Antifragility

Antifragility is just a special case of the fact, noted by Benjamin Franklin, that sloth consumes faster than labor wears, but it’s nice to have, courtesy of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a nifty term for it. Others have said similar things. For example, Nietzsche pointed out that what does not destroy you makes you stronger. By distinguishing between point-processes and protracted processes we can explain how and why the phenomenon of antifragility occurs. The explanation is based on the fact that protracted processes are immune to outliers. Indeed, the very term ‘outlier’ has no meaning for protracted processes. An outlier is, by its very nature, outside of the normal routine of things, but protracted processes, as a matter of normal routine, encounter, sooner or later, all possible values in their domain of application. But not being subject to outliers is a powerful position to be in. Now, consider what happens to a point-process that is under attack. It can disintegrate, or, if the attack is not too strong, morph into a protracted process. Protracted processes typically operate under thresholds much lower that those for point-processes, so a point-process morphing into a protracted process is very much like a duck-and-cover maneuver. Such a morph is inconvenient and uncomfortable, but brings with it the compensation of being free from outliers, and so the entity as a whole is stronger than before. This is what antifragility is all about, and what commentators down through the ages have accurately intuited.
keywords: proverbs, productivity, strength, improvement