DOI: 1808.00065Jul 31, 2018Paper

(Anti)Fragility and Convex Responses in Medicine

Nassim Nicholas Taleb


This paper applies risk analysis to medical problems, through the properties of nonlinear responses (convex or concave). It shows 1) necessary relations between the nonlinearity of dose-response and the statistical properties of the outcomes, particularly the effect of the variance (i.e., the expected frequency of the various results and other properties such as their average and variations); 2) The description of "antifragility" as a mathematical property for local convex response and its generalization and the designation "fragility" as its opposite, locally concave; 3) necessary relations between dosage, severity of conditions, and iatrogenics. Iatrogenics seen as the tail risk from a given intervention can be analyzed in a probabilistic decision-theoretic way, linking probability to nonlinearity of response. There is a necessary two-way mathematical relation between nonlinear response and the tail risk of a given intervention. In short we propose a framework to integrate the necessary consequences of nonlinearities in evidence-based medicine and medical risk management. Keywords: evidence based medicine, risk management, nonlinear responses

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