February 1, 2016

Naseem N Taleb in India speaking on risk and anti fragility

"Humans get acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is good because that is how we grow. Chronic stress kills you. It never leaves room for recovery.'' So a person who always walks on smooth surfaces will eventually get repetitive stress injury. Someone who walks on uneven ground never faces that risk.

Two Cypriot brothers — one a cab driver and the other an employee at an insurance company— were affected differently during the economic crisis. The 57-year-old who worked in the in in the insurance firm was laid off and rendered jobless for pretty much the rest of his life.

He was also unprepared to face his personal crisis because he was never affected by volatility. The cab driver was used to ups and downs in income throughout his life and was much better prepared for the recession. It is a central error to lower risk by reducing variability.

"(Alan) Greenspan had it in his mind that the economy needed finetuning to reduce variability. When you don't go boom and bust, after some time things will collapse," Taleb said, alluding to the crisis of 2008. Safety technologies and methods develop quickly after every air accident. "The US had 22 million flights without a single crash,'' he said.

That is because airline companies are quick to strengthen and innovate to prevent such incidents, making it very safe to fly. In contrast, banks fail repeatedly because every time they crash, governments come to their rescue, not allowing them to learn and adapt from their mistakes. That is also what happens to companies that have strategic plans.

They become "prisoners" to them. They don't give themselves flexibility to tear up the plan and benefit from changes in the environment.

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