Uncertainty, Gene Kelly and the chance of rain today


If you have seen the great Gene Kelly movie “Singing in the Rain” you intuitively get what it means to be anti-fragile. Just watch the song and dance with the same name as the movie.

Nassim Taleb suggests that there are three general positions in life when it comes to uncertainty. I will use a sudden rain storm as the illustrator. Imagine a man comes out of his house and “unexpectedly” gets caught up in a tremendous downpour on his way to work How do Taleb’s three uncertainty preparedness states apply? Perhaps as follows:

  • Fragile: He has no raincoat or umbrella. He gets incredibly drenched, gets pneumonia and dies.
  • Resilient: He has no raincoat but has an umbrella with him. So gets to work and his suit is okay, but his shoes are soaked and he gets a cold, but he is still able to put in a productive day’s work.
  • Anti-fragile: He has no raincoat but has the umbrella. However, he is Gene Kelly and gets filmed while making an incredible song and dance routine during the downpour. His movie goes on to win many awards and (paying) admirers.

Being anti-fragile means being able to take gainful advantage when an uncertain like event occurs. This topic of uncertainty, fragility and anti-fragility is not only esoteric, conceptual and nuanced it is emotionally and psychologically averse to many of us. How is this so? We minimize uncertainty’s unique significance by calling it risk.

For those of us (almost everyone – including myself) who need concrete anchors for conceptual matters, I give you Gene Kelly and “Singing in the Rain” as an excellent example of anti-fragility.

Enjoy the movie,  the song and dance, and be appreciative of what anti-fragility looks like.

Mark

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About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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