How Antifragility Increases Bitcoin’s Survivability

Let’s talk about antifragility: what it is, its consequences and how it relates to bitcoin and the dollar.

The term antifragile was first coined by Nassim Taleb. In the following quote, Taleb outlines the qualities of antifragile systems:

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

In the context of economics, antifragility suggests economies that are free of government protection, such as tariffs, subsidies and bailouts, are stronger and more efficient than economies that operate with government protection, which are fragile.


Whenever the government props up a company, that company becomes reliant on the government to stay in business. Companies could also begin to behave more irresponsibly, making highly-risky decisions, knowing that if something unfortunate happens, it could always go to the government for help. In a case like this, the government, the economy and the company’s resources are not being allocated to their best use, resulting in a fragile economic system.

To put antifragility in a real-world context, think about the immune system. When your body becomes infected with germs and bacteria, you get sick. But then your immune system strengthens to fight those germs and, on the other end, you have a healthier body. But if you were to stay huddled in your house and never go outside, you would have a fragile immune system and the first illness you encounter could be enough to cause a more serious illness.

The same idea is also true for an economy. An economy operating with government protection is fragile, inefficient and prone to crash. A prime example is the 2008 financial crisis. The 2008 crisis is pretty complicated, so to keep this as simple as possible, let’s talk about how it started. During the housing boom, banks were issuing risky, subprime mortgages because government-backed agencies, like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, wanted to buy those mortgages and sell them to investors as mortgage-backed securities. Fannie and Freddie knew these mortgages were risky, but they kept buying them anyway because they were also high-yielding. And Fannie and Freddie knew that if they ever took on too much risk and got into trouble, they could fall back on the government.


But, how does this apply to fragility and our immune system analogy?

Well, think of isolating yourself in your house as the government backing Fannie and Freddie. The more risky investments Fannie and Freddie took in, the more they depended on the government and the more fragile they became to possible shocks. And when that shock came in 2008, they both broke down. Their stock values dropped by more than 99%, several banks they sold securities to went under and millions of Americans lost their homes.


So, the big question: how could antifragility have prevented the financial crisis? If the government wasn’t backing Fannie and Freddie, they wouldn’t have been willing to take on those high-risk loans. Instead, they would have invested in safer loans, like the 30-year mortgage. This would have resulted in more sustainable growth.

But how are the dollar and bitcoin related to fragility and antifragility?

The dollar is in the circle of government control so the government has the power to print and manipulate the currency however it pleases. This is how the Federal Reserve was able to bail out Fannie and Freddie. It just printed the money the agencies needed to stay afloat.

But Bitcoin doesn’t work this way. Bitcoin is programmed to be decentralized and finite, so a single institution can’t gain control of it and print more coins into existence. If the U.S. was operating with Bitcoin, the government couldn’t offer financial protection to anyone. This means businesses would have to behave responsibly to survive because they would understand that there is no government safety net to fall back on. Free market economies are naturally antifragile, but central institutions corrupt the free market by controlling and manipulating the currency and providing favors for well-connected industries and companies. Bitcoin just maintains the natural antifragility of the free market.

In addition to Bitcoin preserving antifragility, Bitcoin is also antifragile in its own nature.

Bitcoin uses open source peer-to-peer technology, meaning anyone with an internet connection can access Bitcoin. So if anyone tries to manipulate the currency, it can be quickly addressed by other people on the network. This is what makes Bitcoin so unique. It operates on a vast network of computers, so anyone can audit its supply and transfers at any time. This is the opposite of fiat currency, which is centrally managed behind closed doors. No one knows if, when or how a fiat currency is being manipulated. We are all simply told to stop asking questions and trust the higher-ups at the Federal Reserve.

Bitcoin transfers that freedom, power and knowledge back to the people. And whenever someone tries to take that power from us, Bitcoin adapts and improves, maintaining its decentralized and finite nature.


This quote by Parker Lewis sums up Bitcoin’s antifragility perfectly:

“While it is easy to fall into a trap, believing Bitcoin to be untested, unproven and not permanent, it is precisely the opposite… each time proving to be up to the challenge and emerging from each test in a stronger state.”

This is a guest post by Siby Suriyan. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.


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Taleb Vs. Taleb: A Question Of Time, Lindy And Portfolios

I joined Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s very extensive block list about two years ago. It’s not a very exclusive crowd and many more erudite people than me have received the patented “Imbecile” tweet that signals an imminent Taleb block. My crime? I had quoted “Antifragile” back at him in an argument over something I can no longer remember. (I proudly cherish the screenshot of the last tweet I ever saw of his).


For his Bitcoin nonsense released in June 2021 — the paper ‘Bitcoin, Currencies, and Fragility’ (an earlier version used “Bubbles” in the title instead of “Fragility”) — we might repeat the exercise of quoting his own words back at him.

Mr. Taleb, prone to making extravagant claims and denouncing everyone from journalists and politicians to economists and foreign policy experts, now seems to have joined the ranks of other well-known Bitcoin skeptics: Robert Shiller, Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, and — somewhat puzzlingly — the world’s foremost expert on hyperinflations, Steve Hanke. Worse is that Taleb might be one of the first vocal supporters to unlearn what he once knew, or perhaps pretended to know; in 2018 Taleb wrote the preface to Saifedean Ammous’ “The Bitcoin Standard”.

Many people further down the rabbit hole than Taleb took apart his impressive-sounding but surprisingly fragile paper (I can highly recommend Louis Rossouw’s take or Sevexity’s piece). A brief summary of the paper’s argument is:

  • Bitcoin failed to be a currency because currencies need stable prices and price fixing.
  • It’s a lousy store of value.
  • It lacks the properties of an inflation hedge.
  • And because of a non-zero probability of hitting the absorbing barrier of worthlessness, its present value is therefore zero.

These are, as Robert Solow once said in an Ely Lecture fifty years ago: “words, all words.” 

Which, by Taleb’s own admissions, do not matter. All that matters is what’s in somebody’s portfolio, per his own rule in his book, “Skin in the Game”: “Don’t tell me what you ‘think,’ just tell me what’s in your portfolio” (p. 4). Or, “Those who talk should do and only those who do should talk.” (p. 28).

One of several areas where I think Taleb’s ideas approach Austrian economics is the “Action Axiom” – that actions speak louder than words; that talk is cheap and therefore unreliable; and that valuation comes from doing, not saying. When was the last time Taleb transacted using bitcoin, I wonder? Has he ever tried buying his macchiato using the Lightning Network? Did he ever write code or build something that uses Bitcoin?

A few chapters into this otherwise great book (published around the same time as his infamous preface to “The Bitcoin Standard”) we get a personal anecdote. Taleb tells of once having to comment on stocks in a TV roundtable discussion:

“The topic of the day was Microsoft, a company that was in existence at the time. Everyone, including the anchor, chipped in. My turn came: ‘I own no Microsoft stock, I am short on Microsoft stock, hence I can’t talk about it.’ I repeated my dictum of Prologue 1: Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you have in your portfolio.’” (p. 63)

So, do we trust the man’s twenty-odd years of writing and living according to the ethics and arguments explored in his books, “Fooled by Randomness,” “Antifragile,” or Skin in the Game”? Or do we throw that seriously-contemplated and well-argued body of work overboard in favor of some brief Twitter anger and the intellectual acceptance of his fellow Bitcoin critics? Though perhaps he is staying true to his skin-in-the-game argument and is actually short a lot of BTC. But then, per his own rules, he would have to say so publicly.

In the preface to Saifedean’s book, Taleb wrote:

“Bitcoin will go through hick-ups. It may fail; but then it will be easily reinvented as we now know how it works. In its present state, it may not be convenient for transactions, not good enough to buy your decaffeinated espresso macchiato at your local virtue-signaling coffee chain. It may be too volatile to be a currency, for now. But it is the first organic currency.”

He saw then the very same problems that he now echoes in his new paper to establish bitcoin’s long-term value at zero. But in 2018 he didn’t think those same problems were problems. He didn’t see them as insurmountable challenges, but rather technical issues that could and would be overcome. Cue growing widespread adoption since then, 400% price increase, a functional Lightning Network and a multisig revolution in the makings. But Taleb, the king of contrarians, does a one-eighty just when the rest of the world is catching on.

An Expert Called Lindy

Another argument that pervades Taleb’s writing is that time is the ultimate test of everything. Short term, you can fool your accountant or your regulators. For a surprisingly long time you can even fool large political audiences. But you cannot fool reality. If you plant fragilities, given enough time, they blow up. Reality is the ultimate arbiter.

The only thing that matters, Taleb repeatedly taught me, is time. So far, Bitcoin has survived everything thrown at it and the industry surrounding it is thriving.

Twelve years from inception to a $1 trillion market cap is ludicrously fast. We’ve used money on and off for about 5,000 years, commodity money with a layer-2 banking system for some 500, and floating fiat currencies run by megalomaniac central bankers for about 50. Taleb is at his most persuasive when he chants the Lindy effect – the tendency of things that have already endured the test of time to last even longer. Again from “Skin in the Game,” an awfully convenient Taleb-busting book, we get “time is the expert” (p. 140) and “the only effective judge of things is time” (p. 142).

It seems odd, then, to denounce Bitcoin as untested and insufficiently proven in 2021, when in 2018 the very same Lindy-wielding probability theorist wrote:

“Which is why Bitcoin is an excellent idea. It fulfills the needs of the complex system, not because it is a cryptocurrency, but precisely because it has no owner, no authority that can decide on its fate. It is owned by the crowd, its users. And it has now a track record of several years, enough for it to be an animal in its own right.”

You publicly denounced Bitcoin, Nassim, as is your prerogative. But it’s all okay. Your contributions are your great books, not your poorly argued paper or the occasional pompous TV appearance. “Impeccable work,” writes Scott Raines, “does not imply personal infallibility.”

For those achievements — and despite your human flaws — we, the Bitcoin community, thank you.

This is a guest post by Joakim Book. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.


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What Do Bitcoin, Antifragility And Fantasy Football Have In Common?


“Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar, mathematical statistician, and former option trader and risk analyst, whose work concerns problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Life is a constant stream of decisions, the outcomes of which shape our futures. In this constant churn of decisions, we seek to improve our odds against the inevitability of randomness, whenever possible. We want to make well-informed decisions to best position ourselves to benefit from these external uncertainties. All people use this probabilistic approach in their daily lives, whether it is realized or not, i.e., “If I want the best outcome, should I do X or Y? Which one has the higher probability of a favorable outcome? That’s the one I choose.”

In order to make a decision, you need to focus on the consequences (which you can know) rather than the probability (which you can’t know) — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

As it turns out, Bitcoin believers and fantasy football players are kindred spirits when it comes to making decisions that benefit from chaos. Bitcoiners and a certain sect of fantasy football drafters are both betting on probabilistic outcomes using the same foundational principle. A principle that was conceived and popularized by scholar, mathematical statistician, and former risk analyst, Nassim Nicholas Taleb. That principle is called “antifragility.”

Qualities of the antifragile are outlined by Taleb as follows:

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors. Yet in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”


As exposure to stressors accumulate over time, the “fragile” break, but the “antifragile” grow stronger.

In recent years, many fantasy footballers gravitated towards a new drafting strategy, popularized by Shawn Siegele in 2013. That strategy is called “Zero-RB” drafting. Simply put, not drafting any running back position players until the later rounds in their drafts.

How Does The “Zero RB” Draft Strategy Work?

The aim for the Zero RB draft strategy is to utilize your early round, higher draft capital on players with less downside risk. Since the running back position experiences significantly more injuries than other player positions, Zero RB drafters look to avoid spending high draft capital on players that carry added risk. Instead, they load up on positions with more favorable risk profiles in early rounds, like the wide receiver. This allows them to use the middle and late rounds of drafts to take a bunch of antifragile bets, by accumulating low-cost, high-upside running backs.

Not only does avoiding drafting running backs in early rounds minimize risk exposure, but taking a bunch of late-round dart throws at Running Backs pays off at a higher risk/return rate than any other position. Why? Because running backs disproportionately benefit from the highly fragile landscape that the NFL offers. Like any antifragile bet, mid-late round running backs benefit from chaos, disorder, and/or random events like multi-week or season ending injuries. These events can cripple a fantasy team, and break what once seemed like a well-balanced roster construction.

“Running backs are at the highest risk of injury, and their injuries average significantly longer in length than any other position.” — Michael Gertz,

Some direct examples of the NFL’s highly fragile landscape:

  • Player sustains injury in training camp.
  • Player sustains multi-week or season-ending injury.
  • Player fails a drug test; suspended multiple weeks.
  • Rookie player outshines expectations; unseats incumbent player.
  • Player has a psychotic breakdown and gets released by multiple teams.
  • Player involved in sexual assault allegations, put on Commisioner’s exempt list rendering him unable to play.

Those that gain from these fragile circumstances are not typically the teams that drafted running backs in the early rounds. Instead, many of these fragile events increase the probability that a Zero RB roster construction is the winning strategy. These multi-week or season-ending injuries cause the running backs accumulated in the mid-late draft rounds to increase in value, as it becomes more likely that they crack the starting lineup for their team.

These players are the low-risk, high-upside bets that you want to have made in the wake of “Black Swan” events. They are the backups, the rookies, and the players with freak athletic profiles who’s opportunities to accrue fantasy points for your team are about to increase significantly in the face of chaos.

TL;DR: The Zero-RB strategy is simple. Flip fragility on it’s head, and find a way to benefit from it. Build an antifragile roster in a fragile NFL landscape.


What Does This Have To Do With Bitcoin?

The strategic balancing of economic incentives has allowed Bitcoin to achieve something that has never before been achievable by humankind; absolute scarcity. A provably finite supply which is easily verifiable, and openly displayed to anyone across the world.

Bitcoin may be the most significant alignment of computer science, economics, and game theory ever discovered. Since 2009, its network has continued to grow consistently and globally. Bitcoin’s core value proposition is not that you can pay people instantly and cheaply. It’s not coming for the likes of PayPal or Visa. It’s coming for store of value assets like gold, real estate, or fine art, and eventually the U.S. dollar. Bitcoin is being accumulated by investors because they are recognizing that not only does it have similar monetary properties to gold, but that bitcoin significantly outperforms them across most of those measures. It also offers a few additional properties that we’ve never seen before in a monetary asset. Being purely digital information, bitcoin is incredibly portable, highly divisible, and openly programmable.

“Macro investor Paul Tudor Jones is buying Bitcoin as a hedge against the inflation he sees coming from central bank money printing, telling clients it reminds him of the role gold played in the 1970s.” — Bloomberg

As of today, the opportunity cost is low because we are still early in Bitcoin’s technology adoption cycle. While being early also does mean it carries more risk, the potential upside if bitcoin succeeds in becoming an internet-native global money significantly outweighs that downside. It’s a strategy that Nassim Taleb would say has highly favorable “asymmetry.” Taleb explains this opportunity as follows:

“Antifragility implies more to gain than to lose, equals more upside than downside, equals (favorable) asymmetry.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb


In contrast to Zero RB draft strategy, where players seek to accumulate running backs in the later stages of a draft, Bitcoiners seek to accumulate bitcoin in the early stages of its technology adoption life cycle.

In similarity to Zero RB draft strategy, where players seek to construct an antifragile roster, Bitcoiners seek to accumulate bitcoin, strengthening their position in the face of a precarious and highly uncertain surrounding environment.

When you’re allocating some of your money into bitcoin, no matter how big or small your holdings, you’re placing an antifragile bet. It is a bet that bitcoin has the properties, qualities and ability to outperform other store of value assets, and forms of money. Bitcoin also carries the much lower probability outcome of replacing the U.S. dollar as the global monetary base in the longer time horizon. The potential returns in these scenarios highly outweigh the current opportunity cost, creating an investment opportunity with asymmetric upside potential.

Why Does Bitcoin Benefit From Fragile Events?

Bitcoin is programmable. This allows it to adapt, maneuver around and overcome the roadblocks that it faces. Bitcoin is an antifragile choice that exists inside a fragile complex system, just like the injury-wrought fantasy football landscape. It is antifragile because it runs on a decentralized, globally-distributed network of computers and is built with open-source code that is fully verifiable to any and all observers. This assures that two key rules stay in place:

  • RULE #1: There will never be more than 21 million bitcoin. The entire supply must be openly auditable by anyone.
  • RULE #2: No one can change Rule #1 without an overwhelming consensus from 51% of the network’s users.

Bitcoin does not merely just resist change with these rules. Each failed attempt also means that Bitcoin adapts, improves, and belief in its permanence grows stronger as a result.

For a deeper dive into the specific traits that make Bitcoin so antifragile, I highly recommend reading Parker Lewis’ series “Gradually, Then Suddenly”.

Here is a quick snapshot:

“Its decentralized and permissionless state eliminates single points of failure and drives innovation, ultimately ensuring both its survival and a constant strengthening of its immune system as a function of time, trial and error. Bitcoin is beyond resilient. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the Bitcoin network gets better. While it is easy to fall into a trap, believing Bitcoin to be untested, unproven and not permanent, it is precisely the opposite. Bitcoin has been constantly tested for going on 12 years, each time proving to be up to the challenge and emerging from each test in a stronger state.” — Parker Lewis

On A Long Enough Timescale…

The timescale for the antifragile bets of fantasy football players to play out is about 17 weeks, the length of the NFL regular season. However, for Bitcoin the timescale is unknowable and indefinitely extending. One potential timescale to consider for context might be the historical timeline of world reserve currencies, visualized below:


The reserve currency transition is a cycle that has typically lasted in history somewhere between 80 to 110 years. The U.S. dollar has been the official global reserve currency for 73 years now.

As it stands today for Bitcoin, we’re currently in the late rounds of the draft. As more time goes by, assuming Bitcoin continues to strengthen and gain adoption, the opportunity cost becomes higher. Today, it might cost you a twelveth or thirteenth round pick for some bitcoin. In a few years, you might be paying up with your first rounder.

TL;DR: The Bitcoiner’s strategy is simple. Flip fragility on it’s head, and find a way to benefit from it. Build an antifragile portfolio in a fragile financial landscape.


Zero RB drafters and Bitcoiners are both using the same decision-making principle (antifragility) to aid them in decision making amongst inevitable randomness. They put faith in provable math instead of human error. Each uses computer science as a tool for enhancing their decision making, in the hopes of increasing their odds of an advantageous future outcome.

As Tyler Winklevoss has said of himself and other Bitcoiner believers:

“We have elected to put our money and faith in a mathematical framework that is free of politics and human error.” — Tyler Winklevoss


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Roubini and Taleb tell CoinGeek conference data matters, not tokens

Economist Nouriel Roubini and former risk analyst Nassim Taleb took aim at crypto at the CoinGeek conference this week, while the always controversial Craig Wright boasted that the BSV blockchain was on track to hit billions of transactions a second.

Taleb, the author of best-selling economic books Black Swan and Skin in the Game, was a controversial addition to the lineup of the CoinGeek Conference in Zurich and came under fire on social media for giving BSV legitimacy.

Roubini meanwhile, offered a “greatest hits” version of his of attacks against crypto, familiar from crypto conferences prior to the pandemic.

“There is no reliability, no regulation, no AML, no KYC. [Crypto] is used by terrorists, money launderers, human traffickers, criminals, tax evaders.”

Roubini argued that cryptographic tokens — which includes BSV presumably — are unnecessary and should be isolated from the value of the decentralized data verification enabled by blockchain technology.

“Data is very valuable, it’s the new oil,” he explained, lamenting that “99%” of the fintech application “has nothing to do with cryptocurrencies.” What is needed, Roubini explained, is a service that is “reliable, that stores the data, says who owns it and who pays for it.”

Taleb followed Roubini on the panel, agreeing that the data utilities enabled by cryptocurrency should be understood as a separate phenomenon to the cryptographic tokens issued by many blockchain projects. He shared his belief that those who need crypto and those who can use it are not aligned, adding:

“Who needs cryptos? Well, criminals need cryptos, except it doesn’t work for them.”

Related: Bitcoin’s usefulness is on a whole other level, depending on where you live

The host attempted to get the panel back on track asking Taleb if he agrees that “BTC does not represent what the Bitcoin Whitepaper describes.”

In response, Taleb admitted he thinks Bitcoin in its current form does not resemble the whitepaper, but countered that “the currency in the whitepaper may not be what we are looking for.”

NChain’s chief scientist, Craig Wright, talked up BSV, asserting it was “never designed to be a currency, it’s digital cash” and went on to make the claim:

“We will have a billion transactions a second in a few years, and then we will do one trillion a second.”

As you might expect, those Bitcoiners who did tune in were hate watching the broadcast, including YouTuber “BTC Sessions” who shared that they only “hopped on the stream for a second just to give it a thumbs down.”

Wright’s chief critic Arther van Pelt also tuned in to throw stones and tweeted that the panel was receiving very little viewership, calling it a “clown show.”