Tag Archives: Nassim Taleb

Book review: Antifragile – Nassim Taleb

In his third popular book (after “Fooled by Randomness” and “black Swan”), Taleb now introduces a new concept called “antifragilty”. As in the first two books, in his opinion on the big scale, the world is shaped by “black swans”, totally unpredictable events.

Something that gets hurt by those Black Swans is fragile. Someone/Something that is not hurt by Black Swans is robust. Antifragile finally is something/someone that gains from the chaos a Black Swan event is creating.

So far so good, however if one would have expected some implications for an investment strategy, one gets almost completely disappointed. At some points, financial markets are mentioned, but not very often.

Instead, the book is more a “Paleo” style nutrition and work out guide than a finance or investment book. Taleb shares his never ending wisdom with the readers, on topics like why the Greek philosophers were idiots (or not so smart as Taleb) to all kind of medical advice and why you shouldn’t eat oranges because the are much sweeter than 3000 years ago (hint: the only way is to eat the stuff a cave man would have had access to…).

From time to time he looks at two fictional characters called Nemo and Fat Tony. If we assume that Nemo is his alter ago, we know now at least that Taleb made a “low 2 digit million” amount of money when he bet against the financial crisis.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some good “common sense” wisdom in the book, for instance that one should not take medical studies to seriously, but in total I found the book pretty much a waste of time.

Maybe I am not intelligent enough to appreciate Taleb’s genius, but for a pure mortal like me the book looks like the attempt, to cash in on the same idea for the third time.

In the view passages about investing, Taleb promoted very vaguely a style he calls the “barbel” style: Invest most of your money in “safe” assets (whatever that is) and a small part in risky stuff with lots of optionality. Although he mentions that financial options is not what he means because they are mostly overpriced.

I think this kind of “advice” shows the major issue with Taleb: He is by heart a trader, not an investor. Otherwise he migth have mentioned that “Buffet style” long term compounding plus margin of safety is a much easier way to become “antifragile”. But that wouldn’t sell as many books and create invitations to speaker events and hobnobbing at the Davos Forums.

Unless you are a big Taleb fan and you need his advice on how and what to eat and work out, don’t buy the book. Save your time and money for something more interesting.