HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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The Soul of A New Machine

Tracy Kidder

4.6 on Amazon

177 HN comments

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series)

Christopher Alexander , Sara Ishikawa , et al.

4.7 on Amazon

176 HN comments

Meditations: A New Translation

Marcus Aurelius and Gregory Hays

4.8 on Amazon

172 HN comments

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

Clayton M. Christensen, L.J. Ganser, et al.

4.5 on Amazon

168 HN comments

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy

Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

4.6 on Amazon

166 HN comments

Infinite Jest: Part I With a Foreword by Dave Eggers

Sean Pratt, David Foster Wallace, et al.

4.3 on Amazon

166 HN comments

The Elements of Style: Annotated Edition

William Strunk Jr. and James McGill

4.7 on Amazon

155 HN comments

Outliers: The Story of Success

Malcolm Gladwell

4.7 on Amazon

152 HN comments

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine

4.6 on Amazon

151 HN comments

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Neil Postman and Andrew Postman

4.6 on Amazon

151 HN comments

Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein, Christopher Hurt, et al.

4.4 on Amazon

151 HN comments

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Joe Ochman, et al.

4.5 on Amazon

150 HN comments

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg, Mike Chamberlain, et al.

4.6 on Amazon

149 HN comments

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Jonathan Haidt and Gildan Media, LLC

4.6 on Amazon

144 HN comments

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Roger Fisher , William L. Ury, et al.

4.6 on Amazon

143 HN comments

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terioonJune 25, 2021

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb. Good stuff about randomness and how to benefit from it.

protomokonDec 12, 2018

My favorite for 2018 - "Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder" by Nassim Taleb. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of asymmetry and the implications for investing but also for systems in general.

brilliantcodeonApr 26, 2017

Fair enough. But this year is the perfect recipe. Trump, China, EU etc....

Read Antifragile book

DyslexicAtheistonDec 17, 2017

a practical demonstration of N.Taleb's Antifragile principle, if you will :)

001skyonDec 1, 2012

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder [Hardcover]
Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Author)

-- You Save: $13.01 (43%)

I thought the Amazon-affiliate link was a bit Ironic.

viveknonDec 25, 2012

Nassim Taleb's "Antifragile", Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov", Robert Greene's "48 Laws of Power" were some of the good books I read this year.

lqetonAug 30, 2019

I am surprised you have never heard of Taleb before. He is quite controversial, but often deeply original and almost never boring. You should read "Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder" which imho is his best book. "Black Swan" is more well-known, but I was a slightly disappointed by it.

miketek11onMay 11, 2018

The big ones for me:

1) Antifragile by Taleb (Skin in the Game is so far excellent as well)
2) The Border Trilogy by McCarthy
3) The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
4) East of Eden by Steinbeck
5) Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut

joeclark77onAug 13, 2015

The Nate Silver book is outstanding. Read it. I would then think about one of Nassim Taleb's books, either "The Black Swan" or "Antifragile".

zengidonJuly 13, 2018

Reading Antifragile is life changing. It is very well written. I can't comment on how profound the maths are (although his arguments appear very solid), but the stuff he says about stoicism and morality is fantastic. As others have said, Taleb is a total A-hole, but his ideas deserve attention.

yellow_leadonSep 7, 2020

To be fair, I've only read about 50 pages of each - one was Skin in the Game and the other Antifragile

q-baseonDec 8, 2014

Antifragile or The Obstacle Is The Way - are probably the most influential

sobbybutteronJan 2, 2014

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Il deserto dei tartari (The Tartar Steppe) by Dino Buzzati

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

chillacyonJune 30, 2016

You'd probably also like Antifragile by Nassim Taleb, who makes his money betting on rare events like market crashes that economic models ignore.

systemsonMar 2, 2018

While I did enjoy Fooled by Randomness, it was a needlessly hard to read

The reviews Antifragile and Balck Swan makes me think, they will hard the same problem

While Nassim Taleb is definitely smart and brings up nice idea, those ideas are better presented in shorter articles

rantwasponApr 8, 2020

I thoroughly enjoyed Taleb's earlier books: Fooled By Randomness and Black Swan. Even AntiFragile is pretty good.

IMHO "Skin in the Game" is where Taleb jumped the shark. I understand the ideas behind it but it's just too much.

gbogonApr 14, 2013

About freedom of speech, I read in Antifragile that a university dean has been fired because he said a possible explanation for gender inequality in high and low grounds ( academia and prisons) could be that women have a more stable psyché.

brgonNov 26, 2012

Antifragile is Nassim Taleb's new book, which debuts tomorrow 11-27. I very much enjoyed Tabel's conversation on EconTalk [1]previewing this new book, and am looking forward to reading it.

[1] http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/01/taleb_on_antifr.htm...

jiscariotonDec 31, 2019

I like Taleb and have read Black Swan and AntiFragile. My only complaint is I think these concepts could have been explained much more concisely, perhaps 100 pages vs 400. Other than that, good stuff.

jamiequintonDec 9, 2012

Also interesting and on topic with this are any of Nicholas Taleb's books. I highly recommend his new one: Antifragile (http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1400067820)

pizzaonMay 11, 2018

The Divided Self by RD Laing

Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher

Pretty much any book by Nassim Taleb, but the Black Swan was my first read of his, and then Antifragile

playingchangesonJune 22, 2020

I’m about 3/4 the way through Taleb’s ‘Antifragile’ after having already read ‘The Black Swan’ coincidentally only a few months before Covid hit. Must read material for understanding the world we are living in / entering right now in my opinion.

VMGonJune 21, 2021

I could be more specific, but I would risk getting sued by Craig Wright and his friends

I want to leave you with this quote though

> “First ethical rule: If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”

> ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder

sincerelyonMar 2, 2018

Man, what happened to Nassim Taleb? I remember Black Swan (to a degree) and Fooled by Randomness being pretty illuminating reads but I couldn't finish Antifragile and his Twitter activity is...kind of unsettling, to say the least.

golemotrononMay 14, 2017

It was only on rereading Antifragile that I realized that Scott Adams' book 'How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big' is practical Taleb. I don't think he's ever acknowledged the influence on the book directly, but he has said that he considers Taleb one of the smartest people he knows of.

timdaubonMar 7, 2021

Thanks for posting. I had read Antifragile in parts but I had never heard of Ergodicity. But it's a great technical term to understand!

I looked online and found this post that explained it well: https://taylorpearson.me/ergodicity/

40acresonFeb 1, 2020

I just bought Antifragile and can't believe this guy gets away with the constant petty swipes. There are enough interesting ideas to keep you going but there is so much petty noise in these books. If he has an editor they are doing a terrible job.

jonvillageonJan 16, 2018

Every january since 3 years ago I reread Antifragile by Nassim Taleb. I always find new ideas in it.

akg_67onDec 25, 2013

Non-tech books, I read and liked in 2013:

Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini

$100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Anything Your Want by Derek Sivers

The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

Are You a Stock or a Bond? by Moshe Milevsky

The Most Important Thing by Howard Marks

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

obstacle1onMar 22, 2013

Yes, I have also read "the Black Swan". "Fooled by Randomness", too (which is much better), and "Antifragile" as well. Let's all go read some books. I am unsure of the point you are trying to make, largely because you don't make a point in this post.

vojantonDec 8, 2014

Antifragile - This book change my ways of thinking about life. Also this year I've read Black Swan, another great book by the same author.

lumannnnonDec 16, 2019

- Nassim Taleb's Incerto Box Set:

    - Antifragile (already started)
- The Black Swan
- Skin In The Game
- (there are 2 more books which I've already read)

- The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith

- Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

- Reread: E-Myth, Michael E. Gerber

visakanvonFeb 4, 2017

Nassim Taleb's Antifragile. First read it when it came out in 2012, and I was still unmarried and unemployed. Interesting to re-read it now that I'm married and have been working for 4+ years.

ethagknightonFeb 16, 2016

Second for Antifragile. His earlier books are more approachable, but I found Antifragile fascinating and I think about various principles from the book regularly. One of a handful of books I keep on the bookshelf at my office at all times.

misiti3780onMay 12, 2020

Nassim Taleb's books (Black swan, Antifragile, Fooled by Randomnesss)

Thinking Fast and Slow

The Organized Mind

The Vital Question by Nick Lane.

The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch

HiroshiSanonAug 26, 2016

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

I can't help but see the world as Fragile Robust Antifragile.

misiti3780onAug 8, 2016

Antifragile by Taleb

The Black Swan by Taleb

Thinking Fast & Slow by Kahneman

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Diamond

The World According To Monsanto by Robin

The Organized Mind by Levitin

The Vital Question by Lane

Life Ascending by Lane

Chasing the Scream by Hari

Anything By Gladwell.

PandabobonMay 12, 2020

Yup. While I appreciated the points he made in "Antifragile", the writing itself wasn't as enjoyable as it was in "Fooled by Randomness" or "The Black Swan". I haven't read "Skin in the Game" yet tho.

konhaonFeb 3, 2021

Nicholas Taleb - Antifragile

Might also be one of his other books like Black Swan (I haven‘t read them all), but I think Antifragile mentions using options to mitigate risk in a portfolio.

boomzillaonDec 30, 2014

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb is also on the same theme. He argues that human, and life in general is (or should be) designed for robustness, not for optimal. Note that is not arguing against taking risk, but for better preparation for risks (both known and unknown).

shriphanionJan 26, 2018

Antifragile - Nicholas Nassim Taleb

Mother Night - Kurt Vonnegut

Pavarotti: My World - Luciano Pavarotti, William Wright

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World - Jack Weatherford

mig4ngonNov 12, 2019

Everytime I read "resilience" I instantly remember "antifragility" concept coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His book Antifragile goes in more depth about stress causing improvement in systems (therefore antifragility), both in human body and other systems (economics, social, political, etc).

qubexonAug 10, 2017

Yes, I read The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and Antifragile. I read all the way through them, I hail from a non-skimming age.

sremanionJan 20, 2016

Posts like this remind me of the quote in N.N.Taleb's Antifragile book, The mind fights yesterday's war, but the body fights tomorrow's war (in the context of biological systems under stress).

Some minds here are fighting a decade old war and no good deed goes unpunished in HN comments.

ssivarkonSep 2, 2017

Among my recent reads:

1. Finite and infinite games, by James Carse

2. Antifragile, by Nassim Taleb (IMHO the book rambles on a little too much; some of his hour long YouTube talks convey the ideas almost as well)

3. Obedience to authority, by Stanley Milgram

finelineonApr 10, 2019

I've never read Black Swan. I found Antifragile hugely thought-provoking. Knowing both, would you imagine I had anything to gain from also reading Black Swan, or do you really think they basically cover the same ground?

_MicroftonMay 19, 2021

You might know one of his books: "The Black Swan", "Antifragile" and "Skin in the Game".


gbogonApr 13, 2013

I'm reading Antifragile these days and being French myself I can assure you that Taleb is very Frenchy himself, and stabbing at the French is in itself extremely Frenchy.

gooseusonDec 27, 2014

Indeed, even comments here present the (calories in) < (calories out) == (weight loss) simplification.

Currently reading Antifragile by Taleb and it goes in to these fallacies at length (machine vs body and data vs theory).

xvilkaonApr 24, 2020

I would also recommend two more good books. They are relevant to almost every aspect of life and creation process:

- Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb[1]

- Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
by Ben R. Rich[2]

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13530973-antifragile

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/101438.Skunk_Works

swansononFeb 24, 2018

I find these to be the best "single post summaries". His books are very challenging to read, but I've always found them rewarding once I've finished/absorbed the material. No pain, no gain I suppose!

Antifragile: https://medium.com/thinking-is-hard/live-like-a-hydra-c02337...

Fooled by Randomness: https://www.fs.blog/2015/02/fooled-by-randomness/

The Bed of Procrustes: https://twitter.com/nntaleb

(I've not read Black Swan so cannot offer any recommendations)

giardinionJune 9, 2013

In his recent book AntiFragile, Taleb states that he drinks no beverages that aren't at least 1,000 years old. In particular, he admits to drinking coffee, water and wine.

FlailFastonOct 27, 2015

Black Swan is still his best in my mind, but the Bed of Procrustes can be a nice entree; aphorisms were the original tweets, and can be consumed as such. Then I'd jump into Fooled By Randomness, and finally Antifragile (which is the weakest of them...truthfully I think the entire book could have been a chapter in Black Swan, but I'm glad he wrote it all down anyway).

gooonDec 14, 2018

Of the books I've read this year, there are a small handful that I think are beyond good.

Antifragile: This book has informed many decisions I have made recently. It is insightful, entertaining, and in its concern for human choices manages to send a beautiful message about nature and reality.

The Power Broker: I listened to this via audiobook and I highly recommend the experience. It's a large dose of history and a fascinating exploration of city politics and, as its name implies, power. And I learned a lot about New York!

Lonesome Dove: I hadn't read any fictional "westerns" and this came well recommended. I loved it. Listening to it while backpacking and on a road trip was extremely rewarding.

Man's Search For Meaning: Extremely powerful and potentially life changing. It was both cathartic and therapeutic for me, and has affected how I live my life.

The Lathe of Heaven: Incredibly enjoyable dystopian future fiction. It came recommended via the "HN reading list" released some number of months ago, and I liked it a lot.

The Fellowship of the Ring: I had started this book in high school but hadn't finished it for some reason. I picked it up again, and I'm glad I did. It is a gem, and there's good reason that it has become a part of our cultural bedrock. Its exploration of purpose, challenge, and choice is quite moving.

nationcraftingonDec 29, 2013

Non-fiction: Antifragile by Nassim Taleb was very good. Reminded me of Hayek's deep insight into chaotic, organic systems (e.g. human interaction systems). Also helped me to find out what direction I should take after my own book (http://www.nationbydesign.com)

Fiction: re-read Milan Kundera's Immortality and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Still lifetime favourites after all these years.

HenryBemisonJan 31, 2021

>Taleb talked

Only because I happen to just starting reading this 4 books [0-3] motohagiography (word-depipction-of-saints?), and until 2-3 weeks ago I am ashamed to say I didn't even know who that was:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

[0-3]: Antifragile, The Black Swan, Fooled By Randomness, The Bed of Procrustes

scottlocklinonMar 2, 2018

My blog making fun of Taleb used to have higher page rank than his personal website. However, Taleb is totally correct about this, and his Antifragile book is very good (though he still needs an editor).

Most of modern medical science is quackery and pharma companies trying to milk the populace for profit. Trauma surgery is quite good, and antibiotics and vaccines are important. Other than that, I'm pretty sure going to the gym and the salad section of the grocery is much more important than going to the doctor.

alnafieonDec 8, 2013

Comparisons between countries like Norway and the US are a bit misguided IMO. It's hard to imagine that an oil rich country with a homogeneous society of 5 million people at the edge of the world can be fairly compared to the leader of the world's current Pax-Americana with a population of 300 million. Norway enjoys the benefits of being an almost-city-state as described in Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.

badrchoubaionDec 10, 2020

The best way I’ve found to remember what I read is to read books in a way that they connect, recently that was Antifragile and The Plague (which is talked about in the conclusion of the latter). I did the same with Digital Minimalism and Atomic Habits.

EngineerBetteronSep 4, 2018

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb has implications that I find impact very disparate areas. It's hard work in places though.

The Quark and the Jaguar by Murray Gell-Mann is a wonderfully readable and accessible intro to complexity, which again is a topic that seems to crop up all over the place.

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine cites a shedload of research to dispel gender-related myths. It should be taught in schools, in my opinion.

georgeecollinsonJan 24, 2018

I don't want to defend everything Nassim Taleb says because I don't agree with it. But its facile and wrong to say that he calls everything BS. And his earlier books were very much a clear attack on a poor use of statistics in finance. Antifragile is the work of a crank. Fooled by Randomness is just good.

jugjugonFeb 6, 2020

Yes, but I optimize death-bed regret at this point, when I am alive. Let's say I regret how I behaved to a certain person in the past. When I wholeheartedly apologize and truly regret it, I see the death-bed regret be lower for all days afterwards.

It's like via-negativa for hapinnes [1]: being more happy by removing things that makes me unhappy.

[1] Nassim Taleb - Antifragile

spindritfonAug 2, 2014

Read books you always wanted but wouldn't get around to with all the distractions available at home. Be it classics, political theory, maybe something light and scientific? Generally, whatever doesn't require additional materials.

Here are some titles of that kind I enjoyed.

Anabasis by Xenophon

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman

The Son also Rises by Gregory Clark

hoodwinkonAug 9, 2017

I appreciate your thoughtful response, but I couldn't help reply to your comment about starting backwards: I completely disagree. Fooled by Randomness, in my opinion, is Taleb's seminal work. Reading it changed the course of career (I work in finance), much more so than Antifragile or Black Swan (even though both books are excellent).

shooklaonFeb 6, 2019

Antifragile by N N Taleb. Additionally also the black swan by the same author.

All said and done I feel like it's made me look at and evaluate a lot more possibilities at all important junctions in my life (if not all junctions). It's helped me channelise my mind better to understand signals I care about in an otherwise extremely noisy world. It's also made me a stronger individual being able to do more for people and look at things sometimes as just a series of outcomes, and making everyday life and outcomes more tolerable for me emotionally as well.

cweillonJune 27, 2021

I'm also a huge Taleb fan. However for a first book, I'd recommend his Antifragile book instead since it was written 10 years later in his career and further explores the ideas addressed in Fooled by Randomness with the benefit of more hindsight and discussion with peers in the field.

For anyone interested, I discuss the key takeaways from Antifragile, specifically for software engineers in https://youtu.be/jP6UQPSAk58.

davidscolganonMar 27, 2019

This right here. But a key aspect of using the expected value idea is that you have to be able to make lots of these bets. If you have a good expected value decision but only make it once or twice, you could just get burned by luck. Only if you can make that same high percentage play many times does this work.

The book Antifragile is all about this. His advice for entrepreneurs specifically is to "avoid your risk of ruin". Starting a business is never guaranteed to succeed, and if you stake your entire life savings on one business venture and take out loans, you could just get unlucky regardless of EV. If you, say, kept a part time job and worked on your business in the rest of your time and had infinite runway, you'll eventually succeed if you don't quit.

This idea has strongly impacted the way I face decision making.

UdoonAug 17, 2014

Well, the positive aspect in these cases is that worthwhile concepts are disseminated more broadly.

It's interesting that you mention Wolfram in this context. I remember the criticism he received for his book, most of which probably justified. I also remember I liked reading it, in contrast to Antifragile which felt in equal parts tedious and frustrating. Of course I was comparatively young at the time and many of the concepts in it were new to me, but now even in hindsight I still like his presentation and his viewpoints.

While on a fundamental level Wolfram, Gladwell, and Taleb may all three technically be in the business of claiming ownership to pre-existing ideas, A New Kind of Science still holds a lot of memorable nuggets for me, while after most chapters of Antifragile I honestly couldn't tell whether I had just consumed any actual content or not.

I still hold that Wolfram's book contains vastly more intellectual workmanship than Taleb's, but it may well be the case that Antifragile seemed extra trite because I felt a strong sense of deja vu where A New Kind of Science simply contained immeasurably more (fascinating) stuff I wasn't familiar with.

maneeshonDec 30, 2017

Brittle sounds like fragile. This article reminds me of Nassim Taleb's amazing book, Antifragile.

Fragile organizations and systems break from randomness.
Robust ones are able to resist and stay strong.
But Antifragile ones actually benefit from randomness and volatility.

I highly recommend the book -- it's highly relevant to startup companies who, rather than shooting for the moon, should protect their downside (at first) and place small bets on numerous 10x activities.

jurgenwerkonJan 11, 2020

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Man, reading this book really put a fire under my ass. I realized how much more I could be getting out of life by pursuing optionality and using the barbell strategy.

A quote that stuck with me the most is: "If you have more than one reason to do something, don't do it." That means that you are trying to convince yourself to do it. Obvious decisions require no more than one good reason.

rtchauonJan 7, 2019

I laughed so hard at that.

Yeah, I'm reading Black Swan now, and then have Antifragile and Skin in the Game... I get the impression it'll be a journey through the man's ever-inflating ego. Signal/Noise was great though (not that I didn't thoroughly enjoy NNT's Fooled by Randomness), I'd love to read more of Nate Silver's stuff. Also open to recommendations of similar material?

mindcrimeonMar 10, 2020

I'm not very fond of Taleb, but well -- anything by Taleb

Yeah, Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan were both pretty good. I haven't necessarily thought of them as significantly overlapping with the HTMA stuff up until this point, but now that you mention it I can see a connection. I should probably go back and re-read both, and read Antifragile.

maybe those Stafford Beer papers about the Viable Systems Model?

Hmm... never heard of "Viable Systems Model" before, so I'll have to go read up on that. Thanks for the pointer.

Exercise books for Fermi estimates like Guesstimation, etc

I'll take a look at Guesstimation. Thanks for the pointer on that as well.

But you'll always be safer if you keep rich qualitative models and treat quantification as gravy on top of that.

I can buy that. I'm a fan of using approaches like Hubbard's to quantify things to a point. I do think his approach can supply a bit of extra rigor and some useful bounds to things that otherwise seem impossible to quantify at all. But it's not a perfect system by any means. The two biggest risks, so far as I can tell, would be leaving a variable (or more than one) out of your model completely, or using the wrong probability distributions for the various variables when doing the simulation part.

s_kilkonMay 19, 2016

When I tried to read Antifragile his style seemed rambling and incoherent, darting back and forth between concepts and obtuse metaphors, like a tirade from the coked-up conspiracy nut at every party.

I may need to give it another shot.

telltale123onAug 26, 2018

I read parts of a couple of Taleb’s books, Black Swan and Antifragile. There are a few original ideas in each and then they are reapplied again and again in different domains.

I often get how the applications go after reading the section titles, thus I think it can still be more concise. That said, the two books have much better signal-to-noise ratio than some high-brow journalistic pieces.

psv1onDec 16, 2019

> "Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder", because it's dauntingly long and I'm feeling masochistic.

The length on its own isn't that big of a problem. But if you want a simple idea which can be explained thoroughly in a couple of pages to be stretched out for hundreds pages in the most unbearably condescending and arrogant tone that you can imagine... then Antifragile will fit in great with your masochistic inclinations.

1812OvertureonDec 23, 2015

Dune by Frank Herbert- I'm one of the few people on Earth who enjoys the David Lynch adaptation so I finally had to get around to reading the book. Kind of awkward stylistically and structurally but a lot of fun.

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen - It's seemed to me that there are political philosophies that focus on economic needs and those that focus on personal freedom. This is the best I've read at uniting those concepts.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! - A blast to read and great insight into the thinking of a great mind.

The LA Quartet by James Ellroy (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, White Jazz) - Really the pinnacle of dark gritty noir. If you like that I can't recommend highly enough.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett - I like a lot of Hammett's other work but this seemed to have a lot of wheel spinning.

City of Quartz by Mike Davis - As an Angeleno this gave me so much insight into the city I love. I have no idea if it would be of any interest to an outsider.

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb - Nassim Taleb is great and I've definitely been influenced a lot by his ideas, but he's getting too in love with the smell of his own farts.

Various books/textbooks on programming and databases - Nothing thrilling in this category. Gotta eat your vegetables.

martindbponJune 28, 2020

I think it was Nassim Taleb[1] that made a case for that engineering and tinkering drives science rather than the other way around, and that most of the knowledge gained comes from the practitioners rather than the scientists, who swoop in to claim credit after the fact (he uses the jet-engine as an example of this). That's not to say fundamental science is unimportant, just that it's getting too much of the credit for all the stuff that's been built.

There's a tremendous amount of know-how required to successfully build an airplane, a jet-engine, a processor, or to successfully train a large neural network. And while theoretical physics no doubt can explain it all, it's not sufficient to build something that works. I think the fact that we're seeing so much progress in deep learning without any theoretical basis is another example of this.

[1] Antifragile, Chapter: History Written By the Losers

rsynconDec 21, 2015

"TL;DR I hear this argument all the time. The cloud isn't perfect but its a hell of a lot closer to anything I could achieve. "not invented here" syndrome won't save your data."

I think there is an easy rebuttal that should be considered...

First, the "nines" rating of any service or resiliency is just gibberish. Go find the statistical likelihood of money market funds "breaking the buck" or of CDS blowing up - both in 2007/2008. Those had a lot of nines too and a lot of very smart , well qualified people attesting to those nines (in venues even more serious than IT).

A highly complex system becomes incomprehensible, even to the people that built it. Those nines mean nothing.

Second, you absolutely can build something more stable and predictable than Amazon precisely because you're the one that built it - which means that it is more comprehensible and fails more predictably and gracefully.

I don't care who does the calculation and how many nines they come up with - if you load FreeBSD on two bare metal servers and put them in two different datacenters and run them with any kind of conservative and cautious sysadminning you'll have a better solution. Yes, it will be more expensive.[1][2]

The standard closure to a comment like this is to refer to Talebs Black Swan and Antifragile books ... which you certainly should read ... but even more important is "Normal Accidents" by Charles Perrow[3] which I hope will convince you to stop looking for complex things that never fail, and instead look for simple things that fail gracefully.

[1] ... but we have a HN-Readers discount - just ask!

[2] You know who we are.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_Accidents

axegon_onJune 11, 2020

For whatever reason people are often tempted to victimize themselves and assume that everyone has it better than them. Which is an incredibly slippery and dangerous slope(looking at the news over the last few years). And with that in mind, "Factfulness" by Hans Rosling is a __MUST__ imo. Once you wrap your head around the facts, a next good choice is "The Black Swan" and "Antifragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, despite some (to a certain extent justified) bashing on tech people. Note to self: need to pick up "Skin in the Game".

Completely with you about Spivak, as far as calculus goes.

Physics: recently picked up Walter Lewin's "For the Love of Physics" and it's a masterpiece. Didn't get the chance to finish it because of the pandemic and it got locked in the office but it appears he's managed to cram in an entire university course in one book.

Biology and anatomy - "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins is brilliant entry point for people with limited knowledge on the subject.

Chemistry - no idea, that's the one subject which I hated with a passion since I was a child. Very paradoxical, given that physics was arguably my favorite subject ¯\_(ツ)_/¯...

History - Yuval Noah Harari's books, though somewhat anecdotal as far as history is concerned. I'd say there are way too many to list here and there is way too much to read about all major events in history to fit in just a few books.

qubexonAug 9, 2017

I really appreciate his books, The Black Swan and Antifragile particularly, though it does seem to me he's set up something of a cottage industry churning the same general idea into a sequence of very similar books. Then again, as long as he has extra stuff to add, and a readership willing to purchase them, I suppose this is utterly acceptable.

However, as a person, he seems to be an absolute rabid nutter. At one point he was planning to publish a book of his own aphorisms, as quoted by himself, while he is still alive. He rants and raves on Twitter[1]. Lately he's been engaged in an utterly hysterical tirade against a historian about the ethnic diversity (or lack thereof) in Roman Britain... whichever side you take in this at an intellectual level (personally, I'm more on his side than not), the tone and mode of the conversation as conducted by him is absolutely rabid and unacceptable.

[1] Full disclosure: he banned me on Twitter years ago because I fucked up an integral he had posed as a question for followers. Make of this what you will.

KingMobonMay 28, 2018

I think you should read Taleb's followup Antifragile sometime. The point is not that black swans are unlikely, but that they are catastrophic, and we can't even quantify how unlikely they are, so we have to find ways to prepare for them without basing it on probability estimates.

That "something really bad" might be localized ecological collapse, which I find pretty compelling, too.

tacostakohashionJan 13, 2019

This is more or less the idea from Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Nassim Nicholas Taleb), but in the form of a terse article with questionable examples.

The "strong" technologies are those that benefit from technology improvements and competition / contributions from many parties ("volatility"), and the "weak" technologies are those that are dependent on a single company or ecosystem, and don't benefit from improvements in bandwidth.

oh_sighonApr 9, 2021

Nassim Taleb wrote a book on this concept called
"Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder"

dvtonJune 22, 2020

I used to like Taleb (maybe due to my disillusionment after 2008), but it's becoming more and more clear to me that he doesn't really contribute that much to the intellectual landscape; he's very much in the same vein as someone like Jordan Peterson. His Twitter machismo and pseudo-trolling is also pretty telling -- if I were a millionaire, I'd probably be fishing off the coast of Malta, not picking internet fights on Twitter.

I read his entire Incerto, and it was an absolute slog. Endless chapters just about how he's smarter than other Wall Street guys. Antifragile is probably the best book in the series, but the concept itself could be relegated to an essay -- not a whole book. As far as the article itself is concerned, it's typical doomerism. His entire post-Wall Street career revolves around doom and gloom (his main claim to fame being "black swan" events), so of course it makes sense that, from a Talebian perspective, the world will end by 2035.

bemmuonDec 16, 2019

To start the year off, my casual just-before-sleep reading will be "Ender's Shadow", which is a story that isn't a prequel or a sequel to "Ender's Game", but a story parallel to it.

"What We Cannot Know", which is an exploration of all the topics that we might never be able to know, such as how to predict the weather, is the universe infinite etc.

"Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder", because it's dauntingly long and I'm feeling masochistic.

"Commodore - A Company on the Edge" because I really enjoyed "Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made", so I think I'll also like seeing how another computer I really like (the Commodore 64) came about.

jugjugonNov 12, 2019

- Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

- Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse.

- The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

ericdykstraonJuly 13, 2018

First, I'll recommend Discrimination and Disparaties by Thomas Sowell, another fantastic work from Sowell put out this year that builds on some ideas from previous essays. It's short, but the arguments are concise, empirical, and convincing.

And 3 books that have most recently made it into my "must-reread" category.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

mfalcononMay 29, 2020

Antifragile by N.Taleb, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Enchiridion by Epictetus.

zengidonAug 10, 2017

Wasn't Austrian culture (it mentioned that Beethoven lived in Vienna) distinguishable from 'German' culture? I think I read about that in Nassim Taleb's Antifragile when talking about Gödel having to leave during the Nazi occupation and the negative affect Viennese culture incurred from being absorbed into Germany.

albertkozonMay 11, 2018

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb - This book made me rethink a lot of the things in my life.

lucb1eonDec 29, 2019

Going by mentions in this thread, I rarely put a book down once I've started it but Antifragile was one of them. Somehow I couldn't get through it, though I don't remember what was so bad about it.

The Circle is "preaching to the church" as we say. Anyone who reads that book already is aware of all the concerns it raises. The one thing it doesn't do is answer the question whether it might be a good thing and indeed force us to be better if everything is recorded all the time. It's open ended. There is literally no point to reading this book, and on top of that the first 2/3rds are written like a third grader might write a report of a very dull person's life.

Not sure I've read many other books that I ended up hating. For example, Dan Ariely's Dollars and Sense was as average as his Predictably Irrational was good/entertaining, but I didn't hate it.

pugioonMar 28, 2017

I just read Chaos Monkeys (http://amzn.to/2nr5THJ) – a silicon valley insider tale with someone who worked at FB – and it points out that one of FB's cultural strengths was the ability and willingness to completely change their character in response to new conditions.

As it grows, I'm sure inertia will continue to slow it down, but that willingness for reinvention seems like quite a powerful property.

(Another current book – Antifragile (http://amzn.to/2nr15ST) – discusses systems that benefit from randomness and volatility. I wonder if the willingness for reinvention allows for a kind of anti-fragile generational selection to work: instead of waiting for selective forces to birth a different and new stronger generation, you transform yourself (or your company) to _become_ that new generation, allowing you to directly benefit from selective pressures. It's tough to do, psychologically and culturally, and the willingness to do so seems an extremely valuable quality to cultivate.)

PhantomGremlinonNov 8, 2014

> I think the biggest problem with any ideal portfolio allocation tool are black swan events (Taleb).

Yes. Black Swans are certainly a problem. It's insane to think that investment returns are anything resembling a Gaussian distribution. In the financial crisis of 2008-2009, people were using phrases such as "a 9 sigma event" to describe the markets.

Wrong! Basically THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS a 9 SIGMA EVENT. Wikipedia gives the probability of a 6 sigma event as 1 in 500 million. So it the epitome of arrogance to think that we're so "special" that we just happened to be alive during a 9 sigma market move.

What it all really means is that the markets do not behave the way lazy eggheads want them to. Everyone understands Gaussian distributions and standard deviation. So they are eager to use that math where they shouldn't.

I'm sure you know all this. But for those people who aren't familiar with Taleb and want to read more, he wrote three pop books about it:

2001 Fooled by Randomness http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fooled_by_Randomness

2007 The Black Swan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Swan_%28Taleb_book%29

2012 Antifragile http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifragile

I'm in the middle of reading Antifragile, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far.

davidscolganonAug 31, 2019

I recently realized I have ADD minus the hyperactive. I never was able to finish books until I started listening to audiobooks with Audible.

I have a subscription and generally pick up a new book I've heard of that interests me right away either with a credit or just buying it.

This allows me to read while walking and riding the bus and doing the dishes and generally turns uninteresting chores into something interesting while also allowing me to read. Something about having someone read to me is way less difficult than reading it myself.

I generally don't worry about explicitly remembering anything unless there's something particularly amazing. I read nonfiction mostly and my theory is that the goal is to generally educate myself so that my worldview is shifted to be more accurate, and instead of asking "what would that book advise me to do?" I can ask, "What would I do?" and what I would do has been influenced by the book.

Good books I just read more than once. It's much faster for me to listen to a book twice than to read it carefully once. And regardless, someone said something like it's better to read the best book 100 times than 100 books 1 time.

My record is 4 times that I read Antifragile by Taleb. A scarce few are 3 times, several twice. As I once heard, keep reading books until the ideas start to repeat themselves.

Maybe I don't remember everything as much as I would if I took copious notes, but I certainly get a lot of books read this way (sometimes one in a few days if it's good enough) and it's in a way that happens without effort. I've been mulling on the idea generally that best practices that I won't actually follow are inferior to slightly less than best practices that I will do.

PhantomGremlinonMay 27, 2015

> So what you do is HIDE THE RISK

I've been rereading my copy of Taleb's Antifragile. He keeps hammering similar points over and over: complexity, risk, opacity, susceptibility to Black Swans, etc.

I think I'd be depressed if I worked on Wall Street and the better part of my compensation resulted from peddling all these confusing products.

Still, as you point out, sometimes complexity is good. I do understand that.

exueonDec 28, 2013

Antifragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His other books Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan are more accessible - all incredibly great discussions of risk, probability, complex systems such as the global financial and banking industries, and how many attempts at risk modeling fail to recognize important unpredictable "black swan" events.

ex3xuonNov 5, 2018

I'm not sure that's a smart statement to make without having seen what 2038 and 2058 look like. If articles like this one about the sixth extinction aren't enough to sway your thinking, have you seen the pentagon report on the national security implications on the effects of climate change? I think it's a bit naive to think that you and everyone you know will be immune to the effects of heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, famine, etc. throughout the course of your lifetime. I've seen estimates as high as DARA's 2012 report of 100 million deaths by the year 2030 directly attributable to the impacts of climate change. Already Miami Beach spends millions on storm pumps just to stop its roads from being submerged by high tide -- and in addition to Miami, models predict the populations of Shanghai, Osaka, Alexandria and many other cities to be completely displaced by 2070. Perhaps there will be some technological Noah's Ark, but it's far from a sure bet that there will be enough space for you and your progeny if we do not find the political will to begin mitigation at scale as soon as possible.

In ecology, a common metaphor used to illustrate the impacts of the loss of biodiversity is the Rivet Hypothesis. Each species lost to extinction can be modeled as losing a rivet in the wing of a plane. Up to a certain point, a passenger on the plane would notice limited change in effects on their flight. Once the plane loses too many rivets, however, the crashing of the plane is analogous to the collapse of the ecosystem.

To answer your question about "How does that work", the generous answer would be to cite Nassim Taleb's Black Swan and Antifragile where he talks about the tendency of humans to underestimate the effects of long tail exposure to systemic risk. The less generous answer would be a reference to epistemic closure -- some people simply refuse to engage with evidence of a reality that contraindicates their prior beliefs. Or maybe the best model is simply that of addiction -- and who can argue that our society is not addicted to convenience and consumption, even when it threatens the only planet we live on?

raihansaputraonJune 22, 2020

> Essentially that we just need to stop kidding ourselves that we can predict the tails, and to build greater buffers into all our assumptions from the beginning. He calls this "Radical Uncertainty" which I think is better as a practical foundation than attempts to model black swan events.

I haven't read The End of Alchemy, but Taleb also doesn't even think modelling black swan events is possible or even useful. Any attempts that claims can predict black swan events is assumed as harmful. And he would also propose the same to build greater buffers into assumptions or even assume that it will fail in time. Antifragile is the book that explores this more on how fragile are predictions and it's far more useful to know where is the risk exposure and compensate for that instead of calculating the risk and trying to avoid it.

torbjornonSep 2, 2017

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

cwal37onJuly 28, 2014

I don't think black swan is an appropriate title. This investing is more like when a small group of people split a large powerball jackpot; statistically unlikely, but not really fitting the definition of a black swan (at least as proposed by Taleb).

His rules:

1. The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.

2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).

3. The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.


On a related note, Antifragile is a fun read. Taleb is extremely sure of himself, and extremely passionate. His books and ideas (culminating in Antifragile) can be pretty seductive in the moment.

trb8onAug 9, 2017

> IMHO his best book is his first mass market one: "Fooled by Randomness". It contains all the big ideas of his subsequent books and is an east, entertaining read.

Let me second this suggestion. "Fooled by Randomness" is great and I enjoyed it a lot. I've read it multiple times. I read the "The Black Swan" once and thought it was good. I did not finish "Antifragile".

topologieonJuly 15, 2019

“Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility; it results from some ecological or naturalistic wisdom, and is not always bad -- at an existential level, it is my body rebelling against its entrapment. It is my soul fighting the Procrustean bed of modernity.”

― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

astineonMar 7, 2019

I read it through to completion. The article spends a lot of time associating Haidt and Lukianoff with Milo Yiannopoulos, Jordan Peterson, and various members of the Alt-Right:

"If there is a new right-liberal dispensation, the two-step from shame to rage about shame may be what brings it closest to the Trumpists. Hints of elective affinities between elite liberalism and the “alt-right” have been evident for a while now. The famous essay that Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos wrote in 2016, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right”, cites Haidt approvingly. At one point Lukianoff and Haidt rehearse a narrative about Herbert Marcuse that has been a staple of white nationalist conspiracy theories about “cultural Marxism” for decades. Nassim Taleb, whose book Antifragile Haidt and Lukianoff credit with one of their core beliefs and cite repeatedly as inspiration, is a fixture of the far right “manosphere” that gathers on Reddit/pol and returnofkings.com.

The commonality raises questions about the proximity of their enthusiasm for CBT to the vogue for “Stoic” self-help in the Red Pill community, founded on the principle that it is men, rather than women, who are oppressed by society. So, too, does it raise questions about the discipline of psychology – how cognitive and data-driven turns in that field formed Haidt and his colleagues Pinker and Jordan Peterson. Lilla admits to envying the effectiveness of the “right-wing media complex”. It is hard to imagine that Haidt does not feel some such stirrings about Peterson, who is, after all, selling more copies of self-help books marketed as civilisational critique. Lukianoff and Haidt quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago as an epigraph and key inspiration; Peterson, who frequently lectures on the book, wrote the introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition Penguin will publish in November."

This is very clearly a guilt by association argument.

davidscolganonMar 2, 2018

In the book Antifragile Nassim Taleb cautions against medical care unless it's truly necessary. He argues that since so many things can go wrong in a hospital (you could get sick from someone else, mistakes could be made, etc), only go if the benefits outweigh the risks.

And so if you have cancer, it's probably worth the risk. But if you have something that could just go away naturally, that's got a higher expected value of positive outcome.

He is in favor of subtractive medicine - many harms are caused by adding such things as smoking, sugar, preservatives, etc, and instead of adding medicine or surgery, remove the elements that the body isn't evolved to tolerate and see if it heals itself.

He gives the example of how he hurt his back weight lifting. The doctor proposed surgery. He just waited and his back healed itself, and in a way that is now more robust than if he had had surgery.

As with all things, it's not a black and white kind of decision, but this mindset has worked well for me as a heuristic for health.

eugene2012onFeb 5, 2019

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

pmezardonMar 2, 2018

> Time was when leaders would actually lead their countries into battle. Caesar, Hannibal. They were men putting their bodies on the line. Even Hitler. Say, what you like about Adolf – and the man did have his faults – but at least he was prepared to top himself when everything went tits up. That’s having skin in the game. George W Bush and Tony Blair had no skin in the game when they went to war against Iraq and have completely messed up the entire world as a result. If they’d had to fight or send one of their kids to the front line, maybe they would have acted differently.

I have not read Taleb's latest book, I am silly enough to have found some interesting bits in Antifragile so I am certainly missing something. Ignoring the sarcasm, how is this idea ridiculous?

I am certainly worried of today leaders wielding more power than ever without having any concrete idea of the outcome of an actual war. And it will only get worse.

eli_gottliebonMay 1, 2014

>I've not read Antifragile yet, but it at least gives some probably needed context to the modern fixation on normally-distributed data as evidenced by the simplistic quantification of so many things (e.g., the Freakonomics podcast).

If you want a man of dogma who's going to criticize the overuse of normal distributions to generate illusorily "informative" statistics, I think you'd be better off with E.T. Jaynes.

rurponMar 10, 2021

It's been a while since I read these books but I'm surprised to hear someone like Fooled By Randomness but not Black Swan. One of the few complaints I had of Black Swan was that it felt a bit redundant in parts from the previous book. Overall I think both books are great and worth reading.

I highly recommend reading Antifragile next though. It's fairly different from the other two and extremely interesting; probably one of my favorite books.

kpwagneronMay 19, 2021

Haha! I had a similar reaction when I started reading Taleb. You might checkout Antifragile, which offers a more positive view of randomness. It's easy to get a dire impression from Taleb, but to use his words, "don't read it *too* well." If you really dig into Taleb, specifically Skin in the Game, he is a proponent of risk-taking: his closing statements in Skin in the Game include "Start a business."

maneeshonJune 18, 2018

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

mpweiheronMar 7, 2019


“Lukianoff and Haidt share some benefactors and allies with the well-established right that funded Bloom and D’Souza. (Lukianoff works at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit group that receives funding from the Scaife and Olin families.) But, reading The Coddling of the American Mind, I was more struck by their points of proximity to the newer Trumpist right.”

“Lukianoff and Haidt quote “Jonathan Rauch, a scholar at the Brookings Institution””

“The rhetorical appeal, here, shares a structure with the appeal that carried the enemy in chief of political correctness to the White House”

“This is the incredulity of people who have never feared being stereotyped. It can turn to indignation, fast.”

“the two-step from shame to rage about shame may be what brings it closest to the Trumpists”

“Nassim Taleb, whose book Antifragile Haidt and Lukianoff credit with one of their core beliefs and cite repeatedly as inspiration, is a fixture of the far right “manosphere” that gathers on Reddit/pol and returnofkings.com.”

“The commonality raises questions about the proximity of their enthusiasm for CBT to the vogue for “Stoic” self-help in the Red Pill community,”

“Lilla admits to envying the effectiveness of the “right-wing media complex”. It is hard to imagine that Haidt does not feel some such stirrings about Peterson, who is, after all, selling more copies of self-help books ”

“Lukianoff and Haidt quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago as an epigraph and key inspiration; Peterson, who frequently lectures on the book, wrote the introduction to the 50th-anniversary edition Penguin will publish in November.”

alinalexonMar 15, 2017

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

EzGraphsonDec 24, 2012

Taleb's Antifragile book has a number of direct entrepreneurial references and many other ideas that are relevant but of more general interest (economics, technology, health related, etc). For example, he talks about the concept of options (based upon the financial vehicle) applying in other areas of life. In general if you have something with a small downside potential and large upside potential, it is an option that is antifragile. Learning new technical skills seems to me to fit into this area. By sacrificing a bit of time and a few bucks on training / books / videos you can develop a product that will delight users, address a need in the workplace, or otherwise create value. Limited downside and great potential upside.

misiti3780onSep 23, 2016

All must reads in my opinion

Fooled By Randomness - Taleb

The Black Swan - Taleb

Antifragile - Taleb

When Genius Failed - Lowenstein

Liars Poker - Lewis

The Big Short - Lewis

Flash Boys - Lewis

Too Big To Fail - Sorkin

Against the Gods - Bernstein

One Up On Wallstreet - Lynch

The Intelligent Investor - Graham

SwizeconFeb 1, 2020

Reading Antifragile always felt like he's got some interesting insights, some of which feel quite quackery ... and the constant pot shots are unnecessary to the point of distraction.

We get it, you don't like academics and The Establishment. But do you have to mention it every other paragraph like a teenage boy?

Guess nobody gave him the Kill Your Darlings writing advice.

lectrickonJuly 8, 2015

I have a nagging (intuition? feeling?) that software safety/reliability/security needs are going to explode soon (because unreliabilities multiply in non-resilient systems interacting with each other) and that these are simply foreshocks.

(yeah, I know security is already a huge deal, but as we come to trust software systems more and more, the safety/reliability factor will come more into play)

EDIT: This is also part of the reason I've been learning Elixir (http://elixir-lang.org/) since it's based on the highly-resilient Erlang and is designed to embrace failure. This was also informed by me reading Nassim Taleb's book "Antifragile" as well as "Thinking in Systems: A Primer" by the (late) Donella Meadows.

chollida1onAug 9, 2017

I love Nassim Taleb as an academic and philosopher. I think he has a Peter Thiel like quality of being able to thinking differently, but in a very applicable way.

Nassim Taleb the author though I really can't get into, and to be fair he's had so much success that this is probably my fault.

If you want to get the most out of his work then read his medium blog. Most of his pieces are written in easily digestible formats.


I've re-started trying to read the Black Swan about 10 times and IMHO if you just read the first 3 chapters then you'll get about 95% of what you would if you had read the entire book.

I think the problem with his books that I have is that he considers himself not just an author but a modern day philosopher, and with that comes a level of rigor in his writing that brings me back to my measure theory and real analysis courses.

If you really want to read his books, then start backwards.

Antifragile is awesome, but still very wordy, and builds on top of all his other works. It almost seems to be the culmination of the idea's he's been writing about since the black Swan.

As a side note, for anyone who wants to learn about options trading with a focus on how a trader would view them, ie from a mathematical perspective, then check out one of his first books...... Dynamic Hedging of Options.


As a second side note........

His latest concept of “Skin in the game” is the best form of risk control that we've found for reigning in traders. Once traders are required to

1) keep the vast majority of their bonus in the fund for a few years

2) take part of their bonus in the form of non liquid securities if they want to hold more than a certain percentage of their portfolio in non liquid assets

we have found they pay alot more attention to the liquidity of their portfolio and the long term profitability of their portfolio, both of which are good for the long term success of the fund.

chrischattinonMay 12, 2020

Life changing books...

I read Decartes in high school during the teenage existential crises we all go through and it blew my mind. Opened me up to the power of thinking from first principles and a love of philosophy and questioning everything. Cogito, ergo sum!

"Atlas Shrugged" gets a lot of hate, but it's a phenomenally important book. It was one of those that completely consumed me during the read. I could not put it down – stayed up late, work up early, and rushed home from work to get back to it.

"Rework", "Getting Real", the other books by the old 37signals crew, and of course "The Lean Startup" really changed the way I thought about software development and business. I credit them for much of my startup/programming success.

Taleb's Incerto series changed how I thought about investing, risk, and life in general. "Fooled by Randomness" and "Antifragile" are especially good.

LucianLMZonSep 11, 2017

In no particular order and probably not remembering all:

The signal and the noise - Nate Silver;

Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb;

Antifragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb;

1984 - Orwell;

Man's search for meaning - Viktor Frankl;

Diplomacy - Henry Kissinger (not only international politics but also deep-thinking strategy that can be used anywhere);

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius;

Superforecasting - Philip Tetlock;

Propaganda - Edward Bernays;

Pitch anything - Oren Klaff;

Guns, Germs and Steel - Jared Diamond;

How to win friends and influence people& Stop worrying (both by Dale Carnegie);

The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins;

Trust - Francis Fukuyama;

cableshaftonJuly 12, 2017

I really started to take life and society a lot less seriously after I read The Illuminatus! Trilogy when I was a young teenager. It seemed to break through my mental barriers a lot better than any other book. It reads kind of like an acid trip, wandering around from the headspace of one character to another character throughout time and space, sometimes mid-sentence, but over the course of the book it tells an entertaining romp chock full of conspiracies.


More recently I've been reading through Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb, and while I'm not completely on board with everything he said (his assertions that academia contributed virtually nothing to the development of the computer rang particularly false to me, so some of his other assertions are similarly suspect), it is forcing me to think of how I can live my life in a way that is less susceptible to things outside of my control.

For example, I've been following cryptocurrencies quite a bit and have some 'skin in the game' there, and that field does seem to require some 'antifragile' thinking in order to weather its volatility.

The book seems to be particularly good if you want to get more into the entrepreneurial or creative mindset.


DyslexicAtheistonJan 17, 2016

Antifragile by N. N. Taleb

haltingproblemonMay 19, 2021

I thought the same for a long time about Antifragile and the oft overlooked Skin in the Game. Both books are now on my yearly reading list. Reading those two along with Fooled by Randomness and to an extent the Black Swan has made me infinitely less foolish and perhaps wiser.

The ideas in Antifragile are to me an good application of the bets to make in life and love. Skin in the game is to evaluate the bets (actions) of others. Doctor prescribing statins...hmmm...what are his incentives around the upsides/downsides of it?

Fooled by Randomness is a prescription of how to evaluate systemic performance (or failure). Black swans is eh...just about black swans or how outlier events in power law distributions can fool us by not showing up for a long time and then ...watch out.

Nassim can appear to be overly verbose but his books defy summarization. I recommend reading them but given my own experience can empathize by the contra opinions.

UdoonAug 17, 2014

> I suppose random king-making could be an example of just the kind of black swan events he talks about.

I feel reminded of the George RR Martin quote that "chaos is a ladder". I don't think the rise of Antifragile is a truly chaotic event though, it's largely due to whatever the opposite of the Black Swan idea should be called. I guess the words to use would be planning and brute force...

> Is it really organic? I'm skeptical of that. I suppose it's possible...

Initially, these things are probably orchestrated by influential PR connections. It can't be entirely predetermined, but I guess some careful research was done to map out the pop-intellectual vacuum where this book was going to position itself.

What really put me off was the arrogance with which he casually claims to be the first one to understand what would have to be pretty old concepts in chaos theory, risk management, and engineering. However, I think it's also a clue that he knew exactly what area he was going to successfully claim ownership of.

My guess is this book was helped along massively from the outside, but how ever that came to be, at some point the critical mass was reached anyway. By now it doesn't really matter anymore except to a few of us (including me) who bemusedly like to analyze how things are expertly steered by powerful forces.

The point is, no matter what my personal feelings about the book and its heritage, it's now the reference everybody has to use when addressing a whole slew of things. Which makes it required reading. Which perpetuates its authority.

gbogonJune 9, 2013

I read this in his Antifragile book.

mindcrimeonDec 26, 2013


On Intelligence - Jeff Hawkins

How To Create A Mind - Ray Kurzweil

The Language Instinct - Steven Pinker

The Origin of Wealth - Eric Beinhocker

The Signal and the Noise - Nate Silver

The Money Culture - Michael Lewis

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations - David Warsh

Smart Machines: IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing - John E. Kelly III and Steve Hamm

The Idea Factory - Jon Gertner

Winning The Knowledge Transfer Race - Michael J. English and William H. Baker

Wellsprings of Knowledge - Dorothy Leonard-Barton

If Only We Knew What We Know - Carla O'dell and C. Jackson Grayson

Started, but haven't finished yet:

The Discipline of Market Leaders - Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema

Marketing Warfare - Jack Trout and Al Ries

Naked Statistics - Charles Wheelan

Wiki Management - Rod Collins

Antifragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal - Ayn Rand


NOS4A2 - Joe Hill

The first four books in the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman

Innocence - Dean Koontz

Deeply Odd - Dean Koontz

Doctor Sleep - Stephen King

The Black List - Brad Thor

Most of The New Lovecraft Circle - an anthology of Lovecraft mythos stories by contemporary writers

And started re-reading Asimov's Foundation last night. I've read the original trilogy before, but this time I intend to read all seven books. But I'm starting with Foundation and going to the end, before going back to the prequels.

peter_retiefonJune 20, 2017

Sure, my wife would mostly agree with you, I don't totally disagree either but try and see the context in why it has become widely used
I am going to give you with a quote from Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb -
“Never listen to a leftist who does not give away his fortune or does not live the exact lifestyle he wants others to follow. What the French call “the caviar left,” la gauche caviar, or what Anglo-Saxons call champagne socialists, are people who advocate socialism, sometimes even communism, or some political system with sumptuary limitations, while overtly leading a lavish lifestyle, often financed by inheritance—not realizing the contradiction that they want others to avoid just such a lifestyle. It is not too different from the womanizing popes, such as John XII, or the Borgias. The contradiction can exceed the ludicrous as with French president François Mitterrand of France who, coming in on a socialist platform, emulated the pomp of French monarchs. Even more ironic, his traditional archenemy, the conservative General de Gaulle, led a life of old-style austerity and had his wife sew his socks.”

PhantomGremlinonJuly 15, 2015

Sorry. It's been so long that I don't remember how relevant that book would be today. If pushed, I'd say don't go out of your way to find it. If I still have my copy it's in the garage, in a box that didn't get unpacked from a move a long time ago. But FWIW there are a few positive reviews of it on Amazon.

I am currently re-reading Taleb's Antifragile book[1] and I think it's better the second time thru. But it probably wouldn't be as interesting w/o Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan for background.

In Antifragile Taleb admires entrepreneurs and risk takers with skin in the game. He abhors bankers and politicians who benefit from the upside and pass the downside on to the taxpayers. But the book isn't for everyone. E.g. there's no chapter of "7 steps to building future wealth". It's more of a philosophy of life book.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifragile

raihansaputraonApr 24, 2020

I started from Antifragile and didn't regret it. If you feel like drawn toward the earlier ideas, read Antifragile -> Skin In the Game -> Fooled By Randomness -> Black Swan. This might also be related that I usually have more interest in starting with practical knowledge and then digging deeper into the theory/more basic knowledge.

vonklausonJuly 16, 2015

I've read Black Swan and heard Antifragile was quite good as well think I'll pick that up instead. Liking these recommendations a lot. Here are a few that are "similar" since I asked you for some recommendations.

I really enjoyed The 48 Laws of Power and a few other titles by Greene. Some of Malcolm Gladwell's books are interesting although they are a tad popsci. Recently finished Zero to One which was good, but if you listen to Thiel often there wasn't much new material. Lords of Finance is a NYTBS that is really well done and reminiscent of Taleb so you might like that.


henrik_wonJune 2, 2015

The story of the Boeing engineers flying on the test flights is a perfect example of "skin in the game" (from Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb).

Here's what I wrote about that in a blog post on Antifragility and SW development:

At the end of the book, there is a chapter on ethics that Taleb calls “skin in the game”. To have skin in the game, you should share both in the upside and downside. Taleb quotes the 3,800 year old Hammurabi’s code: “If a builder builds a house and the house collapses and causes the death of the owner – the builder shall be put to death”. It is interesting to view this from a software development perspective. I have never worked on software where people’s lives were in danger if the software failed, but I would not be willing to submit to Hammurabi’s code if I did. But I think a little less extreme form of skin in the game is actually very good. Being on call for example. If the software you wrote fails, you may get called in the middle of the night to help fix it. I have been on call at most of the places I have worked in the past, and I think it has a lot of benefits. It gives you an incentive to be very thorough, both in development and testing. It also forces you to make the software debuggable – otherwise you yourself will suffer. Another way of introducing skin in the game is dog-fooding – using the software you are developing in your daily work. I have never worked on software that we have been able to dog-food, but I think that is another great practice.


chubotonApr 3, 2013

Hm, so back in 2000 I met a girl at Stanford whose senior thesis was based on the idea that metaphor is the core of all thought.

I remember giving the counterexample of a mathematical formula. In what way is e^i*pi = -1 a metaphor for anything? What role does analogy play in this idea?

Looking back, I am open to the fact that mathematicians use analogy to come up with their ideas (but perhaps not metaphor, which seems essentially literary) Mathematics is funny because it is presented in "reverse", i.e. not the way it was derived.

Anyway I will have to read it, although I am slightly skeptical of ideas that try to explain "everything". In retrospect Taleb's Antifragile had some of that flavor, although I thought it was very good.

EDIT: I think it's probably accurate to say that the brain is fundamentally an association machine. Analogies are a form of association, but not all associations are analogies. This very post is a great example of an association (not an analogy), because when I read "analogy is the core of all thought" it made me think of the disputed "metaphor is the core of all thought" idea I heard a long time ago.

pajoponOct 11, 2013

I'm trying to think now what would be the opposite of this? Books that are completely counter-intuitive, that forces you to rethink your original Weltanschaunng in the first place - Niall Ferguson's "Civilization: The West and the Rest" and Nassim Taleb's "AntiFragile: Things that Gain from Disorder" comes to mind. Even rereading Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" can give you this counter-intuitive insight.

petr_tikonAug 7, 2016

I give books to people I work with and the 3 books that people will have heard of are:

Thinking fast and slow by Danny K

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

Algorithms To Live By by Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths

I thought about giving fictional books to people, but it seems to personal a present for a work acquaintance

tokenadultonApr 5, 2013

My comment in the last thread opened with a post from this source:

Past performance does not guarantee future results" is still the operative principle here. Data-mining discovers patterns, but it doesn't lead to deep insight into causes, and markets are perturbed by many events that you don't put into your training algorithm. "The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent" is still important investment advice.

You can never build a trading signal just by scraping historical data, unless you like losing your shirt.

Can you tell I'm reading Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder just now? I'm very sensitive to errors in statistical thinking today.

marcus_holmesonJune 13, 2019

no, that's the point - that economic thinking is all about adaptation to circumstances, and makes no assumptions about the stability of anything.

"enough time to adapt" is always present, if you stop thinking about stability being present at all. The system is in a constant state of adaptation to current circumstances, and those circumstances are constantly changing. As those circumstances change, so the system adapts to them. It doesn't need "time to adapt", it is constantly adapting.

Ecological thinking emphasises the brittleness of a particular system, and talks about ecological collapse when the situation changes too fast for the system to cope with. Economic thinking emphasises the adaptability of the system, and how it flows from one state to another depending on circumstances.

What we have now is not a "stable system" that has a finite tolerance for change, relying on an underlying stability provided by a fixed set of parameters. It's an adaptive system that has an infinite tolerance for change, underpinned by nothing stable.

If the externalities of that system become apparent, then the system will change to cope with it. There's a good argument that the current "climate emergency" is exactly this: that the system has previously treated the atmosphere (and ocean) as infinitely-large dumping grounds for waste products, and that it is now adapting to the fact that that's not true.

Of course, if anything inside this adaptive system relies on a particular aspect of it to remain stable, then that is a challenge for that entity. On a grand scale, you could view this as humanity depending on a livable biosphere. On a smaller scale, this could be your country depending on oil revenues. On a smaller scale, this could be your family depending on the housing market always rising.

I've recently been reading AntiFragile, and that talks about the same thing. Relying on stability is fragile. Adapting to (and benefiting from) change is antifragile.

giardinionApr 4, 2017

Taleb's 2012 book "Antifragility" discusses the state of university education and student loans:

"Harvard is like a Vuitton bag or a Cartier watch. It is a huge drag on the middle-class parents who have been plowing an increased share of their savings into these institutions, transferring their money to administrators, real estate developers, professors, and other agents. In the United States, we have a buildup of student loans that automatically transfer to these rent extractors, In a way it is no different from racketeering..."

On the future of education:

"My answer: BS is fragile. Which scam in history has lasted forever? I have an enormous faith in Time and History as eventual debunkers of fragility. Education is an institution that has been growing without external stressors; eventually the thing will collapse."

- "Antifragile", Chapter 17 (last 2 pages)

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb

HelloMcFlyonMay 1, 2014

> ...his options strategies will make money in the worst year, they bleed money in all other years.... average returns count

I'm not an expert in his line of thinking, nor do I currently practice his method of investing, but isn't his goal to hedge against loss (with potential for profit from it when it strikes others) rather than maximizing profits on the whole? I imagine he'd be upset that an "average" would be the ultimate indicator of the worth of his ideas.

Outside of the practical utility of his investment advice (which is outside of my interest area, for better or worse), I still think his work deserves one's attention and would not direct them away from NNT as you have. I'd probably skip the first book, and I've not read Antifragile yet, but it at least gives some probably needed context to the modern fixation on normally-distributed data as evidenced by the simplistic quantification of so many things (e.g., the Freakonomics podcast).

But he does speak like a man of dogma, something that always makes me wary.

lui8906onDec 8, 2014

Just looking through my read category on my kindle and realised I haven't read any life changing books in 2014.

Currently reading Javascript and Jquery by Jon Duckett and find his visual style and clear, concise writing perfectly fits how I learn. Could not recommend it enough to any other programming learners.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi is a very simple, straightforward book on personal finance. He advocates having your money automatically distributed into fixed costs, investments and spending money rather than getting bogged down in budgets.

An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson is the first in a trilogy that chronicles America's entrance into World War II in North Africa, all the way to the downfall of the Third Reich. His style is both minutely researched and totally readable. He nails the violence and horror at the front, as well as the incredible scale and logistics of the whole enterprise. I'm now on the second in the trilogy, The Day of Battle.

Last year Thinking Fast and Slow and Antifragile were my highlights - they compliment each other well and both changed my outlook on how the world is organised and how I perceive it.

Thanks to all the other posters, I've added lots of the suggested books to my kindle.

patrickkonJune 20, 2013

I've just started reading Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.

He defines 3 states: fragile, robust and antifragile. Fragile things weaken during times of volatility or uncertainty (such as a central government's power during a coup), robust things are indifferent (like the Pyramids) and antifragile things actually strengthen from uncertainty or upheaval (e.g. Syrian rebel's power during the current civil war).

It would seem innovation thrives in the antifragile state. The chaos and uncertainty of war certainly drives innovation.

RachelFonAug 18, 2014

Taleb's earlier "Fooled by randomness" is one of the few books that changed my life.

However, Antifragile was not a good book. Taleb is too angry now, his ego too big and the ideas are not new.

For something to be anti-fragile, on needs selection and evolution, or at least non catastrophic failure and then the possibility of feedback.

matthewcantyonAug 3, 2017

I'm reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Antifragile at the moment. His explanation of how Switzerland operates as municipalities, with little central government intervention - except collecting taxes - is strikingly similar.

In this context: Let smaller education decision making groups decide what is important for their local area. Any failure is of benefit to all, while the negative impacts of the actual failure are localised.

octopoconAug 29, 2018

This is one of the points the author makes in the book "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder". He points out that one of the big examples of something where theory came first, then application came afterwards is the atomic bomb.

In a lot of other areas of practical invention, application comes first, then people come in afterwards with a theory. And frequently, the theorists take credit for the invention as if the theory had come first. He had some examples of this happening.

kabbalfonSep 4, 2017

Time will tell whether the system is more or less robust with Dodd Frank. Also the previous system seemed robust until the crash happened. An argument could be made that more legislation and onerous regulation pushes smaller actors out of the game. Then you end up with a bunch of too-big-to-fail corporations that take the whole system down if they fail. Regulatory capture is also a major issue with too big entities.

Reading tip: Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

PhantomGremlinonMay 14, 2017

They're not just about "fractal" distributions, but a few of Taleb's[1] books are more-or-less expansions of this article.

Two which had wide acclaim for more-or-less predicting the financial crisis of 2008-2009 were Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. But I happen to like his later Antifragile the best.[2]

My biggest criticism of Taleb's books is that, while he tells us what can happen and why, he only has generalities on how to prepare and respond. I'd prefer more specifics.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassim_Nicholas_Taleb
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifragile

akg_67onJuly 19, 2013

MIT is no exception when it comes to the current class of inverse heroes. Recent events have shown that every person or organization will stoop as low as they can go to protect self-interest while preaching ethics and accountability to others and expecting them to follow in any condition.

"While in the past people of rank or status were those and only those who took risks, who had the downside for their actions, and heroes were those who did so for the sake of others, today the exact reverse is taking place. We are witnessing the “rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D. (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.”

Excerpt From: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.”

sentientforestonDec 18, 2019

On my list to read in 2020:

    The Visual Display of Quantitative Information 
The Rust Programming Language
Progressive Web Apps
Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability
Farming the Woods
Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms
Affinity Designer Workbook
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration
Ernest Hemingway On Writing
The Two Hands of God (Alan Watts)
The Anarchist's Design Book and/or With the Grain: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood
Some other fiction reading I'll decide on after I finish Dune

Books/Authors I've read that I would recommend:

    Tao of Physics, Web of Life, Systems View of Life, etc. (Fritjof Capra) 
^Capra's work has heavily influenced my worldview and ability to think in systems

Designing Data Intensive Applications (just finishing this week)
Permaculture One & Two, Gaia's Garden, Edible Forest Gardens I&II
Black Swan, Antifragile, etc. (Nassim Taleb)
Cloud Hidden: Whereabouts Unknown (Alan Watts, written late in life)
Ishmael, Story of B, etc. (Daniel Quinn)
You are Not a Gadget, Who Owns the Future, etc. (Jaron Lanier)
Goethe's Italian Journey
Vonnegut, Hemingway, Steinbeck
The Wheel of Time

tyurokonMar 27, 2017

Antifragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

He puts into words concepts of life so close to us yet so foreign sounding that makes us rethink everything in our lives.

When you ask people "What is the opposite of fragile", they usually answer robust, which Taleb proves to be incorrect by introducing a new concept, the Antifragilty. It entangles so many things in economic, academic, science, finances and other systems with several tales from the past revisited with a new lens.

ThersitesonJuly 24, 2018

A book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a scholar, trader, and philosopher. He wrote a book called Antifragile, link is below. He coined the term 'Black Swan' as well. Antifragile things harness chaos and get stronger, the world is not getting less chaotic.

Taleb - ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassim_Nicholas_Taleb
Antifragile - https://www.amazon.com/Antifragile-Things-That-Disorder-Ince...

codingcharlatanonFeb 16, 2016

I have to disagree. My biggest complaint (if I could call it that) with his previous book, The Black Swan, was that it lacked practical application of his principles, e.g., he exposes the hidden prevalence of asymmetries but doesn't place them within the broader context of how one should live. Antifragile does just that. His title alone is worth the price of the book. Antifragile describes something that gains from disorder rather than is merely robust to it, and we don't have a word in English to describe this

skilesareonMar 6, 2017

The Nature of Order by Christopher Alexander (also The Timeless Way of Building)

Lila by Pirsig (If you've read ZMM and left Lila unread you've left a lot on the table)

The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutch

Antifragile by Taleb

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Yudkowski. Particularly Chapter 39.

The two Political Order and Political Decay books by Fukuyama

Life's Ratchet - Hoffman

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