Brady F. Anderson


My Notes

Behaviors, institutions, people, objects, and systems can fall into three categories: fragile, robust, and antifragile. Fragile things crumble under volatility, robust things are unaffected by volatility, and antifragile things benefit from volatility.

We cannot measure the risks and probabilities associated with uncommon events, so we must use understandings of antifragile and fragile instead of forecasts to prepare.

Heuristics benefit us because they are simple and easy to use. However, they are imperfect tools. Heuristics are generalized assumptions that you apply to specific situations, and thus some caution is required.

Some isolated populations have only two or three colors in their vocabulary but can still distinguish between many colors. The same is true for anti-fragility. We don’t have a vocabulary for it but can still identify it.

Hormesis is the phenomenon where small doses of toxins make us healthier. Our bodies are anti-fragile in this sense. Small harms, like muscle micro-tears, can make us stronger in the long run.

Free time makes us dysfunctional. The busier we are, the more active we become at all things.

The Lucretius Problem: believing the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one you have seen.

The mistakes of other people benefit us but not them. Rely on other people making mistakes for you when you can.

A common intellectual failing: mistaking the absence of evidence for the evidence of absence.

Iatrogenics refers to the harm done by the healer. Intervention is often necessary, but naïve intervention that is unaware of the harms it causes is unacceptable.

Interventionism is exacerbated by incentives. Demonstrating what you’ve done is more tangible than what you’ve avoided. When we compensate, acknowledge, or reward people only because of their interventions, we over incentivize action.

Forecasting is rife with unrecognized iatrogenics. No one seems to evaluate the harm done by faulty, past forecasts.

Curiosity is antifragile. The more information you become exposed to, the more curiosity grows.

Give to charity regularly, but not to charitable organizations or those who asked for gifts.

Stoicism reduces psychological fragility.

Success means you have more to lose than gain. That situation is fragile.

Speed and growth are meaningless concepts without considering fragility.

Implementing a barbell technique involves creating a maximum known loss while removing exposure to rare events prone to estimation error.

You can’t trust what people say they want. Even in your own life, the things you want change often. Steve Jobs understood this. He operated under the assumption that people don’t know what they want until you show them.

Seek out optionality. Options aren’t always something you pay for; many are free such as an invitation to a party. Prioritize options with open-ended payoffs. Invest in people, not business plans since they provide the most options.

We often convince ourselves that skills we learned by doing were instead the product of books, ideas, and reasoning.

An illusion called epiphenomenon happens when we observe A with B in most circumstances, so we then attribute a causal relationship between the two based on our cultural framework. For example, claiming academic research drives economic growth because most high GDP countries produce lots of academic research.

A Procrustean bed is an arbitrary situation that humans are forced to conform to. Instead of changing humans, change the situation. It is easier to make it difficult to cheat than it is to eliminate the desire to cheat.

The best way to improve your knowledge is to remove what is wrong. Think of the harm an incorrect assumption can cause. We also have a better intuition for what is wrong than for what is right.

Disconfirmation is more valuable than confirmation. The observation of a white school bus can disprove the statement “all school busses are yellow” while thousands of observations of yellow school busses can’t confirm the statement.

The non-natural must prove it is not harmful. This can take a long time. Consider the delayed effects of asbestos.

The attribution problem is when one blames failures on external circumstances and attributes success to internal qualities without consideration of luck.

What do we aim for when we say we want to be happy? In practice, it is subtractive. No worries, envy, money problems, meals alone, health issues, or chronic pain is what we’re after. The absence of that which makes us unhappy may be enough to render us happy.

Tourism sucks because it sucks out the randomness from life.