Good Health: Beyond Resilience?

Dirk Campbell July 2015


I have just been reading one of those rare books whose central concept seems so important and so universally applicable that one wonders why no-one thought of it before. It is a very simple observation and, like gravity and evolution, very obvious in retrospect; one realises that it has actually been around for ever but not previously identified.

The observation in question is that all living systems possess a capacity, for which there is no word in the English language, for self-strengthening in response to stress or impact. This capacity goes beyond resilience, which is merely the ability of a system to retain its integrity. The book is by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Black Swan (nothing to do with the ballet movie but a book about the profound effects of the unexpected) and because there is no term for its central concept he has been forced to coin one: 'antifragility'. (The title of the book is 'Antifragile'.) It's not a good word, because it references its opposite; it's like calling strong 'anti-weak', or weak 'anti-strong'. But until someone comes up with a better word it will have to do. Read more...