I’m finding lots of interesting nuggets from following author Matt Ridley recently. He just posted a review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (WSJ and blog versions). I have not read this book myself yet, but Ridley provides a synopsys of Taleb’s thesis which goes something like this: bottom-up trial and error produces more robust systems (anti-fragile, as in the title) compared to top-down planning and applied theory. Or, to quote Taleb, “We don’t put theories into practice. We create theories out of practice.”
I suspect my description is over-simplified as I am summarizing a longer review of a much longer book. However, Ridley includes a variety of Taleb’s examples from restaurant food and pharmacological medicines to the industrial revolution and the U.S. Federal Reserve. Any regular reader of my articles on innovation may think this kind of thesis fits nicely within my own experience and policies as far as driving innovation. They would be wrong.