The theory of Entropy says that the total energy in a system is moving toward a state of random dissolution as time progresses. This would appear to make many common processes impossible. Life is the extreme example. Obviously, as life exists, there must be some aspect of entropy-laden energy systems that functions within a closed system, but which diverts some of the energy, in some way, to higher energy states.
While reading Nassim Taleb’s latest book Antifragility it became apparent that his concept of antifragility was related to standard entropy. He covers a lot of ground in the book, some of it very new, abstract and some mathematical. He may have already written what I am trying to describe here, and if he did his take is probably much better. He views various situations through his antifragile terminology and method. Obviously, I can’t convey what this profound thinker took a lifetime to figure out and say in a book, in a few of my words, but try I will.
In a mostly closed energetic system where multitudes of things are hopping around, apparently randomly, when one thing gains energy some other thing must lose it. The goal if one wants to gain energy for their own use is to arrange their interface with the system so that on average only desirable high energy things come through a designed portal, and on average undesirable low energy things are excluded. Just because things come through your portal doesn’t mean you have an increased energy state. The way Taleb describes it is to make the upside easy and unlimited if possible and the downside highly limited and defended against by being avoided. Thus when good things happen randomly we make progress, and when bad things happen randomly we don’t lose much. In his terminology, we make ourselves totally exposed to unlimited upward rare events and totally protected from rare negative events. The reason he works with rare events is because the other theorists, many with Nobel Prizes, just make their projections and decisions based on routine events, and because they use only that data they expose themselves to rare events. They place themselves in fragile positions where in the long run the rare event can destroy them and eventually will. Using Taleb’s method he is never hurt much by horrible events and makes tremendous progress with spectacularly good ones. Most other theorists have no way of factoring in rare events.
A real world example, which is applicable here in Bend, Oregon, is to avoid downhill skiing, which is very popular, but by this theory it should be avoided because there is no benefit to be had by success, other than momentary pleasure. Instead of skiing, join an improv group because in that venue to break a leg is a very positive thing with considerable upside potential for success. With skiing there is real risk of severe injury when one fails, but with improv the punishment for failure is only that the next person picks up the dialogue where you left off, and in a few moments you have another chance at growth and success.
Participate fully in things with unlimited upside and no downside, and avoid those with unlimited downside and little upside.