The Volk Project – Workers, Order and Anti-fragility

One of the most original thinkers of the 21st century is that of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The concept of Anti-fragility that he has helped to define has deeply informed our thinking and motivations here at the Volk Project.

Simply, there is fragility, robustness and Anti-fragility.

Fragility relates to those things or systems or ideas that are harmed by chaos, randomness, disorder, shocks or unforseen events.

Robustness relates to that which endures relatively unscathed the aforementioned chaos, or which bounces back to it’s original states.

Anti-fragility, on the other hand, is that which gains from chaos, randomness, disorder, shocks or unforseen events.

The distinctions are not trivial.

Fragility in the ancient world can be best defined in the tale of the Sword of Damocles,

“The famed “Sword of Damocles” dates back to an ancient moral parable popularized by the Roman philosopher Cicero in his 45 B.C. book “Tusculan Disputations.” Cicero’s version of the tale centers on Dionysius II, a tyrannical king who once ruled over the Sicilian city of Syracuse during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. Though rich and powerful, Dionysius was supremely unhappy. His iron-fisted rule had made him many enemies, and he was tormented by fears of assassination—so much so that he slept in a bedchamber surrounded by a moat and only trusted his daughters to shave his beard with a razor.

As Cicero tells it, the king’s dissatisfaction came to a head one day after a court flatterer named Damocles showered him with compliments and remarked how blissful his life must be. “Since this life delights you,” an annoyed Dionysius replied, “do you wish to taste it yourself and make a trial of my good fortune?” When Damocles agreed, Dionysius seated him on a golden couch and ordered a host of servants wait on him. He was treated to succulent cuts of meat and lavished with scented perfumes and ointments. Damocles couldn’t believe his luck, but just as he was starting to enjoy the life of a king, he noticed that Dionysius had also hung a razor-sharp sword from the ceiling. It was positioned over Damocles’ head, suspended only by a single strand of horsehair. From then on, the courtier’s fear for his life made it impossible for him to savor the opulence of the feast or enjoy the servants. After casting several nervous glances at the blade dangling above him, he asked to be excused, saying he no longer wished to be so fortunate.”

Robustness in the ancient world is typified by the Phoenix, the mythical fire bird that died and was reborn in flame, always returning to that original state of unimaginable beauty and grace for which it was known.

Robustness or Endurance are the concepts that most people are familiar with and think of as the opposite of fragility, which is understandable as there is no single non-composite word that expresses the true idea of Anti-fragility, that which gains from disorder.

Anti-fragility has a parallel as well in the ancient world.

The hydra.

Whenever a head was cut off from the hydra, it didn’t just regrow, it grew two more.

The more that people tried to kill it, the worse a monster it became. It was only by using fire to disrupt the regrowth process that it was able to be killed in the ancient stories by Hercules.

In our time, we have many ordered and extremely fragile systems, especially in relation to the workers.

There are many concerns to take into account and factors to be discussed but even while there is an abundance of jobs, there is much uncertainty and fragility in regards to them.

There will be more recessions in the future, there will be chaos and volatility and unforeseen events. As in the past, what is to say that those patterns of human behavior that lead to economic collapses will not repeat themselves in some way?

The answer is not to merely hope for the best or even build robust businesses, but rather, build Anti-fragile systems and labor.

That is one of our internal strategies, and as we build the future, we look to that which has endured in the past, and let the wisdom of the ancients guide us.

#guide #antifragile #blackswan #book #volk #volkapp #getvolk #chaos #sky #bluecollar #blue #tech #systems #order #hydra #phoenix #sword #Hercules

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