Antifragile Quote 14 – Randomness is Good

Further, my characterization of a loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on. These types often consider themselves the “victims” of some large plot, a bad boss, or bad weather.

Finally, a thought. He who has never sinned is less reliable than he who has only sinned once. And someone who has made plenty of errors—though never the same error more than once—is more reliable than someone who has never made any.

the antifragility of the higher level may require the fragility—and sacrifice—of the lower one.

It is painful to think about ruthlessness as an engine of improvement.

they want local, but not global, overconfidence.

In other words, some class of rash, even suicidal, risk taking is healthy for the economy—under the condition that not all people take the same risks and that these risks remain small and localized.

In order to progress, modern society should be treating ruined entrepreneurs in the same way we honor dead soldiers, perhaps not with as much honor, but using exactly the same logicRead more at location 1586

there is a difference between the benign, heroic type of risk taking that is beneficial to others, in the antifragile case, and the nastier modern type related to negative Black Swans, such as the overconfidence of “scientists” computing the risks of harm from the Fukushima reactor. In the case of the former, what they call overconfidence is a good thing, not something to medicate.

This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is risky, that it is a bad thing—and that eliminating randomness is done by eliminating randomness.

Artisans, say, taxi drivers, prostitutes (a very, very old profession), carpenters, plumbers, tailors, and dentists, have some volatility in their income but they are rather robust to a minor professional Black Swan, one that would bring their income to a complete halt. Their risks are visible. Not so with employees, who have no volatility, but can be surprised to see their income going to zero after a phone call from the personnel department. Employees’ risks are hidden.

Variations also act as purges. Small forest fires periodically cleanse the system of the most flammable material, so this does not have the opportunity to accumulate. Systematically preventing forest fires from taking place “to be safe” makes the big one much worse.

Inspired by the metallurgical technique, mathematicians use a method of computer simulation called simulated annealing to bring more general optimal solutions to problems and situations, solutions that only randomness can deliver.

Randomness works well in search—sometimes better than humans. Nathan Myhrvold brought to my attention a controversial 1975 paper published in Science showing that random drilling was superior to whatever search method was being employed at the time.

the problem with artificially suppressed volatility is not just that the system tends to become extremely fragile; it is that, at the same time, it exhibits no visible risks.

Also remember that volatility is information.


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