The term “antifragile” was coined by Nassim Taleb for coping with unknowable future problems. Generally people make things future proof by making them stronger, but the core idea of antifragile is to build into the original design the capacity to adapt to unknown situations that might arise. Of course predicting the unknowable appears to be a risky undertaking, but perhaps there are generalizations that would help.

When designing a house, for example, one could as part of the plan have a large room that could easily be divided into two or three smaller ones by having windows prearranged for that purpose, and have foundation walls under the floor where the potential walls would be placed. If these things are known during construction the arrangement of the doors and electrical wiring could be instantly available. There might be no extra cost, because it’s only the shape and arrangement of structures that must take some form in any building. Or alternatively the walls could be put in originally and then one or more could be easily removed as new needs arise. If there is the possibility of adding a new room to the back of the building, pre-plan where the halls, walls, windows, electricity, water and heating fixtures, sidewalks, stairs, and trees would be, and make those additions easy.

The point is to make the adaptations to different uses as easy as possible. One idea I like is using blank inner walls having shallow closets with wide swinging double-doors, so alternate shallow closets could be opened for totally different uses for the room. In a school setting a room could be converted in seconds from a preschool room to an adult lecture room dedicated to astronomy, or knitting, or study carrels.

The antifragile idea is cooperating with the unknowability of the future with adaptations to make possible and probable changes that may come along as easy as possible. In the example above of a house, the creation of smaller rooms or additional rooms is made easy. In the school example the change of use is made easy by changing the exposure on the walls.

When doing anything it is possible to apply the antifragile concept, so even if a thing is perfectly functional for one thing right now it might be perfectly functional for something else tomorrow or even in a few minutes. If your competition, and everyone is always in competition at some level, is locked into something that you can do as well, but he can’t change and you can, then you have extra opportunities to benefit from new circumstances and be successful where he fails. Everyone sees the obvious opportunities that are available, and prepares a dedicated plan to take advantage of them, but no one can know the exact future, so having a plan to adapt quickly, even automatically, to change will benefit with change. The person who is locked into things remaining exactly as they are will eventually fail, because if anything is certain it is that things will change.