The Jolly Contrarian’s Glossary
The snippy guide to financial services lingo.™
A coinage of fabulously argumentative writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, to be antifragile is to be neither fragile — breakable, delicate, post-millennial, snowflakey and susceptible to damage by agitation, nor robust (stout, sturdy and impervious to agitation) but strengthened by agitation. Immune systems, callouses, Nietzscheans — these are antifragile. We wonder whether the word Taleb claims not to exist is “resilience” — perhaps that just means “ability to recover from shocks” rather than “ability to benefit from them”, but it is close.
“Say you look at information on a yearly basis, or stock prices, or the fertilizer sales of your father-in-law’s factory in Vladivostok. Assume further that for what you are observing, oat a yearly frequency, the ratio of signal to noise is about one to one (half noise, half signal) — this means that about half the changes are real improvements or degradations, the other half come from randomness. This ratio is what you get from yearly observations. But if you look at the very same data on a daily basis, the composition would change to 95 percent noise, 5 percent signal. And if you observe the data on an hourly basis, as people immersed in the news and market price variations tend to, the split becomes 99.5 percent noise to 0.5 percent signal. That is two hundred times more noise than signal — which is why anyone who listens to news (except when very, very significant events take place) is one step below sucker.”