no more rankling than "barks by non-human animals." More worldview than rigorous argument, Taleb's ramblings may strike readers with knowledge-shknowledge as ill-considered; still, he presents a rich-and often telling-critique of modern civilization's obsession with security. Illus. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Nov. 27) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.