Antifragile: How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand by Nassim Nicholas Taleb - review by David Bodanis

David Bodanis

The Shocking Truth

Antifragile: How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 519pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

There’s a scene in the film The Princess Bride where Vizzini, the character played by Wallace Shawn, is asked to describe his genius. ‘Let me put it this way,’ he explains. ‘Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons!’

Nassim Taleb would understand Vizzini, for he has written a masterpiece that transcends almost all previous works in economics, and indeed in political science as well. We know this because he tells us. His theories will reveal a property that ‘is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation … the rise of cities, legal systems … Even our own existence as a species on the planet.’

It takes a special person to come up with such insights, and Taleb is willing to admit that he is that person. First of all, he’s astoundingly impressive as a physical specimen. In the midst of this disquisition, he stops to tell us that those not in the know might

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