Incremental investments that add up to fine-grain, adaptable neighborhood are “antifragile”

The writings of Nassim Taleb inspired this post more than a year ago, and recently inspired Strong Towns writer Charles Marohn: “Today, after being able to read the Patron Saint of Strong Towns Thinking Nassim Taleb’s new book Antifragile, I am able to more fully grasp, and explain more succinctly, the concept I was struggling so hard to develop.

“A city built in the traditional development pattern — the human settlement approach used for millennia across geographies and cultures — has high upside and low downside.  In periods of robust growth, it will prosper.  In periods of stagnation and decline, it will not fall apart or implode but actually experience innovation and undergo renewal.  This is beyond resilience; it is antifragile.

In Taleb’s book he has a chart where he lists fragile and antifragile approaches across a broad spectrum of social endeavors, from finance to medicine.  The last entry is ‘urbanism’ where he lists: ‘Fragile: Robert Moses.  Antifragile: Jane Jacobs.’

“We have come to see the stagnation and decline of our blocks and neighborhoods as a normal part of the development process.  It is not.  The normal course of human development is for successful cities to mature incrementally over time.  When that occurs, they become financially resilient.  That is what literally thousands of years of human history tells us is the ‘normal’ pattern for cities; an incremental maturing process where prior investments are built on, expanded and enhanced over time.”

“As James Howard Kunstler wrote, so many American cities simply committed suicide.  It was self-inflicted damage, but injury was not the intention.  The goal was growth.  A community’s emphasis needs to shift from creating growth quickly and easily to building value in a broad and incremental way.”  Full post here.


Building urban neighborhoods by promoting their fundamental building block: small, adaptable buildings.

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