In Antifragile, Taleb continues to articulate his unique world view and winds it into a proposal for how to better lead our lives as individuals and societies. Fragility is organic systems that aim for stability and avoid change, thereby becoming brittle, weak, and breakable as a result. Antifragility (like Derrida’s autoimmunity) on the other hand, describes systems that are open to mistakes and quickly learn from and incorporate errors, thus becoming resilient and vibrant with the ability to adapt and survive (like Silicon Valley’s mantra to ‘fail early and learn fast’). For better vigor and survival, organic systems (like living organisms, humans, and societies) should develop their antifragility.
Another way of understanding antifragility is that when you have a capability, it means that you are able to handle new situations that arise in the same domain, effectively handling situations that arise that are up to 10% outside the bounds of situations you have seen before in that domain. For Taleb, success is determined more by tinkering and harnessing the disorder and chaos in a system (the variance or antifragility) than applying pure intellect. This is how the industrial revolution happened, and how technologies develop that drive science. Antifragile systems are those that gain from randomness or uncertainty (statistically, pulling a probability distribution’s mean higher with more upside long-tail instances).
Fragility/antifragility applies only in the case of organic systems, not inorganic systems (like our computers (at present)). Organic systems need stressors to grow, thrive, and survive. Taleb’s colorful example distinguishes between a cat and a washing machine.