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October 2, 2021

Becoming Antifragile in the Pursuit of Knowledge

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Despite significant technological and scientific progress in the study of physics, time, and space, it looks like we still have a long way to go before we ever truly understand the impact of what we are looking for. 

When exploring the origins of the universe and the nature of everything we see and know, in what ways have we exhausted our pursuit for scientific inquiry? How can we improve the way we study such an important part of our existence? Is it possible to become too data-driven in our search for meaning?

Jason suggests that we continue to fall short of understanding the universe because we’ve never pursued a proper relationship with the subject matter. This could be the case; plenty of social studies call for the researchers to immerse themselves in the communities they study. Since we acknowledge the universe as a dynamic, living, and breathing entity, this could be a new take to an ages-old problem.

Exploring The Green Lumber Fallacy

According to a book entitled Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Green Lumber Fallacy points to one’s incapacity to truly understand the implications of what they know and how to use it. It is rooted in the idea that while we may be focused on the right issues, we may not yet be capable enough to fully comprehend its complexity.

Indeed, our desire for knowledge is going in the right direction. But are we looking at it in the right perspective? Alexander points out that while 99 percent of our universe is composed of material we can’t see, “we’re looking at one percent, maybe less—and think we’re bad-ass, and we have the answer for all of it.”

“That's like, I have the ocean on earth. I've taken out one droplet of water. One. I'm going to study it and say all of the fundamental rules of the universe and everything sits right here in this one drop, because I can see it.” he continued.

Must We Bend Before We Break?

The author of Antifragile, further, explores the concept of antifragility: things that are not just resilient to disorder, but are dependent on it for growth and development.

Parallels can be drawn between antifragility and the scientific method. This is because the constant search for knowledge requires that researchers are always open to the possibility of having their hypotheses disproven. With such a massive universe left to comprehend and explore, it would be a step backward for humanity to assume that we already have all the tools, equipment, and mindset required to uncover the truth. 

It’s on us to continuously question the methodologies we’ve set for ourselves. Are we maximizing our progress when we take the conservative approach? Do we still give ourselves room for creativity? 

Beyond exploring the big cosmic question, modern advancement has taken an aggressive view and approach to nature. Our thirst for development has led us to create sprawling urban jungles that have taken over large swathes of lush greenery. We’ve replaced rivers, forests, and habitats with rock-hard concrete and gas-belching machinery. 

It’s time to be more discerning of what we leave behind when we reach for the stars.

How We Can Refocus Becoming Antifragile

TARTLE goes beyond the surface to bring two human parties together. It’s a platform that gives people the opportunity to support experiences they may have never been exposed to otherwise.

The benefit is twofold: the first is in the transfer of skills and knowledge between communities who become invested in a common cause. The second is the capacity for these causes to look for alternative sources for funding, from people and entities that they would never have been able to reach without the platform.

Antifragility is a constant test of our character, especially when we’re exposed to lived realities that are so different from ours. However, it’s also an important part of the authentic human experience. Underneath the chaos of sharing this world with 7.6 billion other people are simple hopes, dreams, and aspirations—a chance to find common ground and empowerment in our common humanity.

Feature Image Credit: Envato Elements

For those who are hard of hearing – the episode transcript can be read below:


Alexander McCaig (00:06):

The darkness, the vast of night.

Jason Rigby (00:10):

Luke, I am your father.

Alexander McCaig (00:12):

The cosmological chasm.

Jason Rigby (00:14):

The dark side. The cosmological... chasm. Chasm.

Alexander McCaig (00:17):


Jason Rigby (00:17):

I always say chasm [crosstalk 00:00:19]. If your name's Chad and you have a polo, a Ralph Lauren polo shirt on, you're kind of done... blonde hair.

Alexander McCaig (00:31):

It's over at that point.

Jason Rigby (00:33):

No one likes a Chad.

Alexander McCaig (00:34):

I hang out on the outer banks.

Jason Rigby (00:35):

Kind of taking this whole 2020 with Karen, watching those crazy racist ladies.

Alexander McCaig (00:41):

The ebb and flow of society. And speaking of that, of people getting shit wrong, let's talk about when physics gets it wrong, okay?

Jason Rigby (00:53):

When physics gets it wrong.

Alexander McCaig (00:56):

How could I ever make such an excellent claim?

Jason Rigby (00:58):

We're going to get into that. Well, somebody made a claim and did something, but let's back up the bus, and then let's get into gravitational waves, and the existence of that. This happened in February 2016 and we found that there's ripples in space and time, produced by massive black holes. I want to know where these-, every universe says black holes. I want to know where they come from. Why are they there? Why are they in the middle of the universe?

Alexander McCaig (01:26):

Is it just so much mass pulling into itself? Well, wouldn't a star form? And then, oh, wait a minute, my black hole, did that come from a dead star?

Jason Rigby (01:33):

Einstein predicted these 100 years ago, but we actually saw them and discovered them.

Alexander McCaig (01:40):

How many people predicted the things, but we didn't have the technology to show that it existed?

Jason Rigby (01:44):

Isn't that wild?

Alexander McCaig (01:46):

He's not the only one, he's just well cited.

Jason Rigby (01:48):

And I think, and this was in 2012. Since the mid 1960s physicists have a position that a fundamental particle ought to exist, that would complete the standard model of particle physics.

Alexander McCaig (01:59):

Since 19-, for 60 years? They'd been looking for something to answer it all.

Jason Rigby (02:04):

The roadmap to the subatomic world.

Alexander McCaig (02:07):

Now that we're atomic, we figured out the atomic bomb, we got to go subatomic.

Jason Rigby (02:11):

The Higgs would explain why leptons another fundamental particle have mass. A machine consisting of billions of dollars, the large-

Alexander McCaig (02:19):

Large Hadron Collider.

Jason Rigby (02:20):

Right. Which is near Geneva, Switzerland. Isn't this CERN? Is the Large Hadron Collider in CERN?

Alexander McCaig (02:27):

Yeah, it's CERN

Jason Rigby (02:28):

These discoveries share common thing. They should just say that fundamental physics is on a roll, and that the foundational theory submitted by the end of the 1970s are perfectly consistent with the data we're now seeing.

Alexander McCaig (02:37):

Okay. What do you mean, physics is on a roll? You created a giant circular tube to smash stuff together.

Jason Rigby (02:46):

Once again, here's humans. We just had a concrete about smashing stuff.

Alexander McCaig (02:50):

I don't understand.

Jason Rigby (02:50):

Why are we Mario Brothers with nature?

Alexander McCaig (02:52):

That's all we are, all the time. That's a really good comment, why is it that we feel like we need to destroy things to move forward?

Jason Rigby (03:00):

Yeah, I've never understood that.

Alexander McCaig (03:02):

What is with that? I don't get it. What is what that nature of us needing to destroy or just curb nature to bend to our will so that we can progress?

Jason Rigby (03:11):

Well, this article, this is on aon.co. The writer says this, "but I'm not being entirely honest, when I say everything is working out so well-".

Alexander McCaig (03:23):

It's not working out well.

Jason Rigby (03:25):

"While physicists have been busily verifying ideas devised in the past century, we've made almost no progress in figuring out where to go in this one".

Alexander McCaig (03:34):

It's been 60 years. What are you doing for 60 years? Material? 99% of our universe is stuff you can't see. And we're looking at 1%, maybe less. And think we're bad-ass, and we have the saw, we have the answer for all of it. That's like, I've I have the ocean on earth. I've taken out one droplet of water. One. I'm going to study it and say all of the fundamental rules of the universe and everything sits right here in this one drop because I can see it.

Jason Rigby (04:09):

I don't want to get too-, but the whole idea, this is where science pisses me off. This whole idea where you have to be sterile and separate, and wear a lab coat, and have an ape in a cage separate, and you've got to wear gloves and everything. You won't understand things until you have a relationship with them. Big difference, if you understood 0.001% of your fiance, and you just focused on getting really, really, really good at loving her at the 0.001%.

Alexander McCaig (04:43):

How she clips or toenails.

Jason Rigby (04:45):

Yeah, how she clips her toenails, and then you learn and you watch it, and you get exactly perfect. And to the tee, you can clip her toenails, absolutely amazingly precise and accurate.

Alexander McCaig (04:57):

But then define her for who she is by how she clips her toenails.

Jason Rigby (05:00):

Yes. And then how you can clip her toenails better.

Alexander McCaig (05:05):

I know who you are as a human being judging by how you clip your toenails. And I can tell you right now I can do it better, and that makes you lesser than me.

Jason Rigby (05:12):

And I'm going to create a whole theory on your fiance based off of her clipping her toenails. [crosstalk 00:05:20] So I'm going to create these abstract ideas and say when you cross over with your right hand to your left foot-.

Alexander McCaig (05:27):

What does that say about your psychological state?

Jason Rigby (05:29):

Yes, exactly.

Alexander McCaig (05:30):

Are you kidding me? We are focusing on how people do this and oh, wait a minute. It's not just the action, Jason. Now we've got to study the toenail, the clipping itself.

Jason Rigby (05:38):

Yeah. And the precise tool that you use.

Alexander McCaig (05:41):

And I need to spend billions of dollars, and I need to smash toenails together in this giant ring in Switzerland, because I need a black hole of toenails. I need to understand the God particle that sits in there, also sits in the toenail.

Jason Rigby (05:55):

And the article says, this is funny, "in fact, we are at a complete loss at how to explain some of the most fundamental, but baffling observation of how our universe behaves". Because we don't have a relationship with the universe.

Alexander McCaig (06:10):

We have no relationship with nature.

Jason Rigby (06:11):

You don't know how something behaves until you have a relationship with it.

Alexander McCaig (06:15):

You know what this reminds me of with data? Let me tell you. I don't understand how people behave, because I have no real objective evidence of it. I don't have a relationship with those people, so I need to assume that in some sort of statistical likelihood of my abstract mathematics, that this is how people will act. And with great theoretical probability of my math, I can say that that person has a 70% chance of taking a left turn and buying that purse. What? Are you kidding me? You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to sit here across the table, I'm going to put that person on a microphone, and I'm going to ask them what they're going to do. I'm going to ask them how they think. I'm going to have a relationship with that human being. I'm going to have a relationship with nature because that's what a human being is. We are nature. We're bound by it. All of our particles sit within it.

Alexander McCaig (07:06):

Why is it that we're coming up with all of these ideas, that lack any sort of evidence whatsoever. And then we synthesize this idea and then try and apply it to everything. And like Young said, "you statistically flatten the value of what it means to be a human being". If we're doing that with humans, we're going to do it with science. And if we do it with science in the material sense, we're doing that with nature. And if you flatten nature, then what is left? Is there anything special about it? Or do you say that my subatomic particles in my lepers, or I don't even know what the heck the thing was called.

Jason Rigby (07:39):

There there's a certain physicist. I won't mention his name.

Alexander McCaig (07:42):

Thank you for stopping me, I was on a rant.

Jason Rigby (07:44):

This is just going to back what you said. A certain physicist said this, and it's in the article, aon.co, you can look at this. He said, "when you don't have data to help you-". And he was advising his colleagues to get creative. "Pretend that they are experiments and calculate". He said this in the 1950s, at a time when there are a few observations that would probably put restraints on the theory of general relativity. So, here's the situation, when you don't have enough data, so let's get creative and be in the lab and just make up some abstract ideas and then run tests off those abstract ideas.

Alexander McCaig (08:19):

And then after we've done that, let's get some math to support it.

Jason Rigby (08:23):

So can you, because you've shared this with me and I think it's really interesting and people need to understand this. Can you explain the ant, the trunk, and the limb? I think this is a great analogy to do that.

Alexander McCaig (08:34):

The grand metaphor for life. Let's pretend that these theoretical physicists are an ant on the trunk of a tree. They're on the bottom, they're albeit quite small in terms of scale, relative to the size of the tree. They also do not have the ability to look very far ahead of them. The distance in sense of scale, an inch might look like a mile, right? So as I'm climbing up this trunk, how would I know if I've tapered off onto a branch?

Alexander McCaig (09:15):

What I thought I was seeing in my limited view, limited perspective of reality that, oh, I found something. This is interesting. Let me continue to follow it. And what I found that, because I can't see far ahead, I've gone down off of this branch on the tree. And then through that, that branch begins to split off some more.

Alexander McCaig (09:36):

And I'm walking as an ant. And I think I got it all made for myself. And then I'm like, oh, this, this must be a law because I have found a law that I thought was fundamental, let me go test it. Oh, I've hit a branch. And so here's the testing happening.

Alexander McCaig (09:50):

And then as that splits more and I travel further and further down, I still think that I am on the trunk of the tree, the actual foundational truth of this creation or universe that we're sitting in, of nature. And what I do is I say, okay, if I think I'm here, but I'm not, because I'm so far out and I have a limited view size, I'm going to start to create math that fundamentally supports me being out on this branch. And because I am on some sort of derivative of the truth, I need to explain that and say, I'm going to take the derivative and have it define the truth for everything else.

Alexander McCaig (10:28):

And when I'm out there, I'm going to use abstract mathematics and statistics to say, this is fundamentally the truth of the universe. And I'm going to keep dividing things down from atoms to subatomic particles, to string theory and all that other stuff, which I have no fundamental proof of it being existing. But theoretically, my math can show that it must be there. Well, sure it does. And you will spend all of your time completely lost on that branch and further away from the trunk of the tree, where the real knowledge actually sits.

Alexander McCaig (10:55):

And you think that the thing on the branch defines what happens on the trunk. Well, guess what? All that energy, all that force of life in nature sits here in the trunk, which feeds the branch. And last I checked, trees are self pruning. So what happens when it decides to drop that branch? What are you left with when you thought it was a fundamental truth, but in theory, strictly in theory, you were just working on something that was so abstract that you tried to prove it, and you were so lost because the shift of your perspective was not actually where it needed to be.

Jason Rigby (11:23):

Yeah, I think you can see that. We've talked about this before, but you can go hiking, and you get one small degree off and then you hike for five miles and see where you're at.

Alexander McCaig (11:34):

That's correct. So if you don't have a fundamental guidance of these things, you're going to go down a rabbit hole, but that rabbit hole will never define the real nature of the universe.

Jason Rigby (11:46):

So you're saying we have to shift our perspective?

Alexander McCaig (11:48):

I'm saying we need to go back, go back to the basics. If you cannot explain the basics, if you cannot explain the universe simply, and clearly, you fundamentally do not understand it. If it requires abstract math to prove a point, you fundamentally do not understand creation as a whole. You do not understand nature. Nature does not want to be complex. It looks complex because it's an interconnected web of simplicities. And because we lack an idea of simplicity, we create complexity and then web that out.

Jason Rigby (12:27):

Complexity comes from not understanding.

Alexander McCaig (12:30):

That's precisely correct.

Jason Rigby (12:31):

You can see that in any system. We all love the Anti-Fragile book. He talks about that very specifically. Something that's anti-fragile, it needs the storms. If the storm doesn't break it, it just becomes stronger. So it's the same with the tree, if you have no wind, they say to take your house plants and shake them, and do different things like that. But why are you doing that? You're not being abusive to a house plant. You're actually strengthening it.

Alexander McCaig (13:01):

Yeah, you're, removing it from this artificial sterile environment because it's in your house. That's what your house is. And you're trying to reenact nature. It doesn't matter if it's theoretical physicists or a world-class, and they define that for themselves, marketing firm or a fortune 500 company.

Alexander McCaig (13:21):

The way you've been looking at data or the universe is in the aspect of a theoretical physicist. You are creating these ideas and tools and algorithms and synthesized data sets to say that this is how the world works.

Alexander McCaig (13:38):

You have fundamentally eradicated the individual aspects of nature that make it beautiful, that make human beings beautiful. And you coin us all to be exactly the same because you do not want to take the time to have a relationship with these things.

Alexander McCaig (13:55):

You want to take the conservative approach, and assume everything is the same. You want to polarize the world in that direction. And when you've done that, you've eradicated creativity. You've eradicated the evolution of your mind, society, states, nations, and yourself.

Jason Rigby (14:12):

Because what happens when you begin to build a relationship? I don't want to get too-, if you begin to build a relationship with nature, instead of pulverizing it, and Mario Brothering it, and smashing everything. And you begin to build a relationship with it, and it was a symbiotic relationship where there was give and take, take and give, back and forth. What begins to happen with these systems that we've built? That's the fear of man is that we've crushed our way to this ape-like comfortable society that we built that is wrong. And now we're at this point to where we are becoming more self-aware and the planet's not sustainable to what we've done, and how are we going to change it? That's the question.

Alexander McCaig (15:02):

But I thought all of our technology and all of the evolution of our policy as nations have grown so much, we've advanced. All you've done is you have taken an aggressive view against nature. You have destroyed it to put down parking lots everywhere, and to find a border around that parking lot. You've done it to human beings. And what you have lacked the realization of, is that you are crippling the thing that supports you in your own life. You taking those actions and thinking you're great, is only a reflection of your lack of understanding of who you are and your understanding of others.

Jason Rigby (15:43):

So to wrap this up, Tartle.co.

Alexander McCaig (15:46):

I don't want to wrap this up. I want to talk about this for another hour.

Jason Rigby (15:49):

Tartle.co. I'm going to kind of shift in our big 7 and use human rights, because we're talking about the planet. I think it would be easy to get into climate stability, but a person taking 100% responsibility for the planet, a person taking 100% responsibility for another human. These are that relationship. These are things that can change, I hate to use this word, but our paradigm of what we view of what has been happening, not what we view, but what has actually been happening.

Jason Rigby (16:23):

How does Tartle play a role in human rights when it comes to our symbiotic relationship with nature?

Alexander McCaig (16:32):

We did not create a tool that synthesizes an understanding. It's not some sort of fake, theoretical idea. We created a tool that brings two human parties together, and ask them to find understanding amongst themselves. And through that understanding, there is a gain that is achieved. One is knowledge, and one is in the economic sense. And then from that, when you understand somebody else, as much as you can understand yourself, and that relationship in between, you have begun to evolve, you respect the rights of those people and what you realize is that all these false ideas that you thought made us different, those drift away. Those branches fall off the tree, those false ideas. And you begin to respect the rights of that human being because they are a human being.

Alexander McCaig (17:24):

And then from that, not only are you going to them and building that relationship, but you can also ask them to come back around full circle and put those earnings towards things that matter for the protection of those human rights, for a deeper understanding of those human rights. Because when we understand one another, we can find simplicity in life. We can get rid of the chaos. We can get rid of this ideology of making nature bend to our will, or other human beings bend to our will. We can respect them for the individuals that they are in this complex system of an interconnected web built on simplicities.

Jason Rigby (17:58):

So Tartle.co, if we wanted to help climate stability, human rights, how would you do that?

Alexander McCaig (18:03):

You go to Tartle.co, you sign up, you share your data, you get paid and you donate it to charities you care about.

Speaker 3 (18:17):

Thank you for listening to Tartlecast with your hosts, Alexander McCaig, and Jason Rigby. Where humanity steps into the future, and source data defines the path. What's your data worth?