in Marginalia

Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the Fragilista

Cover of Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder

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.

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-mom 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.

— From the Prologue of Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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