Antifragile
Antifragile

Antifragile

Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. (Location 436)

(diabetes and many similar modern ailments seem to be associated with a lack of randomness in feeding and the absence of the stressor of occasional starvation), (Location 445)

And we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry: anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile. (Location 459)

Just as spending a month in bed (preferably with an unabridged version of War and Peace and access to The Sopranos’ entire eighty-six episodes) leads to muscle atrophy, complex systems are weakened, even killed, when deprived of stressors. Much of our modern, structured, world has been harming us with top-down policies and contraptions (dubbed “Soviet-Harvard delusions” in the book) which do precisely this: an insult to the antifragility of systems. This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most. (Location 464)

At no point in history have so many non-risk-takers, that is, those with no personal exposure, exerted so much control. (Location 480)

Black Swans hijack our brains, making us feel we “sort of” or “almost” predicted them, because they are retrospectively explainable. We don’t realize the role of these Swans in life because of this illusion of predictability. Life is more, a lot more, labyrinthine than shown in our memory—our minds are in the business of turning history into something smooth and linear, which makes us underestimate randomness. (Location 488)

You get pseudo-order when you seek order; you only get a measure of order and control when you embrace randomness. (Location 492)

They are capable of detecting the differences between the various nuances of the rainbow, but they do not express these in their vocabularies. These populations are culturally, though not biologically, color-blind. Just as we are intellectually, not organically, antifragility-blind. (Location 847)

Let us call Mithridatization the result of an exposure to a small dose of a substance that, over time, makes one immune to additional, larger quantities of it. (Location 880)

Hormesis was well known by the ancients (and like the color blue was known but not expressed). But it was only in 1888 that it was first “scientifically” described (though still not given a name) by a German toxicologist, Hugo Schulz, who observed that small doses of poison stimulate the growth of yeast while larger doses cause harm. (Location 889)

so all hormesis seems to be doing is reestablishing the natural dosage for food and hunger in humans. In other words, hormesis is the norm, and its absence is what hurts us. (Location 900)

How do you innovate? First, try to get in trouble. I mean serious, but not terminal, trouble. I hold—it is beyond speculation, rather a conviction—that innovation and sophistication spark from initial situations of necessity, in ways that go far beyond the satisfaction of such necessity (from the unintended side effects of, say, an initial invention or attempt at invention). (Location 947)

The excess energy released from overreaction to setbacks is what innovates! (Location 952)

Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity. (Location 964)

It is said that the best horses lose when they compete with slower ones, and win against better rivals. Undercompensation from the absence of a stressor, inverse hormesis, absence of challenge, degrades the best of the best. (Location 970)

Note: Should i include more stressors in my life? Getting a dog was a stressor. But it taught me a lot.

Further, redundancy is not necessarily wussy; it can be extremely aggressive. For instance, if you have extra inventory of, say, fertilizers in the warehouse, just to be safe, and there happens to be a shortage because of disruptions in China, you can sell the excess inventory at a huge premium. (Location 1001)

A system that overcompensates is necessarily in overshooting mode, building extra capacity and strength in anticipation of a worse outcome and in response to information about the possibility of a hazard. And of course such extra capacity or strength may become useful by itself, opportunistically. We saw that redundancy is opportunistic, so such extra strength can be used to some benefit even in the absence of the hazard. Tell the next MBA analyst or business school professor you run into that redundancy is not defensive; it is more like investment than insurance. And tell them that what they call “inefficient” is often very efficient. (Location 1009)

this so-called worst-case event, when it happened, exceeded the worst case at the time. I have called this mental defect the Lucretius problem, after the Latin poetic philosopher who wrote that the fool believes that the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one he has observed. (Location 1018)

What does “fitness” mean? Being exactly tuned to a given past history of a specific environment, or extrapolating to an environment with stressors of higher intensity? Many seem to point to the first kind of adaptation, missing the notion of antifragility. But if one were to write down mathematically a standard model of selection, one would get overcompensation rather than mere “fitness.”* Even the psychologists who studied the antifragile response of post-traumatic growth, and show the data for it, don’t quite get the full concept, as they lapse, when using words, into the concept of “resilience.” (Location 1052)

As we saw with the Voltaire story, it is not possible to stamp out criticism; if it harms you, get out. It is easier to change jobs than control your reputation or public perception. (Location 1121)

In the complex world, the notion of “cause” itself is suspect; it is either nearly impossible to detect or not really defined—another reason to ignore newspapers, with their constant supply of causes for things. (Location 1196)

Further, errors and their consequences are information; for small children, pain is the only risk management information, as their logical faculties are not very developed. (Location 1205)

Note: For dogs as well

And there are many more conveyors of information around us than meet the eye. This is what we will call causal opacity: it is hard to see the arrow from cause to consequence, making much of conventional methods of analysis, in addition to standard logic, inapplicable. (Location 1207)

Note: Leading to wysiati bias

Our antifragilities have conditions. The frequency of stressors matters a bit. Humans tend to do better with acute than with chronic stressors, particularly when the former are followed by ample time for recovery, which allows the stressors to do their jobs as messengers. (Location 1227)

Such a stressor would be certainly better than the mild but continuous stress of a boss, mortgage, tax problems, guilt over procrastinating with one’s tax return, exam pressures, chores, emails to answer, forms to complete, daily commutes—things that make you feel trapped in life. In other words, the pressures brought about by civilization. In fact, neurobiologists show that the former type of stressor is necessary, the second harmful, for one’s health. For an idea of how harmful a low-level stressor without recovery can be, consider the so-called Chinese water torture: a drop continuously hitting the same spot on your head, never letting you recover. (Location 1232)

“Machines: use it and lose it; organisms: use it or lose it.” (Location 1258)

My friend Chad benefited from the kind of disorder that is less and less prevalent thanks to the modern disease of touristification. This is my term for an aspect of modern life that treats humans as washing machines, with simplified mechanical responses—and a detailed user’s manual. It is the systematic removal of uncertainty and randomness from things, trying to make matters highly predictable in their smallest details. All that for the sake of comfort, convenience, and efficiency. (Location 1305)

What a tourist is in relation to an adventurer, or a flâneur, touristification is to life; it consists in converting activities, and not just travel, into the equivalent of a script like those followed by actors. We will see how touristification castrates systems and organisms that like uncertainty by sucking randomness out of them to the last drop—while providing them with the illusion of benefit. The guilty parties are the education system, planning the funding of teleological scientific research, the French baccalaureate, gym machines, etc. (Location 1309)

There exist the kind of people for whom life is some kind of project. After talking to them, you stop feeling good for a few hours; life starts tasting like food cooked without salt. I, a thrill-seeking human, have a b***t detector that seems to match my boredom detector, as if we were equipped with a naturalistic filter, dullness-aversion. Ancestral life had no homework, no boss, no civil servants, no academic grades, no conversation with the dean, no consultant with an MBA, no table of procedure, no application form, no trip to New Jersey, no grammatical stickler, no conversation with someone boring you: all life was random stimuli and nothing, good or bad, ever felt like work.* Dangerous, yes, but boring, never. (Location 1330)

Robert Trivers figured out the presence of competition between gene and organism in his idea of the “selfish gene.” In fact, the most interesting aspect of evolution is that it only works because of its antifragility; it is in love with stressors, randomness, uncertainty, and disorder—while individual organisms are relatively fragile, the gene pool takes advantage of shocks to enhance its fitness. So from this we can see that there is a tension between nature and individual organisms. (Location 1376)

Black Swan Management 101: nature (and nature-like systems) likes diversity between organisms rather than diversity within an immortal organism, unless you consider nature itself the immortal organism, (Location 1404)

So evolution benefits from randomness by two different routes: randomness in the mutations, and randomness in the environment—both act in a similar way to cause changes in the traits of the surviving next generations. (Location 1413)

tree has many branches, and these look like small trees; further, these large branches have many more smaller branches that sort of look like even smaller trees. This is a manifestation of what is called fractal self-similarity, a vision by the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot. There is a similar hierarchy in things and we just see the top layer from the outside. The cell has a population of intercellular molecules; in turn the organism has a population of cells, and the species has a population of organisms. A strengthening mechanism for the species comes at the expense of some organisms; in turn the organism strengthens at the expense of some cells, all the way down and all the way up as well. (Location 1436)

Note: Like code and systems.

Further, the random element in trial and error is not quite random, if it is carried out rationally, using error as a source of information. If every trial provides you with information about what does not work, you start zooming in on a solution—so every attempt becomes more valuable, more like an expense than an error. And of course you make discoveries along the way. (Location 1452)

Note: Joudnaling and reflection

partial, not general, mistakes, small, not severe and terminal ones. This creates a separation between good and bad systems. Good systems such as airlines are set up to have small errors, independent from each other—or, in effect, negatively correlated to each other, since mistakes lower the odds of future mistakes. This is one way to see how one environment can be antifragile (aviation) and the other fragile (modern economic life with “earth is flat” style interconnectedness). (Location 1470)

All they need is to keep their mistakes small enough so they can survive them. (Location 1484)

Further, my characterization of a loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on. These types often consider themselves the “victims” of some large plot, a bad boss, or bad weather. (Location 1494)

Procrustes was an inn-keeper in Greek mythology who, in order to make the travelers fit in his bed, cut the limbs of those who were too tall and stretched those who were too short. But he had the bed fitting the visitor with total perfection. As we saw in Chapter 3, treating an organism like a simple machine is a kind of simplification or approximation or reduction that is exactly like a Procrustean bed. It is often with the most noble intentions that we do so, as we are pressured to “fix” things, so we often blow them up with our fear of randomness and love of smoothness. (Location 1610)

This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is risky, that it is a bad thing—and that eliminating randomness is done by eliminating randomness. (Location 1634)

It generates the kind of randomness I call Mediocristan—plenty of variations that might be scary, but tend to cancel out in the aggregate (over time, or over the collection of municipalities that constitute the larger confederation or entity)—rather than the unruly one called Extremistan, in which you have mostly stability and occasionally large chaos—errors there have large consequences. (Location 1750)

Municipal noise, distributed variations in the souks (first) compared to that of centralized or human-managed systems (second)—or, equivalently, the income of a taxi driver (first) and that of an employee (second). The second graph shows moves taking place from cascade to cascade, or Black Swan to Black Swan. Human overintervention to smooth or control processes causes a switch from one kind of system, Mediocristan, into another, Extremistan. This effect applies to all manner of systems with constrained volatility—health, politics, economics, even someone’s mood with and without Prozac. Or the difference between the entrepreneur-driven Silicon Valley (first) and the banking system (second). (Location 1765)

Note also that in Extremistan predictability is very low. In the second, pseudo-smooth kind of randomness, mistakes appear to be rare, but they will be large, often devastating when they occur. Actually, an argument we develop in Book IV, anything locked into planning tends to fail precisely because of these attributes—it is quite a myth that planning helps corporations: in fact we saw that the world is too random and unpredictable to base a policy on visibility of the future. What survives comes from the interplay of some fitness and environmental conditions. (Location 1778)

A turkey is fed for a thousand days by a butcher; every day confirms to its staff of analysts that butchers love turkeys “with increased statistical confidence.” The butcher will keep feeding the turkey until a few days before Thanksgiving. Then comes that day when it is really not a very good idea to be a turkey. So with the butcher surprising it, the turkey will have a revision of belief—right when its confidence in the statement that the butcher loves turkeys is maximal and “it is very quiet” and soothingly predictable in the life of the turkey. This example builds on an adaptation of a metaphor by Bertrand Russell. (Location 1790)

So our mission in life becomes simply “how not to be a turkey,” or, if possible, how to be a turkey in reverse—antifragile, that is. “Not being a turkey” starts with figuring out the difference between true and manufactured stability. (Location 1797)

“It seemed, wrote Machiavelli, that in the midst of murders and civil wars, our republic became stronger [and] its citizens infused with virtues. … A little bit of agitation gives resources to souls and what makes the species prosper isn’t peace, but freedom.” (Location 1841)

We were very close to the mother of all catastrophes in the 1960s when the United States was about to pull the nuclear trigger on the Soviet Union. Very close. When we look at risks in Extremistan, we don’t look at evidence (evidence comes too late), we look at potential damage: never has the world been more prone to more damage; never.* (Location 1878)

“On Governors,” published in 1867, Maxwell modeled the behavior and showed mathematically that tightly controlling the speed of engines leads to instability. It is remarkable how Maxwell’s neat mathematical derivations and the dangers of tight control can be generalized across domains and help debunk pseudo-stabilization and hidden long-term fragility.* (Location 1900)

When a currency never varies, a slight, very slight move makes people believe that the world is ending. Injecting some confusion stabilizes the system. (Location 1906)

A donkey equally famished and thirsty caught at an equal distance between food and water would unavoidably die of hunger or thirst. But he can be saved thanks to a random nudge one way or the other. This metaphor is named Buridan’s Donkey, after the medieval philosopher Jean de Buridan, who—among other, very complicated things—introduced the thought experiment. When some systems are stuck in a dangerous impasse, randomness and only randomness can unlock them and set them free. You can see here that absence of randomness equals guaranteed death. (Location 1927)

For Voltaire, the best form of government was the one tempered with political assassination. Regicide is sort of the equivalent of tapping on the barometer to make it work better. (Location 1963)

To summarize, the problem with artificially suppressed volatility is not just that the system tends to become extremely fragile; it is that, at the same time, it exhibits no visible risks. (Location 1994)

One of life’s packages: no stability without volatility. (Location 2025)

The name for such net loss, the (usually hidden or delayed) damage from treatment in excess of the benefits, is iatrogenics, literally, “caused by the healer,” iatros being a healer in Greek. We will posit in Chapter 21 that every time you visit a doctor and get a treatment, you incur risks of such medical harm, which should be analyzed the way we analyze other trade-offs: probabilistic benefits minus probabilistic costs. (Location 2073)

and I can’t believe people don’t realize that phenomenology is “robust” and usable, and theories, while overhyped, are unreliable for decision making—outside physics. Physics is privileged; it is the exception, which makes its imitation by other disciplines similar to attempts to make a whale fly like an eagle. Errors in physics get smaller from theory to theory—so saying “Newton was wrong” is attention grabbing, good for lurid science journalism, but ultimately mendacious; it would be far more honest to say “Newton’s theory is imprecise in some specific cases.” Predictions made by Newtonian mechanics are of astonishing precision except for items traveling close to the speed of light, something you don’t expect to do on your next vacation. (Location 2150)

All street signs were removed. The deregulation led to an increase in safety, confirming the antifragility of attention at work, how it is whetted by a sense of danger and responsibility. As a result, many German and Dutch towns have reduced the number of street signs. We saw a version of the Drachten effect in Chapter 2 in the discussion of the automation of planes, which produces the exact opposite effect than what is intended by making pilots lose alertness. (Location 2215)

Note: Drachten effect

There is a Latin expression festina lente, “make haste slowly.” The Romans were not the only ancients to respect the act of voluntary omission. The Chinese thinker Lao Tzu coined the doctrine of wu-wei, “passive achievement.” 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, (Location 2251)

Note: Fabian strategy

I write only if I feel like it and only on a subject I feel like writing about—and the reader is no fool. So I use procrastination as a message from my inner self and my deep evolutionary past to resist interventionism in my writing. Yet some psychologists and behavioral economists seem to think that procrastination is a disease to be remedied and cured.* (Location 2257)

Since procrastination is a message from our natural willpower via low motivation, the cure is changing the environment, or one’s profession, by selecting one in which one does not have to fight one’s impulses. Few can grasp the logical consequence that, instead, one should lead a life in which procrastination is good, as a naturalistic-risk-based form of decision making. (Location 2270)

Note: When procrastinating, change your environment. Yield to procrastination.

Using my ecological reasoning, someone who procrastinates is not irrational; it is his environment that is irrational. And the psychologist or economist calling him irrational is the one who is beyond irrational. (Location 2275)

If you want to accelerate someone’s death, give him a personal doctor. I don’t mean provide him with a bad doctor: just pay for him to choose his own. Any doctor will do. This may be the only possible way to murder someone while staying squarely within the law. We can see from the tonsillectomy story that access to data increases intervention, causing us to behave like the neurotic fellow. (Location 2306)

Note: Acess to data increases intervention

A very rarely discussed property of data: it is toxic in large quantities—even in moderate quantities. (Location 2319)

Just as we are not likely to mistake a bear for a stone (but likely to mistake a stone for a bear), it is almost impossible for someone rational, with a clear, uninfected mind, someone who is not drowning in data, to mistake a vital signal, one that matters for his survival, for noise—unless he is overanxious, oversensitive, and neurotic, hence distracted and confused by other messages. Significant signals have a way to reach you. In the tonsillectomies story, the best filter would have been to only consider the children who were very ill, those with periodically recurring throat inflammation. (Location 2342)

To conclude, the best way to mitigate interventionism is to ration the supply of information, as naturalistically as possible. This is hard to accept in the age of the Internet. It has been very hard for me to explain that the more data you get, the less you know what’s going on, and the more iatrogenics you will cause. People are still under the illusion that “science” means more data. (Location 2355)

Tags: favorite

Political and economic “tail events” are unpredictable, and their probabilities are not scientifically measurable. No matter how many dollars are spent on research, predicting revolutions is not the same as counting cards; humans will never be able to turn politics and economics into the tractable randomness of blackjack. (Location 2437)

There are ample empirical findings to the effect that providing someone with a random numerical forecast increases his risk taking, even if the person knows the projections are random. (Location 2461)

Now, what is worse, because of modernity, the share of Extremistan is increasing. Winner-take-all effects are worsening: success for an author, a company, an idea, a musician, an athlete is planetary, or nothing. (Location 2513)

And, as he discovered, the worst thing one can do to feel one knows things a bit deeper is to try to go into them a bit deeper. The sea gets deeper as you go further into it, according to a Venetian proverb. (Location 2577)

There is another dimension to the need to focus on actions and avoid words: the health-eroding dependence on external recognition. People are cruel and unfair in the way they confer recognition, so it is best to stay out of that game. Stay robust to how others treat you. (Location 2617)

You can’t predict in general, but you can predict that those who rely on predictions are taking more risks, will have some trouble, perhaps even go bust. Why? Someone who predicts will be fragile to prediction errors. An overconfident pilot will eventually crash the plane. And numerical prediction leads people to take more risks. (Location 2657)

But there is something that commentators have completely missed. If wealth is so much of a burden, while unnecessary, what’s the point of having it? Why did Seneca keep it? (Location 2712)

Seneca wanted the upside from fate, and there is nothing wrong with it. (Location 2716)

Success brings an asymmetry: you now have a lot more to lose than to gain. You are hence fragile. (Location 2721)

Seneca fathomed that possessions make us worry about downside, thus acting as a punishment as we depend on them. (Location 2725)

Take the situation in which you have a lot to lose and little to gain. If an additional quantity of wealth, say, a thousand Phoenician shekels, would not benefit you, but you would feel great harm from the loss of an equivalent amount, you have an asymmetry. And it is not a good asymmetry: you are fragile. (Location 2731)

Likewise, when I was a trader, a profession rife with a high dose of randomness, with continuous psychological harm that drills deep into one’s soul, I would go through the mental exercise of assuming every morning that the worst possible thing had actually happened—the rest of the day would be a bonus. Actually the method of mentally adjusting “to the worst” had advantages way beyond the therapeutic, as it made me take a certain class of risks for which the worst case is clear and unambiguous, with limited and known downside. (Location 2742)

An intelligent life is all about such emotional positioning to eliminate the sting of harm, which as we saw is done by mentally writing off belongings so one does not feel any pain from losses. The volatility of the world no longer affects you negatively. (Location 2748)

Seneca even outlined his strategy in De beneficiis, explicitly calling it a cost-benefit analysis by using the word “bookkeeping”: “The bookkeeping of benefits is simple: it is all expenditure; if any one returns it, that is clear gain (my emphasis); if he does not return it, it is not lost, I gave it for the sake of giving.” Moral bookkeeping, but bookkeeping nevertheless. So he played a trick on fate: kept the good and ditched the bad; cut the downside and kept the upside. Self-servingly, that is, by eliminating the harm from fate and un-philosophically keeping the upside. (Location 2765)

Tags: favorite

There is an upside-downside asymmetry. That’s antifragility in its purest form. (Location 2771)

Fragility implies more to lose than to gain, equals more downside than upside, equals (unfavorable) asymmetry (Location 2783)

Antifragility implies more to gain than to lose, equals more upside than downside, equals (favorable) asymmetry (Location 2785)

You are antifragile for a source of volatility if potential gains exceed potential losses (and vice versa). (Location 2786)

The first step toward antifragility consists in first decreasing downside, rather than increasing upside; that is, by lowering exposure to negative Black Swans and letting natural antifragility work by itself. (Location 2795)

In other words, if something is fragile, its risk of breaking makes anything you do to improve it or make it “efficient” inconsequential unless you first reduce that risk of breaking. As Publilius Syrus wrote, nothing can be done both hastily and safely—almost nothing. (Location 2815)

We saw Seneca’s asymmetry: more upside than downside can come simply from the reduction of extreme downside (emotional harm) rather than improving things in the middle. (Location 2839)

In risky matters, instead of having all members of the staff on an airplane be “cautiously optimistic,” or something in the middle, I prefer the flight attendants to be maximally optimistic and the pilot to be maximally pessimistic or, better, paranoid. (Location 2846)

This is what Seneca elected to do: he initially had a very active, adventurous life, followed by a philosophical withdrawal to write and meditate, rather than a “middle” combination of both. Many of the “doers” turned “thinkers” like Montaigne have done a serial barbell: pure action, then pure reflection. (Location 2890)

Or, if I have to work, I find it preferable (and less painful) to work intensely for very short hours, then do nothing for the rest of the time (assuming doing nothing is really doing nothing), until I recover completely and look forward to a repetition, rather than being subjected to the tedium of Japanese style low-intensity interminable office hours with sleep deprivation. (Location 2892)

The reader may remember the exercise regimen of Chapter 2, which consists in going for the maximum weight one can lift, then nothing, compared to other alternatives that entail less intense but very long hours in the gym. This, supplemented with effortless long walks, constitutes an exercise barbell. (Location 2911)

“Make sure that the probability of the unacceptable (i.e., the risk of ruin) is nil.” Such a rule gets one straight to the barbell.† (Location 2921)

“An agent does not move except out of intention for an end,” is where the most pervasive human error lies, (Location 2943)

Optionality will take us many places, but at the core, an option is what makes you antifragile and allows you to benefit from the positive side of uncertainty, without a corresponding serious harm from the negative side. (Location 2961)

The worst side effect of wealth is the social associations it forces on its victims, as people with big houses tend to end up socializing with other people with big houses. (Location 2991)

And if you make more when you are right than you are hurt when you are wrong, then you will benefit, in the long run, from volatility (and the reverse). (Location 3007)

So the episode enlightened Thales about his own choices in life—how genuine his pursuit of philosophy was. He had other options. And, it is worth repeating, options, any options, by allowing you more upside than downside, are vectors of antifragility.* (Location 3026)

So consider the asymmetry. You benefit from lower rents, but are not hurt by higher ones. How? Because here again, you have an option, not an obligation. In a way, uncertainty increases the worth of such privilege. (Location 3049)

If you “have optionality,” you don’t have much need for what is commonly called intelligence, knowledge, insight, skills, and these complicated things that take place in our brain cells. For you don’t have to be right that often. All you need is the wisdom to not do unintelligent things to hurt yourself (some acts of omission) and recognize favorable outcomes when they occur. (The key is that your assessment doesn’t need to be made beforehand, only after the outcome.) (Location 3097)

“Life is long gamma.” (To repeat, in the jargon, “long” means “benefits from” and “short” “hurt by,” and “gamma” is a name for the nonlinearity of options, so “long gamma” means “benefits from volatility and variability.” (Location 3150)

By some mental domain dependence, people can spend money on, say, office furniture and not call it a “loss,” rather an investment, but would treat cost of search as “loss.” (Location 3286)

The error of naive rationalism leads to overestimating the role and necessity of the second type, academic knowledge, in human affairs—and degrading the uncodifiable, more complex, intuitive, or experience-based type. (Location 3313)

We are very likely to believe that skills and ideas that we actually acquired by antifragile doing, or that came naturally to us (from our innate biological instinct), came from books, ideas, and reasoning. We get blinded by it; there may even be something in our brains that makes us suckers for the point. (Location 3315)

I am not saying that for an individual, education is useless: it builds helpful credentials for one’s own career—but such effect washes out at the country level. Education stabilizes the income of families across generations. A merchant makes money, then his children go to the Sorbonne, they become doctors and magistrates. The family retains wealth because the diplomas allow members to remain in the middle class long after the ancestral wealth is depleted. But these effects don’t count for countries. (Location 3478)

So that is how I learned the lesson that price and reality as seen by economists are not the same thing. One may be a function of the other but the function is too complex to map mathematically. The relation may have optionality in places, something that these non-sentence-savvy people knew deep inside.* (Location 3558)

Tags: pink

Sometimes, even when an economic theory makes sense, its application cannot be imposed from a model, in a top-down manner, so one needs the organic self-driven trial and error to get us to it. For instance, the concept of specialization that has obsessed economists since Ricardo (and before) blows up countries when imposed by policy makers, as it makes the economies error-prone; but it works well when reached progressively by evolutionary means, with the right buffers and layers of redundancies. (Location 3606)

Optionality is Promethean, narratives are Epimethean—one has reversible and benign mistakes, the other symbolizes the gravity and irreversibility of the consequences of opening Pandora’s box. (Location 3618)

Expert problems (in which the expert knows a lot but less than he thinks he does) often bring fragilities, and acceptance of ignorance the reverse.* Expert problems put you on the wrong side of asymmetry. Let us examine the point with respect to risk. When you are fragile you need to know a lot more than when you are antifragile. (Location 3665)

There is a body of know-how that was transmitted from master to apprentice, and transmitted only in such a manner—with degrees necessary as a selection process or to make the profession more respectable, or to help here and there, but not systematically. And the role of such formal knowledge will be overappreciated precisely because it is highly visible. (Location 3796)

Knowledge formation, even when theoretical, takes time, some boredom, and the freedom that comes from having another occupation, therefore allowing one to escape the journalistic-style pressure of modern publish-and-perish academia to produce cosmetic knowledge, much like the counterfeit watches one buys in Chinatown in New York City, the type that you know is counterfeit although it looks like the real thing. (Location 3844)

When engaging in tinkering, you incur a lot of small losses, then once in a while you find something rather significant. Such methodology will show nasty attributes when seen from the outside—it hides its qualities, not its defects. (Location 4015)

Let me stop to issue rules based on the chapter so far. (i) Look for optionality; in fact, rank things according to optionality, (ii) preferably with open-ended, not closed-ended, payoffs; (iii) Do not invest in business plans but in people, so look for someone capable of changing six or seven times over his career, or more (an idea that is part of the modus operandi of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen); one gets immunity from the backfit narratives of the business plan by investing in people. It is simply more robust to do so; (iv) Make sure you are barbelled, whatever that means in your business. (Location 4053)

It is not well advertised that there is no evidence that abilities in chess lead to better reasoning off the chessboard—even those who play blind chess games with an entire cohort can’t remember things outside the board better than a regular person. We accept the domain-specificity of games, the fact that they do not really train you for life, that there are severe losses in translation. But we find it hard to apply this lesson to technical skills acquired in schools, that is, to accept the crucial fact that what is picked up in the classroom stays largely in the classroom. (Location 4101)

Some can be more intelligent than others in a structured environment—in fact school has a selection bias as it favors those quicker in such an environment, and like anything competitive, at the expense of performance outside it. Although I was not yet familiar with gyms, my idea of knowledge was as follows. People who build their strength using these modern expensive gym machines can lift extremely large weights, show great numbers and develop impressive-looking muscles, but fail to lift a stone; they get completely hammered in a street fight by someone trained in more disorderly settings. Their strength is extremely domain-specific and their domain doesn’t exist outside of ludic—extremely organized—constructs. In fact their strength, as with over-specialized athletes, is the result of a deformity. (Location 4160)

One day in the 1980s I had dinner with a famous speculator, a hugely successful man. He muttered the hyperbole that hit home: “much of what other people know isn’t worth knowing.” To this day I still have the instinct that the treasure, what one needs to know for a profession, is necessarily what lies outside the corpus, as far away from the center as possible. But there is something central in following one’s own direction in the selection of readings: what I was given to study in school I have forgotten; what I decided to read on my own, I still remember. (Location 4217)

I read Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy twice, first as a child when I was very green. The second time, after a life thinking of randomness, it hit me that Nietzsche understood something that I did not find explicitly stated in his work: that growth in knowledge—or in anything—cannot proceed without the Dionysian. It reveals matters that we can select at some point, given that we have optionality. In other words, it can be the source of stochastic tinkering, and the Apollonian can be part of the rationality in the selection process. (Location 4349)

Philosophers talk about truth and falsehood. People in life talk about payoff, exposure, and consequences (risks and rewards), hence fragility and antifragility. And sometimes philosophers and thinkers and those who study conflate Truth with risks and rewards. (Location 4412)

If you sat with a pencil and jotted down all the decisions you’ve taken in the past week, or, if you could, over your lifetime, you would realize that almost all of them have had asymmetric payoff, with one side carrying a larger consequence than the other. You decide principally based on fragility, not probability. Or to rephrase, You decide principally based on fragility, not so much on True/False. (Location 4423)

Black Swan event and how it affects you—its impact on your finances, emotions, the destruction it will cause—are not the same “ting.” And the problem is deeply ingrained in standard reactions; the predictors’ reply when we point out their failures has typically been “we need better computation” in order to predict the event better and figure out the probabilities, instead of the vastly more effective “modify your exposure” and learn to get out of trouble, something religions and traditional heuristics have been better at enforcing than naive and cosmetic science. (Location 4436)

The example is shown in Figure 9. Let us generalize. Your car is fragile. If you drive it into the wall at 50 miles per hour, it would cause more damage than if you drove it into the same wall ten times at 5 mph. The harm at 50 mph is more than ten times the harm at 5 mph. Other examples. Drinking seven bottles of wine (Bordeaux) in one sitting, then purified water with lemon twist for the remaining six days is more harmful than drinking one bottle of wine a day for seven days (spread out in two glasses per meal). Every additional glass of wine harms you more than the preceding one, hence your system is fragile to alcoholic consumption. Letting a porcelain cup drop on the floor from a height of one foot (about thirty centimeters) is worse than twelve times the damage from a drop from a height of one inch (two and a half centimeters). (Location 4533)

Let me explain the central argument—why fragility is generally in the nonlinear and not in the linear. That was the intuition from the porcelain cup. The answer has to do with the structure of survival probabilities: conditional on something being unharmed (or having survived), then it is more harmed by a single rock than a thousand pebbles, that is, by a single large infrequent event than by the cumulative effect of smaller shocks. (Location 4544)

For the fragile, the cumulative effect of small shocks is smaller than the single effect of an equivalent single large shock. (Location 4561)

If you earn more than you lose from fluctuations, you want a lot of fluctuations. (Location 4592)

So both persons have covered the exact same distance, in exactly the same time—same average. Castor, who walked all the way, presumably will not get the same health benefits and gains in strength as Polydeuces, who sprinted. Health benefits are convex to speed (up to a point, of course). The very idea of exercise is to gain from antifragility to workout stressors—as we saw, all kinds of exercise are just exploitations of convexity effects. (Location 4677)

As with the idea of having elephants as pets, squeezes are much, much more expensive (relative to size) for large corporations. The gains from size are visible but the risks are hidden, and some concealed risks seem to bring frailties into the companies. (Location 4705)

Just consider that the price of wheat more than tripled in the years 2004–2007 in response to a small increase in net demand, around 1 percent.* Bottlenecks are the mothers of all squeezes. (Location 4759)

So here is something to use. The technique, a simple heuristic called the fragility (and antifragility) detection heuristic, works as follows. Let’s say you want to check whether a town is overoptimized. Say you measure that when traffic increases by ten thousand cars, travel time grows by ten minutes. But if traffic increases by ten thousand more cars, travel time now extends by an extra thirty minutes. Such acceleration of traffic time shows that traffic is fragile and you have too many cars and need to reduce traffic until the acceleration becomes mild (acceleration, I repeat, is acute concavity, or negative convexity effect). (Location 4897)

The more nonlinear, the more the function of something divorces itself from the something. If traffic were linear, then there would be no difference in traffic time between the two following situations: 90,000, then 110,000 cars on the one hand, or 100,000 cars on the other. (Location 4987)

The more volatile the something—the more uncertainty—the more the function divorces itself from the something. (Location 4989)

Someone with a linear payoff needs to be right more than 50 percent of the time. Someone with a convex payoff, much less. The hidden benefit of antifragility is that you can guess worse than random and still end up outperforming. Here lies the power of optionality—your function of something is very convex, so you can be wrong and still do fine—the more uncertainty, the better. This explains my statement that you can be dumb and antifragile and still do very well. This hidden “convexity bias” comes from a mathematical property called Jensen’s inequality. This is what the common discourse on innovation is missing. If you ignore the convexity bias, you are missing a chunk of what makes the nonlinear world go round. And it is a fact that such an idea is missing from the discourse. (Location 5006)

So the central tenet of the epistemology I advocate is as follows: we know a lot more what is wrong than what is right, or, phrased according to the fragile/robust classification, negative knowledge (what is wrong, what does not work) is more robust to error than positive knowledge (what is right, what works). So knowledge grows by subtraction much more than by addition—given that what we know today might turn out to be wrong but what we know to be wrong cannot turn out to be right, at least not easily. If I spot a black swan (not capitalized), I can be quite certain that the statement “all swans are white” is wrong. But even if I have never seen a black swan, I can never hold such a statement to be true. Rephrasing it again: (Location 5063)

since one small observation can disprove a statement, while millions can hardly confirm it, disconfirmation is more rigorous than confirmation. (Location 5068)

The less-is-more idea in decision making can be traced to Spyros Makridakis, Robyn Dawes, Dan Goldstein, and Gerd Gigerenzer, who have all found in various contexts that simpler methods for forecasting and inference can work much, much better than complicated ones. Their simple rules of thumb are not perfect, but are designed to not be perfect; adopting some intellectual humility and abandoning the aim at sophistication can yield powerful effects. The pair of Goldstein and Gigerenzer coined the notion of “fast and frugal” heuristics that make good decisions despite limited time, knowledge, and computing power. (Location 5099)

I discovered that I had been intuitively using the less-is-more idea as an aid in decision making (contrary to the method of putting a series of pros and cons side by side on a computer screen). For instance, if you have more than one reason to do something (choose a doctor or veterinarian, hire a gardener or an employee, marry a person, go on a trip), just don’t do it. It does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason you are trying to convince yourself to do something. Obvious decisions (robust to error) require no more than a single reason. Likewise the French army had a heuristic to reject excuses for absenteeism for more than one reason, like death of grandmother, cold virus, and being bitten by a boar. If someone attacks a book or idea using more than one argument, you know it is not real: nobody says “he is a criminal, he killed many people, and he also has bad table manners and bad breath and is a very poor driver.” (Location 5143)

Note: Yes But this is a heuristic. It is not designed to be accurate it’s just there’s going to be expedient

Antifragility implies—contrary to initial instinct—that the old is superior to the new, and much more than you think. No matter how something looks to your intellectual machinery, or how well or poorly it narrates, time will know more about its fragilities and break it when necessary. Here, I expose a contemporary disease—linked to interventionism—called neomania, which brings fragility but I believe may be treatable if one is patient enough. What survives must be good at serving some (mostly hidden) purpose that time can see but our eyes and logical faculties can’t capture. (Location 5160)

Note: Like chiropractors

As shown from the track record of the prophets: before you are proven right, you will be reviled; after you are proven right, you will be hated for a while, or, what’s worse, your ideas will appear to be “trivial” thanks to retrospective distortion. This makes it far more convincing to follow the Fat Tony method of focusing on shekels more than recognition. (Location 5170)

Now, I insist on the via negativa method of prophecy as being the only valid one: there is no other way to produce a forecast without being a turkey somewhere, particularly in the complex environment in which we live today. Now, I am not saying that new technologies will not emerge—something new will rule its day, for a while. What is currently fragile will be replaced by something else, of course. But this “something else” is unpredictable. In all likelihood, the technologies you have in your mind are not the ones that will make it, no matter your perception of their fitness and applicability—with all due respect to your imagination. (Location 5193)

Technothinkers tend to have an “engineering mind”—to put it less politely, they have autistic tendencies. While they don’t usually wear ties, these types tend, of course, to exhibit all the textbook characteristics of nerdiness—mostly lack of charm, interest in objects instead of persons, causing them to neglect their looks. They love precision at the expense of applicability. And they typically share an absence of literary culture. (Location 5246)

This absence of literary culture is actually a marker of future blindness because it is usually accompanied by a denigration of history, a byproduct of unconditional neomania. (Location 5249)

Whether overtly or not, he will tend to acquire and respect historical knowledge, even if it is to reject it. And the past—properly handled, as we will see in the next section—is a much better teacher about the properties of the future than the present. To understand the future, you do not need technoautistic jargon, obsession with “killer apps,” these sort of things. You just need the following: some respect for the past, some curiosity about the historical record, a hunger for the wisdom of the elders, and a grasp of the notion of “heuristics,” (Location 5253)

For the perishable, every additional day in its life translates into a shorter additional life expectancy. For the nonperishable, every additional day may imply a longer life expectancy. (Location 5308)

The robustness of an item is proportional to its life! (Location 5321)

a technology, being informational rather than physical, does not age organically, like humans, at least not necessarily so. The wheel is not “old” in the sense of experiencing degeneracy. (Location 5347)

Much progress comes from the young because of their relative freedom from the system and courage to take action that older people lose as they become trapped in life. But it is precisely the young who propose ideas that are fragile, not because they are young, but because most unseasoned ideas are fragile. And, of course, someone who sells “futuristic” ideas will not make a lot of money selling the value of the past! New technology is easier to hype up. (Location 5351)

Next I present an application of the fooled by randomness effect. Information has a nasty property: it hides failures. Many people have been drawn to, say, financial markets after hearing success stories of someone getting rich in the stock market and building a large mansion across the street—but since failures are buried and we don’t hear about them, investors are led to overestimate their chances of success. The same applies to the writing of novels: we do not see the wonderful novels that are now completely out of print, we just think that because the novels that have done well are well written (whatever that means), that what is well written will do well. So we confuse the necessary and the causal: (Location 5359)

If you announce to someone “you lost $10,000,” he will be much more upset than if you tell him “your portfolio value, which was $785,000, is now $775,000.” Our brains have a predilection for shortcuts, and the variation is easier to notice (and store) than the entire record. It requires less memory storage. This psychological heuristic (often operating without our awareness), the error of variation in place of total, is quite pervasive, even with matters that are visual. We notice what varies and changes more than what plays a large role but doesn’t change. We rely more on water than on cell phones but because water does not change and cell phones do, we are prone to thinking that cell phones play a larger role than they do. Second, (Location 5370)

So, we can apply criteria of fragility and robustness to the handling of information—the fragile in that context is, like technology, what does not stand the test of time. The best filtering heuristic, therefore, consists in taking into account the age of books and scientific papers. Books that are one year old are usually not worth reading (a very low probability of having the qualities for “surviving”), no matter the hype and how “earth-shattering” they may seem to be. So I follow the Lindy effect as a guide in selecting what to read: books that have been around for ten years will be around for ten more; books that have been around for two millennia should be around for quite a bit of time, and so forth. Many understand this point but do not apply it to academic work, which is, in much of its modern practice, hardly different from journalism (except for the occasional original production). Academic work, because of its attention-seeking orientation, can be easily subjected to Lindy effects: think of the hundreds of thousands of papers that are just noise, in spite of how hyped they were at the time of publication. (Location 5506)

“As little as feasible from the last twenty years, except history books that are not about the last fifty years,” I blurted out, with irritation as I hate such questions as “what’s the best book you’ve ever read,” or “what are the ten best books,”—my “ten best books ever” change at the end of every summer. Also, I have been hyping Daniel Kahneman’s recent book, because it is largely an exposition of his research of thirty-five and forty years ago, with filtering and modernization. My recommendation seemed impractical, but, after a while, the student developed a culture in original texts such as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Hayek, texts he believes he will cite at the age of eighty. He told me that after his detoxification, he realized that all his peers do is read timely material that becomes instantly obsolete. (Location 5549)

By issuing warnings based on vulnerability—that is, subtractive prophecy—we are closer to the original role of the prophet: to warn, not necessarily to predict, and to predict calamities if people don’t listen. (Location 5568)

I surmise that those human technologies such as writing and reading that have survived are like the tile to the dog, a match between natural friends, because they correspond to something deep in our nature. (Location 5613)

But the reasoning does not hold in an informational dimension in which food is not just a source of energy; it conveys information about the environment (like stressors). The ingestion of food combined with one’s activity brings about hormonal cascades (or something similar that conveys information), causing cravings (hence consumption of other foods) or changes in the way your body burns the energy, whether it needs to conserve fat and burn muscle, or vice versa. Complex systems have feedback loops, so what you “burn” depends on what you consume, and how you consume it. (Location 5824)

If there is something in nature you don’t understand, odds are it makes sense in a deeper way that is beyond your understanding. So there is a logic to natural things that is much superior to our own. Just as there is a dichotomy in law: innocent until proven guilty as opposed to guilty until proven innocent, let me express my rule as follows: what Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise. (Location 5843)

We are built to be dupes for theories. But theories come and go; experience stays. Explanations change all the time, and have changed all the time in history (because of causal opacity, the invisibility of causes) with people involved in the incremental development of ideas thinking they always had a definitive theory; experience remains constant. (Location 5871)

I subsequently bought the same measuring tool and discovered that my blood pressure was much lower (hence better) than average, except once in a while, when it peaked episodically. In short, it exhibits some variability. Like everything in life. This random variability is often mistaken for information, hence leading to intervention. (Location 5925)

This is more serious than you think: it seems that medicine has a hard time grasping normal variability in samples—it is hard sometimes to translate the difference between “statistically significant” and “significant” in effect. A certain disease might marginally lower your life expectancy, but it can be deemed to do so with “high statistical significance,” prompting panics when in fact all these studies might be saying is they established with a significant statistical margin that in some cases, say, 1 percent of the cases, patients are likely to be harmed by it. Let me rephrase: the magnitude of the result, the importance of the effect, is not captured by what is called “statistical significance,” something that tends to deceive specialists. We need to look in two dimensions: how much a condition, say, blood pressure a certain number of points higher than normal, is likely to affect your life expectancy; and how significant the result is. (Location 5937)

So it is a serious error to infer that if we live longer because of medicine, that all medical treatments make us live longer. (Location 5988)

We have a few pieces of data from the small number of hospital strikes during which only a small number of operations are conducted (for the most urgent cases), and elective surgery is postponed. Depending on whose side in the debate you join, life expectancy either increases in these cases or, at the least, does not seem to drop. Further, which is significant, many of the elective surgeries are subsequently canceled upon the return to normalcy—evidence of the denigration of Mother Nature’s work by some doctors. (Location 5996)

So there are many hidden jewels in via negativa applied to medicine. For instance, telling people not to smoke seems to be the greatest medical contribution of the last sixty years. Druin Burch, in Taking the Medicine, writes: “The harmful effects of smoking are roughly equivalent to the combined good ones of every medical intervention developed since the war. … Getting rid of smoking provides more benefit than being able to cure people of every possible type of cancer.” (Location 6031)

Instead, they should be lecturing us about unhappiness (I speculate that just as those who lecture on happiness look unhappy, those who lecture on unhappiness would look happy); the “pursuit of happiness” is not equivalent to the “avoidance of unhappiness.” Each of us certainly knows not only what makes us unhappy (for instance, copy editors, commuting, bad odors, pain, the sight of a certain magazine in a waiting room, etc.), but what to do about it. (Location 6038)

If you take risks and face your fate with dignity, there is nothing you can do that makes you small; if you don’t take risks, there is nothing you can do that makes you grand, nothing. And when you take risks, insults by half-men (small men, those who don’t risk anything) are similar to barks by nonhuman animals: you can’t feel insulted by a dog. (Location 6320)

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Fat Tony has two heuristics. First, never get on a plane if the pilot is not on board. Second, make sure there is also a copilot. (Location 6341)

Predicting—any prediction—without skin in the game can be as dangerous for others as unmanned nuclear plants without the engineer sleeping on the premises. Pilots should be on the plane. The second heuristic is that we need to build redundancy, a margin of safety, avoiding optimization, mitigating (even removing) asymmetries in our sensitivity to risk. (Location 6351)

In fact, speculative risk taking is not just permissible; it is mandatory. No opinion without risk; and, of course, no risk without hope for return. If Fat Tony had an opinion, he felt he needed, for ethical reasons, to have a corresponding exposure. (Location 6362)

The central point: had Stiglitz been a businessman with his own money on the line, he would have blown up, terminated. Or had he been in nature, his genes would have been made extinct—so people with such misunderstanding of probability would eventually disappear from our DNA. (Location 6457)

Never ask anyone for their opinion, forecast, or recommendation. Just ask them what they have—or don’t have—in their portfolio. (Location 6482)

The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference. (Location 6489)

Decision making in the real world, that is, deeds, are Thalesian, while forecasting in words is Aristotelian. As we saw in the discussion in Chapter 12, one side of a decision has larger consequences than the other—we don’t have evidence that people are terrorists but we check them for weapons; we don’t believe the water is poisonous but we avoid drinking it; something that would be absurd for someone narrowly applying Aristotelian logic. To put in Fat Tony terms: suckers try to be right, nonsuckers try to make the buck, or: Suckers try to win arguments, nonsuckers try to win. To put it again in other words: it is rather a good thing to lose arguments. (Location 6506)

The Romans removed the soldiers’ incentive to be a coward and hurt others thanks to a process called decimation. If a legion loses a battle and there is suspicion of cowardice, 10 percent of the soldiers and commanders are put to death, usually by random lottery. Decimation—meaning eliminating one in ten—has been corrupted by modern language. The magic number is one in ten (or something equivalent): putting more than 10 per cent to death would lead to weakening of the army; too little, and cowardice would be a dominant strategy. (Location 6540)

Never put your enemy’s back to the wall. (Location 6554)

Now self-ownership for our horizontal friend was vastly more democratic than for his thinking predecessors. It simply meant being the owner of your opinion. And it has nothing to do with wealth, birth, intelligence, looks, shoe size, rather with personal courage. In other words, for Fat Tony, it was a very, very specific definition of a free person: someone who cannot be squeezed into doing something he would otherwise never do. (Location 6860)

the more complex the regulation, the more bureaucratic the network, the more a regulator who knows the loops and glitches would benefit from it later, as his regulator edge would be a convex function of his differential knowledge. (Location 6896)

First, the more complicated the regulation, the more prone to arbitrages by insiders. This is another argument in favor of heuristics. Twenty-three hundred pages of regulation—something I can replace with Hammurabi’s rule—will be a gold mine for former regulators. The incentive of a regulator is to have complex regulation. Again, the insiders are the enemies of the less-is-more rule. (Location 6901)

It is simply one with vested interests generalized to the public good—in which, say a hairdresser recommends haircuts “for the health of people,” or a gun lobbyist claims gun ownership is “good for America,” simply making statements that benefit him personally, while the statements are dressed up to look as if they were made for the benefit of the collective. (Location 6915)

The fooled-by-data effect is accelerating. There is a nasty phenomenon called “Big Data” in which researchers have brought cherry-picking to an industrial level. Modernity provides too many variables (but too little data per variable), and the spurious relationships grow much, much faster than real information, as noise is convex and information is concave. (Location 6982)

Departments need to teach something so students get jobs, even if they are teaching snake oil—this got us trapped in a circular system in which everyone knows that the material is wrong but nobody is free enough or has enough courage to do anything about it. (Location 7004)

More technically, we may never get to know x, but we can play with the exposure to x, barbell things to defang them; we can control a function of x, f(x), even if x remains vastly beyond our understanding. We can keep changing f(x) until we are comfortable with it by a mechanism called convex transformation, the fancier name for the barbell. (Location 7046)

Distributed randomness (as opposed to the concentrated type) is a necessity, not an option: everything big is short volatility. So is everything fast. Big and fast are abominations. Modern times don’t like volatility. And the Triad gives us some indication of what should be done to live in a world that does not want us to understand it, a world whose charm comes from our inability to truly understand it. The glass is dead; living things are long volatility. The best way to verify that you are alive is by checking if you like variations. Remember that food would not have a taste if it weren’t for hunger; results are meaningless without effort, joy without sadness, convictions without uncertainty, and an ethical life isn’t so when stripped of personal risks. (Location 7050)