The Green Lumber Problem, outlined in Nassim Taleb’s upcoming book Antifragile, is essentially misunderstanding which facts are relevant vs those which are not in regards decision making under uncertainty.
“In one of the rare noncharlatanic books in finance, descriptively called What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars, the protagonist makes a big discovery. He remarks that a fellow called Joe Siegel, the most active trader in a commodity called “green lumber” actually thought that it was lumber painted green (rather than freshly cut lumber, called green because it had not been dried). And he made a living, even a fortune trading the stuff! Meanwhile the narrator was into theories of what caused the price of commodities to move and went bust.
The fact is that predicting the orderflow in lumber and the price dynamics narrative had little to do with these details —not the same ting. Floor traders are selected in the most nonnarrative manner, just by evolution in the sense that nice arguments don’t make much difference.”
Just spotted Nassim Taleb’s upcoming book Antifragile on Penguin Books UK website. The website shows a different cover to the stacked boxes in the post below, and has a different subtitle “How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand” which would presumably be for the UK market. Publish date appears to be 27th of November 2012.
In his global bestseller The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb explained the existence of high impact rare events beyond the realms of normal expectations. In his new book, Antifragility, Taleb goes much further. He tells us how to live in a world that is unpredictable and chaotic, and how to thrive during moments of disaster. Antifragility is about loving randomness, uncertainty, opacity, adventure and disorder, and benefitting from a variety of shocks. It is a new word because it is a new concept.
Many of the greatest breakthroughs in human endeavour come from the trial and error that is part of antifragility. And some of the best systems we know of, including evolution, have antifragility at their heart. Medicine, economics, even politics, could all be improved by embracing it. Our failure to realize this has even led to many huge historical misunderstandings about religion and belief.
So, how can we take advantage of antifragility? Taleb ranges over ideas and real-life situations, from why debt brings fragility, to why if we lose nothing we will gain nothing, to show that chaos makes us human. The most successful of us, the most daring, relentless and creative will take advantage of this disorder and invent new, more powerful opportunities and advantages beyond our expectations.
Antifragile joins the previous works of Nassim’s continued exploration of the concepts of risk, uncertainty, probability, and decision making (plus many others threads), all under the umbrella of how to live in a world we don’t understand. “It’s all the same book” he has said before. I appears he has turned his works into a trilogy of sorts The INCERTO (The Works on UNCERTAINTY: Antifragile, The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness,The Bed of Procrustes), which a snippet about from the Prologue is below:
INCERTO, an investigation of luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making under opacity, expressed in the form of personal essay with autobiographical sections, parables, philosophical, historical, and scientific discussions in non-overlapping volumes that can be accessed in any order.
Antifragile cannot come soon enough!
EDIT: He is also currently allowing the viewing of Notes, Afterthoughts, and Bibliography, and also the Appendix I and Appendix II(these are draft versions and therefor “cannot be disseminated or quoted.” so these are linked to the originals and may be removed at any time (hint: save them quckly!))
Nassim gave this talk in April 2012 and if I am not mistaken it was the first official public introduction of the concept of Antifragile, however at the time Nassim had planned to call the book “Antifragility” and later changed it due to concerns from the publisher.
I love the introduction, asking the audience for the opposite of fragile. I have heard him do this a number of times when he first started introducing the idea, and everybody always says “robust”. The issue is now as the idea enters the common discourse he can no longer do this introduction. A good problem to have I guess.