Over at Reason Nick Gillespie interviews (video and transcript) best-selling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a former trader and hedge fund manager, and a groundbreaking theorist on risk and resilience. He is also a finance professor at New York University and a research scholar at Oxford. He has some great insights about why systems fail and why decentralized systems are more resilient than centralized systems. An excerpt from the transcript:
Taleb: To cite the great Yogi Berra, a good antifragile system is a system in which all mistakes are good mistakes. And the bad system is one, again to paraphrase Yogi Berra, where you tend to make the wrong mistakes. Let’s compare the banking system to, say, transportation. Every plane crash makes the next plane crash less likely and our transportation safer. Now, with the banking system, [a failure] leads to increased probability of failure of an entire system. That’s a bad system.
reason: What’s the best way to stop that so you’re not allowing the problem to replicate throughout the system?
Taleb: What fragilizes an overall system? Three things: One, centralization. Decentralization spreads mistakes, makes smaller mistakes. Decentralization is where we converge with libertarians. A second one is low debt. The third is skin in the game.
I’ve just acquired The Black Swan and will most likely buy Antifragile when I finish with that. Links to the books below. I highly recommend reading the interview transcript (or watch the video, 56 minutes. Your choice but I can read faster). Links to the books below.