2013년 10월 10일 목요일

[N. Nicholas Taleb's Prologue to] Antifragile: Things to Gain from Disorder

출처: N. Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things to Gain from Disorder (Random House, 2012) ; 안티프래질 (와이즈베리 2013, 안세민 옮김)

※ 발췌 (excerpts):


I. HOW TO LOVE THE WIND

Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire.

   Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind. This summarizes the author's nonmeek attitude to randomness and uncertainty.

  We just don't want to just survive uncertainty, to just about make it. We want to survive uncertainty and, in additionㅡlike a certain class of aggressive Roman Stoicsㅡhave the last word. The mission is how to domesticate, even dominate, even conquer, the unseen, the opaque, and the inexplicable.

  How?

바람을 사랑하는 법

바람은 촛불 하나는 꺼뜨리지만 모닥불은 살린다.

   무작위성, 불확실성, 카오스도 마찬가지다. 나는 당신이 이런 것들을 피하지 않고 활용하기를 원한다. 불이 되어 바람을 맞이하라. 지금하는 말은 무작위성과 불확실성에 대한 필자의 반항적 태도를 잘 보여준다.

   우리는 불확실성을 다루면서 겨우 살아남기만을 원하지는 않는다. 로마시대의 공격적인 스토아 철학자들처럼 불확실성에서 살아남을 뿐만 아니라 결정적인 발언권을 가지려고 한다. 우리의 임무는 눈에 보이지 않으면서 불투명하고 설명할 수 없는 대상을 길들이고, 심지어 지배하고 정복하는 것이다.

   그럼 어떻게 이런 임무를 완수할 것인가?

II. THE ANTIFRAGILE

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile.

   Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance ... even our existence as a species on this planet. And antifragility determines the boundary between what is living and organic (or complex), say, the human body, and what is inert, say, a physical object like the stapler on your desk.

   The antifragile loves randomness and uncertainty, which also meansㅡcruciallyㅡa love of errors, a certain class of errors. Antifragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding themㅡand do them well. Let me be more aggressive: we are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to antifragility. I'd rather be dumb and antifragile than extremely smart and fragile, any time.

   It is easy to see things around us that like a measure of stressors and volatility: economic systems, your body, your nutrition (diabetes and many similar modern ailments seem to be associated with a lack of randomness in feeding and the absence of the stressor of occasional starvation), your psyche. There are even financial contracts that are antifragile: they are explicitly designed to benefit from market volatility. 

   Antifragility makes us understand fragility better. Just as we cannot improve health without reducing disease, or increase wealth without first decreasing losses, antifragility and fragility are degrees on a spectrum.

세상에는 충격으로부터는 혜택을 보는 것들이 있다. 이런 것들은 가변성, 무작위성, 무질서, 스트레스에 노출될 때 번창하고 성장하며, 모험과 리스크, 불확실성을 좋아한다. 그러나 이런 현상이 도처에서 발생하고 있지만, 충격을 가하면 부서진다는 의미인 프래질에 정확하게 반대가 되는 단어는 없다. 이제부터 이런 단어를 '안티프래질(antifragile)'이라고 부르자.

   안티프래질은 회복력 혹은 강건함 이상의 의미를 갖는다. 회복력이 있는 물체는 충격에 저항하면서 원상태로 돌아온다. 반면, 안티프래질한 대상은 충격을 가하면 더 좋아진다. 이런 특징은 진화, 문화, 사상, 혁명, 정치 시스템, 기술 혁신, 문화적이거나 경제적인 성공, 기업의 생존, 훌륭한 조리법(닭고기 수프나 코냑 한 방울을 떨어뜨린 타르타르 스테이크), 도시의 성장, 법률 시스템, 적도 지방의 삼림, 박테리아의 저항, 심지어 지구상에서 인간의 존재처럼 시간이 지나면서 변하는 모든 것들의 배후에 있다. 그리고 안티프래질은 인간의 몸처럼 살아 있는 유기체(또는 복잡계)와 책상 위의 스테이플처럼 생명이 없는 물리적 대상 간의 경계를 정해준다.

   안티프래질은 무작위성과 불확실성을 좋아한다. 이는 일정 정도의 오차를 좋아한다는 의미다. 안티프래질은 우리에게 미지의 것을 다루도록 해주고 무엇인가를 이해하지 않고도 잘 실행할 수 있도록 해주는 매우 독특한 성질을 갖고 있다. 더욱 적극적으로 표현하자면, 안티프래질 덕분에 우리는 생각보다 실행을 통해서 더 잘할 수 있다. 나는 매우 똑똑하고 프래질하기보다 차라리 우둔하고 안티프래질하기를 원한다.

   우리는 주변에서 일정 정도의 스트레스나 가변성을 좋아하는 대상을 쉽게 볼 수 있다. 바로 경제 시스템, 인간의 몸, 영양(당뇨병을 비롯해 현대의 이와 비슷한 질병은 음식물 섭취의 무작위성의 결여나 간헐적인 단식과 같은 스트레스의 결여와 관련이 있다), 정신이 그렇다. 심지어 안티프래질한 금융계약도 있다. 이러 계약은 시장의 가변성으로부터 이익을 얻도록 명시적으로 작성된다.

   안티프래질은 프래질을 더 잘 이해하도록 해준다. 질병을 없애지 않고 건강을 증진시킬 수 없듯이, 또는 손실을 먼저 줄이지 않고소 부를 증진시킬 수 없듯이, 프래질을 줄이지 않고소 안티프래질해질 수는 없다.

Nonprediction

By grasping the mechanisms of antifragility we can build a systematic and broad guide to ^nonpredictive^ decision making under uncertainty in business, politics, medicine, and life in generalㅡanywhere the unknown preponderates, any situation in which there is randomness, unpredictability, opacity, or incomplete understanding of things.

   It is far easier to figure out if something is fragile than to predict the occurrence of an event that may harm it. Fragility can be measured; risk is not measurable (outside of casinos or the minds of people who call themselves "risk experts"). This provides a solution to what I've called the Black Swan problemㅡthe impossibility of calculating the risks of consequential rare events and predicting their occurrence. Sensitivity to harm from volatility is tractable, more so than forecasting the event that would cause the harm. So we propose to stand our current approaches to prediction, prognostication, and risk management on their heads.

   In every domain or area of application, we propose rules for moving from the fragile toward the antifragile, through reduction of fragility or harnessing antifragility. And we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry: anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile.

예측을 요구하지 않는다

우리는 안티프래질의 메커니즘을 이해함으로써 비즈니스, 정치, 의학, 인생처럼 불확실성이 존재하는 영역에서 예측을 요구하지 않는 의사 결정에 도움이 되는 체계적이고 광범위한 지침서를 만들 수 있다. 이런 작업은 미지의 것이 지배하는 어떤 영역에서도, 그리고 무작위성, 예측 불가능성, 불투명성, 혹은 사물에 대한 불완전한 이해가 존재하는 어떤 상황에서도 할 수 있다.

   대상을 해롭게 하는 사건의 발생을 예측하는 것보다 그것이 프래질한지 아닌지 파악하는 것이 훨씬 더 쉽다. 프래질은 측정할 수 있지만 리스크는 측정할 수 없다. 다시 말해서, 카지노 밖 혹은 자신을 리스크 전문가라고 스스로 말하는 사람이 생각할 수 있는 범위 밖에 있는 리스크는 측정할 수가 없다. 이런 사실은 내가 블랙 스완이라고 불렀던 문제(필연적으로 나타나는 매우 드문 사건의 리스크를 측정하거나 이런 사건의 발생을 예측하는 것은 불가능하다)에 대한 해법을 제시한다. 가변성 때문에 발생하는 피해의 민감도를 다루는 것은 이런 피해를 일으키는 사건을 예측하는 것보다 더 쉽다. 따라서 나는 예측, 리스크 관리에서 더욱 쉬운 접근방식을 제안할 것이다.

   모든 영역에서 우리는 프래질을 줄이거나 안티프래질을 활용해 프래질에서 안티프래질로 가기 위한 원칙을 제안한다. 그리고 간단한 비대칭성 테스트를 통해서 안티프래질과 프래질을 탐지할 수 있다. {즉,} 무작위적 사건이나 충격에서 손실보다 이익이 더 크면 안티프래질하고, 그 반대는 프래질한 것이다.


Deprivation of Antifragility

Crucially, if antifragility is the property of all those natural (and complex) systems that have survived, depriving these systems of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them. They will weaken, die, or blow up. We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything... by suppressing randomness and volatility. Just as spending a month in bed (preferably with an unabridged version of ^War and Peace^ and access to ^The Sopranos^'s entire 86 episodes) leads to muscle atrophy, complex systems are weakened, even killed, when deprived of stressors. Much of our modern, structured, world has been harming us with top-down policies and contraptions (dubbed "Soviet-Harvard delusions" in the book) which do precisely this: an insult to the antifragility of systems.

   This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most.

   If about everything top-down fragilizes and blocks antifragility and growth, everything bottom-up thrives under the right amount of stress and disorder. The process of discovery (or innovation, or technological progress) itself depends on antifragile tinkering, aggressive risk bearing rather than formal education.

안티프래질을 제거하다

안티프래질이 살아남은 모든 자연적 시스템 혹은 복잡계의 특징이라면, 이런 시스템에서 가변성, 무작위성, 스트레스를 제거하면 시스템에 피해를 줄 것이다. 시스템은 약해지거나 소멸하거나 붕괴할 것이다. 지금까지 우리는 무작위성과 가변성을 억누르면서 경제, 건강, 정치, 교육 등 거의 모든 것을 프래질하게 만들어왔다. 침대에서 한 달을 보내면 근육이 약해지듯이(<전쟁과 평화> 풀 버전과 <소프라노스> 드라마 86개 에피소드와 함께라면 더욱 그렇다), 스트레스를 제거하면 복잡계는 약화되거나 소멸한다. 지금 우리가 사는 근대의 구조화된 세계는 하향식 정책을 비롯한 각종 장치들을 통해 우리에게 피해를 입혀왔다 (이 책에서 나는 이런 현상을 '소비에트-하버드 환상'이라는 이름을 붙였다). 마치 안티프래질한 시스템에 모욕을 주기라도 하듯이 말이다.

   이런 현상은 근대가 나은 비극이다. 마치 자녀를 지나치게 보호하는 부모처럼 우리에게 도움을 주려다 가장 큰 피해를 입히고 있다.

   하향식인 모든 것은 대상을 프래질하게 만들고 안티프래질과 성장을 가로막는 반면, 상향식은 적당한 스트레스와 무질서가 존재한다면 대상을 번창하게 만든다. 발견의 과정(또는 혁신이나 기술의 진보) 그 차제는 정규 교육보다는 안티프래질한 팅커링(276쪽 참조), 공격적인 리스크 감수에 더 많이 의존한다.

Upside at the Expense of Others

Which brings us to the largest fragilizer of society, and greatest generator of crises, absence of "skin in the game." Some become antifragile at the expense of others by getting the upside (or gains) from volatility, variations, and disorder and exposing others to the downside risks of losses or harm. And such ^antifragility-at-the-cost-of-fragility-of-others^ is hiddenㅡgiven the blindness to antifragility by the Soviet-Harvard intellectual circles, this asymmetry is rarely identified and (so far) never taught. Further, as we discovered during the financial crisis that started in 2008, these blowup risk-to-others are easily concealed owing to the growing complexity of modern institutions and political affairs. While in the past people of rank or status were those and only those who took risks, who had the downside for their actions, and heroes were those who did so for the sake of others, today the exact reverse is taking place. We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D. (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.

   At no point in history have so many non-risk-takers, that is, those with no personal exposure, exerted so much control.

   The chief ethical rule is the following: Thou shalt not have antifragility at the expense of the fragility of others.

다른 사람의 희생을 바탕으로 이익을 얻는다

우리 사회를 프래질하게 만들고 커다란 위기를 일으키며 승부의 책임(skin in the game: 워렌 버핏이 말한 내부자가 자신의 돈으로 회사 주식을 사는 것으로, 자신의 돈이 걸려 있으면 성공 확률이 높아진다는 이야기다ㅡ옮긴이)을 지지 않게 만드는 요소가 있다. 다른 사람의 희생을 바탕으로 이익을 취하면서 안티프래질해지는 사람들이 있다. 이들은 다른 사람들을 손실의 위험을 노출시키면서 자신은 가변성, 변화, 무질서로부터 이익을 얻는다. 그리고 이처럼 다른 사람의 피해를 바탕으로 얻는 안티프래질은 소비에크-하버드 이상주의자들에 의해 가려지면서 사람들의 눈에 띄지 않았다. 이런 비대칭성은 거의 알려지지 않았고, 지금까지 이것을 가르치는 사람은 아무도 없었다. 2008년에 시작된 금융위기를 겪으면서 이런 비대칭성을 확인했지만, 현대의 제도와 정치 문제가 더욱 복잡해진 까닭에 쉽게 은폐되고 말았다. 옛날에는 자신의 행동으로 피해를 보는 리스크를 감수했던 사람들만이 높은 지위를 얻었다. 그리고 그들은 다른 사람들을 위해 그런 선택을 했던 영웅들이었다. 그러나 오늘날에는 정확하게 그 반대 현상이 일어나고 있다. 이제 우리는 영웅의 반대가 되는 새로운 계급(즉 관료, 은행업자, 유명인의 이름을 들먹이는 사람들의 국제적 모임( ...)의 회원인 다보스 회의 참석자, 실질적인 책임을 지지 않고 피해도 보지 않으면서 엄청난 권력을 행사하는 학계 인사)의 등장을 목격하고 있다. 그들은 시민들이 대가를 치르는 동안 자신의 이익을 위해 시스템을 악용하고 있다.

   역사상 어떤 순간에도 리스크를 감수하지 않는 사람들, 즉 개인적으로 리스크에 노출되지 않는 사람들이 지금처럼 커다란 권력을 행사한 적은 없었다.

   이제 중요한 윤리 원칙은 다음과 같아야 한다. 다른 사람들을 프래질하게 만드는 대가로 자신이 안티프래질해져서는 안 된다.


III. THE ANTIDOTE TO THE BLACK SWAN

I want to live happily in a world I don't understand.

   Black Swans (capitalized) are large-scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequenceㅡunpredicted by a certain observer, and such unpredictor is generally called the "turkey" when he is bot surprised and harmed by those events. I have made the claim that most of history comes from Black Swan events, while we worry about fine-tuning our understanding of the ordinary, and hence develop models, theories, or representations that cannot possibly track them or measure the possibility of these shocks.

   Black Swans hijack our brains, making us feel we "sort of" or "almost" predicted them, because they are retrospectively explainable. We don't realize the role of these Swans in life because of this illusion of predictability. Life is more, a lot more, labyrinthine than shown in our memoryㅡour minds are in the business of turning history into something smooth and linear, which makes us underestimate randomness. But when we see it, we fear it and overreact. Because of this fear and thirst for order, some human systems, by disrupting the invisible or not so visible logic of things, tend to be exposed to harm from Black Swans and almost never get any better. You get pseudo-order when you seek order; you only get a measure of order and control when you embrace randomness.

   Complex systems are full of interdependenciesㅡhard to detectㅡand nonlinear responses. "Nonlinear" means that when you double the dose of, say, a medication, or when you double the number of employees in a factory, you don't get twice the initial effect, but rather a lot more or a lot less. Two weekends in Philadelphia are not twice as pleasant as a single oneㅡI've tried. When the response is plotted on a graph, it does not show as a straight line ("linear"), rather as a curve. In such environment, simple causal associations are misplaced; it is hard to see how things work by looking at single parts.

   Man-made complex systems tend to develop cascades and runaway chains of reactions that decrease, even eliminate, predictability and cause outsized events. So the modern world may be increasing in technological knowledge, but, paradoxically, it is making things a lot more unpredictable. Now for reasons that have to do with the increase of the artificial, the move away from ancestral and natural models, and the loss in robustness owing to complications in the design of everything, the role of Black Swans in [is] increasing. Further, we are victims to a new disease, called in this book ^neomania^, that makes us build Black Swan-vulnerable systemsㅡ"progress."

   An annoying aspect of the Black Swan problemㅡin fact the central, and largely missed, pointㅡis that the odds of rare events are simply not computable. We know a lot less about hundred-year floods than five-year floodsㅡmodel error swells when it comes to small probabilities. ^The rarer the events, the less tractable, and the less we know about how frequent its occurrence^ㅡyet the rarer event, the more confident these "scientists" involved in predicting, modeling, and using PowerPoint in conferences with equations in multicolor background have become.

   It is of great help that Mother Natureㅡthanks to its antifragilityㅡis the best expert at rare events, and the best manager of Black Swans; in its billions of years it succeeded in getting here without much command-and-control instruction from an Ivy League-educated director nominated by a search committee. Antifragility is not just the antidote to the Black Swan; understanding it makes us less intellectually fearful in accepting the role of these events as necessary for history, technology, knowledge, everything.

블랙 스완에 대한 해독제

나는 내가 잘 알지 못하는 세상에서 행복하게 살고 싶다.

   블랙 스완은 엄청난 결과를 초래하는 대형 사건으로서 예측이 불가능한 데다 불규칙적으로 일어난다. 이처럼 예측할 수 없는 블랙 스완 현상으로 경악과 피해를 동시에 경험하는 예측 전문가들을 칠면조라고 부른다. 나는 일상적으로 일어나는 현상에 대한 이해를 미세 조정하고, 이를 통해 블랙 스완 현상을 찾아내지 못하고, 혹은 이에 따르는 충격을 측정하지도 못하는 모델, 이론, 학설을 이끌어내지만, 결국 대부분의 역사는 블랙 스완 현상에서 비롯된다고 주장한 적이 있다.

   블랙 스완 현상은 우리의 두뇌를 강탈해 자신이 이런 현상을 거의 예측하고 있다고 느끼도록 만든다. 왜냐하면 사후에는 블랙 스완 현상에 대한 설명이 가능하기 때문이다. 이런 예측 가능성에 대한 환상 때문에 인생에서 블랙 스완 현상의 역할을 깨닫지 못하는 것이다. 인생은 생각하는 것 보다 훨씬 더 복잡하게 얽히고설켜 있다. 우리의 두뇌는 역사를 매끄러운 선형의 것으로 바꾸려는 작업을 한다. 이런 작업은 무작위성을 과소평가하게 만든다. 그러나 우리는 무작위한 현상을 보면서 두려움을 느끼고, 이에 대해 과잉반응을 한다. 이런 두려움과 질서에 대한 갈망 때문에 눈에 보이지 않는 사물의 논리는 차단된다. 그리고 인간이 만들어낸 시스템은 블랙 스완 현상이 주는 피해에 노출되고, 이로부터 결코 혜택을 얻어내지 못한다. 질서를 추구하면 가짜 질서를 얻게 된다. 그러나 무작위성을 수용하면 질서를 얻고 동시에 이를 지배할 수 있다.

   복잡계는 탐지하기 어려운 상호 의존성과 비선형 반응으로 가득하다. 여기서 비선형은 당신이 약 복용량을 두 배로 늘리거나 공장 종업원 수를 두 배로 늘리면 처음 얻었던 효과의 두 배를 얻지 못하고 훨씬 더 많거나 혹은 훨씬 더 적은 효과를 얻는다는 것을 의미한다. 필라델피아에서 2주를 보낸다고 해서 1주를 보내는 것에 비해 두 배의 즐거움을 얻지는 못한다. 이것은 내 경험이다. 이런 반응을 그래프로 나타내면 직선이 아니라 곡선의 모양을 띤다. 이런 환경에서는 인과관계에 관한 단순한 연상이 오류로 나타난다. 다시 말해서, 한 가지 부분만 보아서는 상황이 어떻게 돌아가는지 알기 어렵다.

   인위적인 복잡계에서는 예측 가능성이 떨어지거나, 심지어 통제하기 힘든 연쇄 반응의 고리가 폭포수처럼 이어질 가능성을 품고 있다. 그러다 결국 대형 사건이 터지게 된다. 따라서 기술적 지식이 늘어나고 있는 근대 사회에서는 역설적으로 이런 변화가 예측을 훨씬 더 어렵게 만들고 있다. 이제 인위적인 것들이 늘어나면서 조상들의 자연스러운 모델로부터 멀어지고, 모든 것이 복잡하게 만들어지면서 강건함으로 잃고 블랙 스완의 역할이 더욱 커지게 되었다. 더구나 우리는 이 책에서 네오매니어라고 부르는 새로운 질병의 희생자가 되었다. 이 질병은 우리에게 블랙 스완에 취약한 시스템(우리는 이것을 기술 진보라고 부른다)을 만들도록 한다.

   블랙 스완 문제가 우리를 괴롭히는 측면(실제로는 핵심적이지만 주로 놓치고 있는 측면이다)은 드문 사건이 일어날 가능성을 계산할 수 없다는 것이다. 5년에 한 번 발생하는 홍수보다 100년에 한 번 발생하는 홍수에 대해서 훨씬 더 모른다 (작은 확률의 문제가 닥치면 모델 오차는 훨씬 더 커진다). ^어떤 사건이 드물게 발생할수록 다루기가  어려워진다.^ 그리고 드물게 발생하는 사건의 발생 빈도에 관해서 모를수록 예측과 모델에 관여해 화려한 수식이 도원된 파워포인트 자료를 발표하는 과학자들은 더 많은 자신감을 갖게 된다.

   대자연이 (자신의 안티프래질 덕분에) 드물게 발생하는 사건에 관한 한 가장 뛰어난 전문가이며, 블랙 스완 현상에 대해서는 최선의 관리자라는 사실은 우리에게 큰 도움을 준다. 대자연은 수십 억 년 동안 추대위원회의 지명을 받은 아이비리그 출신의 이사들로부터 지배와 통제를 받지 않고도 지금까지 살아남는 데 성공했다. 안티프래질은 단지 블랙 스완에 대한 해독제뿐만이 아니다. 안티프래질을 이해하면 역사, 기술, 지식과 그 밖의 모든 영역에서 나나타는 블랙 스완 현상의 역할을 인정하는 데 지적인 두려움을 덜 느끼게 된다.

Robust is Not Robust Enough

Consider Mother Nature is not just "safe." It is aggressive in destroying and replacing, in selecting and reshuffling. When it comes to random events, "robust" is certainly not good enough. In the long run everything with the most minute vulnerability breaks, given the ruthlessness of timeㅡyet our planet has been around for perhaps four billion years and, convincingly, robustness can't just be it: you need perfect robustness for a crack not to end up crashing the system. Given the unattainability of perfect robustness, we need a mechanism by which the system regenerates itself continuously by using, rather than suffering from, random events, unpredictable shocks, stressors, and volatility.

   The antifragile gains from prediction errors, in the long run. If you follow this idea to its conclusion, then many things that gain from randomness should be dominating the world todayㅡand things that are hurt by it should be gone. Well, this turns out to be the case. We have the illusion that the world functions thanks to programmed design, university research, and bureaucratic funding, but there is compellingㅡvery compellingㅡevidence to show that this is an illusion, the illusion I call ^lecturing birds how to fly^. Technology is the result of antifragility, exploited by risk-takers in the form of tinkering and trial and error, with nerd-driven design confined to the backstage. Engineers and tinkerers develop thing while history books are written by academics; we will have to refine historical interpretations of growth, innovations, and many such things.

대자연이 안전하기만 한 것이 아니다. 대자연은 파기하고 대체하고 선별하고 개조하는 데 적극적이다. 무작위적 사건에 대해서는 강건하다는 사실만으로는 충분하지 않다. 길게 보면 무자비한 시간 앞에서는 가장 강건한 것이라고 모두 부서지게 되어 있다. 그럼에두 불구하고 지구는 40억 년 동안 자신의 모습을 유지해왔다. 단언컨대, 그것은 강건함만으로는 불가능했을 것이다. 우리는 어떤 것도 시스템을 무너뜨리지 않을 만큼 완벽하게 강건하기를 바란다. 그러나 완벽하게 강건한 것을 얻기란 불가능하므로 무작위적인 사건, 예상하지 못한 충격, 스트레스, 가변성으로부터 고통받지 않고 오히려 이들을 활용해 시스템이 스스로 끊임없이 재생하는 메커니즘이 필요하다.

   안티프래질한 대상은 예측 오차로부터 장기적인 혜택을 얻는다. 이런 생각을 받아들이면, 무작위성으로부터 이익을 얻는 많은 사람들이 세상을 지배하고, 무작위성으로부터 피해를 보는 사람들은 사라지게 된다는 사실을 깨닫게 될 것이다. 이런 사실을 뒷받침하는 사례들은 많다. 사람들은 잘 짜여진 설계, 연구기관, 관료들의 자금 지원 덕분에 세상이 돌아간다는 환상을 갖는다. 하지만 이것이 환상이라는 사실을 보여줄 만한 아주 강력한 증거가 있다. 이런 환상은 새에게 날아가는 법을 가르치는 것에 비유할 수 있다. 기술은 특이한 취향을 가진 사람들이 무대 뒤편에서 팅커링과 시행착오의 방식으로 리스크를 수용하면서 개척해낸 안티프래질의 결과다. 엔지니어와 팅커러들이 시행착오를 거치면서 기술을 개발하는 동안 학계에 종사하는 사람들은 역사 교과서를 쓴다. 이제 우리는 성장과 혁신을 비롯한 많은 영역에서 역사적 해석을 재조명할 필요가 있다.

On the Measurability of (Some) Things

Fragility is quite measurable, risk not so at all, particularly risk associated with rare events.*
[n*] Outside casinos and some narrowly defined areas such as man-made situations and constructions.
   I said we can estimate, even measure, fragility and antifragility, while we cannot calculate risks and probabilities of shocks and rare events, no matter how sophisticated we get. Risk management as practiced is the study of an event taking place in the future, and only some economists and other lunatics can claimㅡagainst experienceㅡto "measure" the future incidence of these rare events, with suckers listening to themㅡagainst experience and the track record of such claims. But fragility and antifragility are part of the current property of an object, a coffee table, a company, an industry, a country, a political system. We can detect fragility with a small error while comparisons of risk have been (so far) unreliable. You cannot say with any reliability that a certain remote event or shock is more likely than another (unless you enjoy deceiving yourself), but you an state with a lot more confidence that an object or a structure is more fragile than another should a certain even happen. You can easily tell that your grandmother is more fragile to abrupt changes in temperature than you, that some military dictatorship is more fragile than Switzerland should political change happen, that a bank is more fragile than another should a crisis occur, or that a poorly built modern building is more fragile than the Cathedral of Chartres should an earthquake happen. Andㅡcentrallyㅡyou can even make the prediction of which one will last longer.

   Instead of a discussion of risk (which is both predictive and sissy) I advocate the notion of fragility, which is not predictiveㅡand, unlike risk, has an interesting word that can describe its functional opposite, the nonsissy concept of antifragility.

   To measure antifragility, there is a philosopher's-stone-like recipe using a compact and simplified rule that allows us to identify it across domains, from health to the construction of societies.

   We have been unconsciously exploiting antifragility in practical life and, consciously, rejecting itㅡparticularly in intellectual life.


The Fragilista

Our idea is to avoid interference with things we don't understand. Well, some people are prone to the opposite. The fragilista belongs to that category of persons who are usually in suit and tie, often on Fridays; he faces your jokes with icy solemnity, and tends to develop back problems early in life from sitting at a desk, riding airplanes, and studying newspapers. He is often involved in a strange ritual, something commonly called "a meeting." Now, in addition to these traits, he defaults to thinking that what he doesn't see is not there, or what he does not understand does not exist. At the core, he tends to mistake the unknown for the nonexistent.

   The fragilista falls for the ^Soviet-Harvard delusion^, the (unscientific) overestimation of the reach of scientific knowledge. Because of such delusion, he is what is called a ^naive rationalist^, a ^rationalizer^, or sometimes just a ^rationalist^, in the sense that he believes that the ^reasons^ behind things are automatically accessible to him. And let us not confuse rationalizing with rationalㅡthe two are almost always exact opposites. Outside of physics, and generally in complex domains, the reasons behind the things have had a tendency to make themselves less obvious to us, and even less to the fragilista. The property of natural things not to advertise themselves in a user's manual is, alas, not much of a hindrance: some fragilistas will get together to write the user's manual themselves, thanks to their definition of "science."

   So thanks to the fragilista, modern culture has been increasingly building blindness to the mysterious, the impenetrable, what Nietzsche called Dionysian, in life.

   Or to translate Nietzsche into the less poetic but no less insightful Brooklyn vernacular, this is what our character Fat Tony calls a "sucker game."

   In short, the fragilista (medical, economic, social planning) is one who makes you engage in policies and actions, all artificial, in which ^the benefits are small and visible, and the side effects potentially severe and invisible^.

   There is the medical fragilista who overintervenes in denying the body's natural ability to heal and gives you medications with potentially very severe side effects; the policy fragilista (the interventionist social planner) who mistakes the economy for a washing machine that continuously needs fixing (by him) and blows it up; the psychiatric fragilista who medicates children to "improve" their intellectual and emotional life; the soccer-mon fragilista; the financial fragilista who makes people use "risk" models that destroy the banking system (then uses them again); the military fragilista who disturbs complex systems; the predictor fragilista who encourages you to take more risks; and many more.[n*]
[n*] Hayek did not take his idea about organic price formation into risk and fragility. For Hayek, bureaucrats were inefficient, not fragilistas. This discussion starts with fragility and antifragility, and gets us as a side discussion into organic price formation.
   Indeed, the political discourse is lacking a concept. Politicians in their speeches, goals, and promises aim at the timid concepts of "resilience," "solidity," not antifragility, and in the process are stifling the mechasnisms of growth and evolution. We didn't get where we are thanks to the sissy notion of resilience. And what's worse, we didn't get where we are today thanks to policy makersㅡbut thanks to the appetite for risks and errors of a certain class of people we need to encourage, protect, and respect.


Where Simple Is More Sophisticated

A complex system, contrary to what people believe, does not require complicated systems and regulations and intricate policies. The simpler, the better. Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects. Because of opacity, an intervention leads to unforeseen consequences, followed by apologies about the "unforeseen" aspect of the consequences, then to another intervention to correct the secondary effects, leading to an explosive series of branching "unforeseen" responses each one worse than the preceding one.

   Yet simplicity has been difficult to implement in modern life because it is against the spirit of a certain brand of people who seek sophistication so they can justify their profession.

   ^Less is more and usually more effective^. Thus I will produce a small number of tricks, directives, and interdictsㅡhow to live in a world we don't understand, or, rather, how to ^not be afraid^ to work with things we patently don't understand, and more principally, in what manner we should work with these. Or, even better, how to dare to look our ignorance in the face and not be ashamed of being humanㅡbe aggressively and proudly human. But that may require some structural changes.

   What I propose is a road map to modify our man-made systems to let the simpleㅡand naturalㅡtake their course.

   But simplicity is not so simple to attain. Steve Jobs figured out that "you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple." The Arabs have an expression for trenchant prose: ^no skill to understand it, mastery to write it^.

   Heuristics are simplified rules of thumb that make things simple and easy to implement. But their main advantage is that the user knows that they are not perfect, just expedient, and is therefore less fooled by their powers. They become dangerous when we forget that.


IV. THIS BOOK

The journey to this idea of antifragility was, if anything, nonlinear.

   I suddenly realized one day that fragilityㅡwhich had been lacking a technical definitionㅡcould be expressed as ^what does not like volatility^, and that ^what does not like volatility^ does not like randomness, uncertainty, disorder, errors, stressors, etc.  Think of anything fragile, say, objects in your living room such as the glass frame, the television set, or, even better, the china in the cupboards. If you label them "fragile," then you necessarily want them to be left alone in peace, quiet, order, and predictability. A fragile object would not possibly benefit from an earthquake or the visit of your hyperactive nephew. Further, everything that does not like volatility does not like stressors, harm, chaos, events, disorder, "unforseen" consequences, uncertainty, and, critically, time.

   And antifragility flowsㅡsort ofㅡfrom this explicit definition of fragility. It likes volatility et al. It also likes time. And there is a powerful and helpful link to nonlinearity: everything nonlinear in response is either fragile or antifragile to a certain source of randomness.

   The strangest thing is that this obvious property that ^anything fragile hates volatility^, and vice versa, has been sitting completely outside the scientific and philosophical discourse. Completely. And the study of the sensitivity of things to volatility is the strange business specialty in which I spent most of my adult life, two decadesㅡI know it is a strange specialty, I promise to explain later. My focus in that profession has been on identifying items that "love volatility" or "hate volatility"; so all I had to do was expand the ideas from the financial domain in which I had been focused to the broader notion of decision making under uncertainty across various fields, from political science to medicine to dinner plans.[n*]
[n*] The technical term I used for "hates volatility" was "short vega" or "short gamma," meaning "harmed should volatility increase," and "long vega" or "long gamma" for things that benefit. In the rest of the book we will use "shot" and "long" to describe negative and positive exposures, respectively. It is critical that I never believed in our ability to forecast volatility, as I just focused on how things react to it.
   And in that strange profession of people who work with volatility, there were two types. First category, academics, report-writers, and commentators who study future events and write books and papers; and, second category, practitioners who, instead of studying future events, try to understand how things react to volatility (but practitioners are usually too busy practitioning to write books, articles, papers, speeches, equations, theories and get honored by Highly Constipated and Honorable Members of Academics). The difference between the two categories is central: as we saw, it is much easier to understand if something is harmed by volatilityㅡhence fragileㅡthan try to forecast harmful events, such as these oversized Black Swans. But only practitioners (or people who do things) tend to spontaneously get the point.


The (Rather Happy) Disorder Family

One technical point. We keep saying that fragility and antifragility mean potential gain or harm from exposure to ^something^ related to volatility. What is that thing? Simply, membership in the extended disorder family.

The Extended Disorder Family (or Cluster):

  • (i) uncertainty
  • (ii) variability
  • (iii) imperfect, incomplete knowledge
  • (iv) chance
  • (v) chaos
  • (vi) volatility
  • (vii) disorder
  • (viii) entropy
  • (ix) time
  • (x) the unknown
  • (xi) randomness
  • (xii) turmoil
  • (xiii) stressor
  • (xiv) error
  • (xv) dispersion of outcomes
  • (xvi) unknowledge.
It happens that uncertainty, disorder, and the unknown are completely equivalent in their effect: antifragile systems benefit (to some degree) from, and the fragile is penalized by, almost all of themㅡeven if you have to find them in separate buildings of the university campuses and some philosophaster who has never taken real risks in his life, or, worse, never had a life, would inform you that "they are ^clearly^ not the same thing."

   Why item (ix), time? Time is functionally similar to volatility: the more time, the more events, the more disorder. Consider that if you can suffer limited harm and are antifragile to small errors, time brings the kind of errors or reverse errors that end up benefiting you.  This is simply your grandmother calls experience. The fragile breaks with time.

Only One Book

This makes this book my central work. I've had only one master idea, each time taken to its next step, the last stepㅡthis bookㅡbeing more like a big jump. I am reconnected to my "practical self," my soul of a practitioner, as this is a merger of my entire history as practitioner and "volatility specialist" combined with my intellectual and philosophical interests in randomness and uncertainty, which had previously taken separate paths.

   My writings are not stand-alone essays on specific topics, with beginnings, ends, and expiration dates; rather, they are nonoverlapping chapters from that central idea, a main corpus focused on uncertainty, randomness, probability, disorder, and what to do in a world we don't understand, a world with unseen elements an properties, the random and the complex; that is, decision making under opacity. The corpus is called ^Incerto^ and is constituted (so far) of a trilogy plus philosophical and technical addenda. The rule is that the distance between a random chapter of one book, say, ^Antifragile^, and another random chapter of another, say, ^Fooled by Randomness^, should be similar to the one between chapters of a long book. The rule allows the corpus to cross domains (by shifting across science, philosophy, business, psychology, literature, and autobiographical segments) without lapsing into promiscuity.

   So the relationship of this book to ^The Black Swan^ would be as follows: in spite of the chronology (and the fact that this book takes the Black Swan idea to its natural and prescriptive conclusion), ^Antifragile^ would be the main volume and ^The Black Swan^ is backup of sorts, and a theoretical one, perhaps even its junior appendix. Why? Because ^The Black Swan^ (and its predecessor, ^Fooled by Randomness^) were written to convince us of a dire situation, and worked hard at it; this one starts from the position that one does not need convincing that (a) Black Swans dominate society and history (and people, because of ex post rationalization, think themselves capable of understanding them); (b) as a consequence, we don't quite know what's going on, particularly under severe nonlinearities; so we can get to practical business right away.


No Guts, No Belief

To accord with the practitioner's ethos, the rule in this book is as follows: I eat my own cooking.

   I have only written, in every line I have composed in my professional life, about things I have done, and the risks I have recommended that others take or avoid were risks I have been taking or avoiding myself. I will be the first to be hurt if I am wrong. When I warned about the fragility of the banking system in ^The Black Swan^, I was betting on its collapse (particularly when my message went unheeded); otherwise I felt it would not have been ethical to write about it. That personal stricture applies to every domain, including medicine, technical innovation, and simple matters in life. It does not mean that one's personal experiences constitute a sufficient sample to derive a conclusion about an idea; it is just that one's personal experience gives the stamp of authenticity and sincerity of opinion. Experience is devoid of the cherry-picking that we find in studies, particularly those called "observational," one in which the researcher finds past patterns, and, thanks to the sheer amount of data, can therefore fall into the trap of an invented narrative.

   Further, in writing, I feel corrupt and unethical if I have to look up a subject in a library as part of the writing itself. This acts as a filterㅡit is the only filter. I the subject is not interesting enough for me to look it up ^independently^, for my own curiosity or purposes, and I have not done so before, then I should not be writing about it at all, period. It does not mean that libraries (physical and virtual) are not acceptable; it means that they should not be the ^source^ of any idea. Students pay to write essays on topics for which they have to derive knowledge from a library as a self-enhancement exercise; a professional who is compensated to write and is taken seriously by others should use a more potent filter. Only distilled ideas, ones that sit in us for a long time, are acceptableㅡand those that come from reality.

   It is time to revive the not well-known philosophical notion of ^doxastic commitment^, a class of beliefs that go beyond talk, and to which we are committed enough to take personal risks.


If You See Something

Modernity has replaced ethics with legalese, and the law can be gamed with a good lawyer.

   So I will expose the transfer of fragility, or rather the theft of antifragility, by people "arbtraging" the system. These people will be named by name. Poets and painters are free, ^liberi poetae et pictores^, and there are severe moral imperatives that come with such freedom. First ethical rule:

^If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.^

Just as being nice to the arrogant is no better than being arrogant toward the nice, being accommodating toward anyone committing a nefarious action condones it.

   Further, many writers and scholars speak in private, say, after half a bottle of wine, differently from the way they do in print. Their writing is certifiably fake, fake. And many of the problems of society come from the argument "other people are doing it." So if I call someone a dangerous ethically challenged fragilista in private after the third glass of Lebanese wine (white), I will be obligated to do so here.

   ( ... ... )




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