Prepared? When Ebola hits your town you will want to be antifragile.

Back in July, I was pointing out my concern about air travel between Africa and Texas.

Then some time passed.

Back on September 8th, thinking about my personal situation, I asked the following questions: 

    At what point do we implement:
  •         tele-commuting
  •         home schooling
  •         top off the farm tanks
  •         close the gate
  •         no guests
  •         staycation

    Do I wait until Ebola cases confirmed in USA?

    Do I wait until Ebola cases confirmed in my state?                           

    Do I wait until Ebola cases confirmed in my city?

    Do I wait until Ebola cases confirmed in my neighborhood?

Then some more time passed.

Well, now that Ebola has actually traveled on a plane from Africa to my home state of Texas, thanks to our government's inaction, I can eliminate the first two questions.  Let's discuss some practical steps we all might take at this point.  For the sake of this article, I will assume that many ZH readers have made at least some zombie-apocalypse preparations, maybe even along the lines of my article from 2012, Fear we are returning to a time in history where it is a common occurrence to fight for one's life? 

Item 2

Develop a basic mindset.  Here are some ideas.  Commit to prepare for zombies, so that currency collapse, EMP, hurricanes, revolution, world war, [edit: Ebola Pandemic] or anything else will seem relatively mild.  Understand that the time to make a plan and prepare is before, not after a zombie invasion.  Understand that there is no way you can plan or prepare for every contingency, but doing something today goes a long way to peace of mind, and eliminating any regrets should the shit actually hit the fan.  Realize that everything is likely to cost more next year, if you can get it, so better to buy it now.  Acknowledge that nobody really knows if, what, when, or how anything in the future is going to is all just speculation.  Finally, always remember that, "on a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero," so don't get too worked up, or go into debt, just because of this little exercise in paranoia.


One place we do tend to start our preparations is by trying to define the peril, or perils.  Today, the obvious one is infection of myself, or family member, by the Ebola virus.  But is that really the biggest peril?  Maybe a bigger risk, for me, is financial.  How might my business be affected by quarantine?   Maybe, if someone in my family were dependent on dialysis, then the big peril is a collapse of the healthcare system, like in Liberia.  Maybe, if the local grocery clerks decide that they would rather not risk infection for $7.50/hour, the big peril is starvation.  Maybe, if others don't have food to eat, and I do, the big peril is looters.  Maybe, our current government will never let a good crisis go to waste, and the biggest peril is to our freedom.  Maybe, Taleb is correct, and we would all be better off if we stop trying to predict what exactly the Black Swans will be (not likely), when a Black Swan will arrive at our doorstep (less likely), and instead we start trying to be more antifragile, as described in his book of the same name.

"Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better."

Apart from option straddles on airline stocks, and going long MIC leaps, how can I become more antifragile?  By thinking about Ebola arriving in my home state, I may have discovered that it isn't as difficult as it sounds, although becoming antifragile is not something that we can do in a hurry.

Sure, over the last month, I topped off the propane and diesel tanks on the farm.  Why?  First, it is easy, because I already have the tanks, and I already have an account with the suppliers, so all I had to do was make a couple of phone calls.  Second, if our prayers for the best work out, then I am not out anything, because I will use the fuel over time.  Third, if delivery drivers start thinking twice before going to work, and gas stations start closing down for lack of fuel, I will have options, and will not be put into the perilous situation of searching for fuel and waiting in lines to get a little.  Taleb doesn't say this, exactly, but my interpretation is that being antifragile is mostly about having some good options when shit goes down in unexpected ways, as it always does.  As an aside, what can you do if you don't have a farm or farm tanks?  You could seek advice from the fuel can oracle.

I admit that I also made sure we have plenty of examination gloves, masks, gowns, rubber boots, and decontamination supplies.  But does that make me more or less antifragile?  Would I really benefit from having these things if Ebola cases started popping up in our school district?  We do not have the inventory to sell these supplies, and if we did, I would just give them away, rather than profit from others misery.  I guess it comes down to one's definition of benefit, and interpretation of antifragile.

In reality, I feel that most of the actions I can take to be more antifragile are long-term lifestyle actions, habits, not quick fixes or purchases in a panic.  For example, as you all know, we live on a small farm where we grow healthy food for our familyWe exercise regularly, and are not on any medications.  We take our personal defense seriouslyWe take some responsibility for our children's education.  We work on strengthening our relationships with each other.  We seek to remove the middlemen from our lives through disintermediation.  I believe that these are some practical ways to be more antifragile, although Taleb might disagree with me on several accounts, and so may you, dear reader, in the comments below.

Have we pulled the kids from school, closed the farm gates, and started an extended staycation because there is an African Ebola patient in Dallas?  No.  Have we stopped eating out at restaurants, traveling in airplanes or any public transportation, and consuming sugar in amounts that weaken our immune systems?  Yes.

Peace be with you!