Fragile / Resilient

Fragile           -           Resilient
Optimism      -           Hope
Simple           -           Complex
Abstract         -           Concrete
Ideal              -           Real

[...] what makes a complex adaptive system resilient is its learning and transformational capabilities, not its ability to merely resist a shock.

As phrased by Folke: “[R]esilience is not only about being persistent or robust to disturbance. It is also about the opportunities that disturbance opens up in terms of recombination of evolved structures and processes, renewal of the system and emergence of new trajectories”

Resilience enables the system to cushion the effects of unforeseen disturbances by absorbing the shock and adapting to changing conditions, thus bouncing not back but forward to a more advanced level better suited for future hazards.

[Rasmus Dahlberg]
'Resilience and Complexity: Conjoining the Discourses of Two Contested Concepts', Culture Unbound, Vol. 7, p. 545, 553

Consider all the different manifestations of pressure on a system, which Taleb calls the “disorder brothers”: uncertainty, variability, imperfect knowledge, chance, chaos, volatility, disorder, entropy, time, the unknown, randomness, turmoil, stressors, error.

If something doesn’t “like” any one of these, it’s not going to like the others (and will therefore be short-lived before failure). On the other hand, if something is made stronger by these, it is antifragile—and therefore also displays the “Lindy” effect (the longer it lasts, the longer it is expected to continue lasting).

The insights are useful to check the ambitions of modern power. Should we trust a model that recommends engineering drastic change in the atmosphere, or should we defer to and protect the Earth’s proven, inscrutable systems of climactic balance? Should we tinker with DNA to design a new kind of pest-resistant crop, or should we respect the nucleic wisdom encoded in long-proven varieties?

Risk management’s “precautionary principle” can be understood as respecting essential systems that are Lindy and making sure one doesn’t interfere with whatever makes them antifragile: solve world hunger with better distribution logistics (low downside, huge upside), not by playing God with crop genes (huge possible downside).

In social life, this suggests a bias in favor of traditionalism (including respect for religion) as well as encouragement for experimenters and entrepreneurs (tinkerers, who actually try new technology, not scientists and economic “experts” who merely theorize).

In political organization, it shows the wisdom of localism—or what Taleb calls “fractal localism,” to distinguish it from simplistic decentralization [...] Political community is healthiest when people making decisions also have the most at stake in their outcomes (“skin in the game,” the title of Taleb’s fifth book).

[Joshua P. Hochschild]
'Optionality and the Intellectual Life: In Gratitude for the Real World Risk Institute'

If progressive ideologies have dwindled down to a wistful hope against hope that things will somehow work out for the best, we need to recover a more vigorous form of hope, which trusts life without denying its tragic character or attempting to explain away tragedy as "cultural lag."

We can fully appreciate this kind of hope only now that the other kind, better described as optimism, has fully revealed itself as a higher form of wishful thinking. Progressive optimism rests, at bottom, on a denial of the natural limits on human power and freedom, and it cannot survive for very long in a world in which an awareness of those limits has become inescapable.

The disposition properly described as hope, trust, or wonder, on the other hand - three names for the same state of heart and mind - asserts the goodness of life in the face of its limits. It cannot be defeated by adversity. In the troubled times to come, we will need it even more than we needed it in the past.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.530

When a specific concept or feature is encoded by a specific neuron, that concept or feature would be lost should that specific neuron be damaged.

However, when the representation is distributed, no specific feature of the network is tied to any specific neuron. Should neurons be damaged, it would degrade the overall operation of the network only slightly. The more distributed the network, the more graceful the degradation.

Robustness [resilience] may be less important to a system that has to deal with idealised abstractions, but it is vital for a system that has to deal with the contingencies of the real world.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.70

Related posts:
Sailing the Turbulent Seas
Do Not Disturb