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How Uncertainty Makes Us Stronger

November 18, 2012, 3:30 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Rather than try to prevent the (inevitable) shocks of life, we may do better to take advantage of them when they arise, argues Nassim Nicholas Taleb, one of the strongest critics of economic policy before the financial collapse of 2007. In his new book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, Taleb says that "antifragility" is the best solution to uncertain times, which he defines as something that grows stronger under pressure. Evolution, for example, is a comparable system that turns random mutations toward self-improvement. 

What's the Big Idea?

The primary concept behind Taleb's new book is that potential gains from an unexpected event should outweight their potential losses. As such, volatilitywhich economic policy seeks to avoidis seen in a good light: "Volatility means that things do not get too far out of kilter. ... 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."

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