Consider the fate of Ioannis (John) and Georgios (George), two identical twin brothers, born in Cyprus (both of them), currently both living in the Greater London area. John has been employed for twenty-five years as a clerk in the personnel department of a large bank, dealing with the relocation of employees around the globe. George is a taxi driver.

John has a perfectly predictable income (or so he thinks), with benefits, four weeks’ annual vacation, and a gold watch every twenty-five years of employment.

He used to wake up on Saturday morning, the day when people stretch and linger in bed, anxiety free, telling himself life is good”—until the banking crisis, when he realized that his job could be made redundant.”
George, who lives on the same street as his brother, drives a black taxi—meaning he has a license for which he spent three years expanding his frontal lobes by memorizing streets and itineraries in Greater London, which gives him the right to pick up clients in the streets. His income is extremely variable.

Because of the variability of his income, he keeps moaning that he does not have the job security of his brother—but in fact this is an illusion, for he has a bit more.

This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is risky, that it is a bad thing—and that eliminating randomness is done by eliminating randomness.”

Artisans […] have some volatility in their income but they are rather robust to a minor professional Black Swan […]. Their risks are visible. Not so with employees, who have no volatility, but can be surprised to see their income going to zero after a phone call from the personnel department. Employees’ risks are hidden.

Thanks to variability, these artisanal careers harbor a bit of antifragility: small variations make them adapt and change continuously by learning from the environment and being, sort of, continuously under pressure to be fit.
Remember that stressors are information; these careers face a continuous supply of these stressors that make them adjust opportunistically.

—Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Antifragile.”

March 25, 2019