A River of Thought » GPP13 2013-03-07 00:11:48

The Contents of this package are….

…Liable to break or be broken…

Like a twig, your mother’s prized china, or your child’s toothpick art project

…Easily snapped or shattered…

Like a birds wing, a wine glass, or the window when introduced to the baseball.

…weak, perishable, easily destroyed…

Like flesh, tropical fruit, or important documents too close to a bonfire.

…in need of special treatment.

Why label packages this way?  What is it we want to happen with the contents?

I would argue that the labeler is interested in ensuring that the contents of this package reach the intended destination Just as They Are.  No rough handling, nothing should change, extra care should be taken to avoid sudden shocks, unpleasant experiences, or generally harsh conditions.  A great goal if the contents of the package are a glass vase you are sending to your grandmother but what if that you have labeled as “FRAGILE” is a bit less physical.

Why has the graphic of a globe been included in the label?  Could it be possible that we are considering all things on our globe fragile?  I don’t think so but it brings to mind several points that Taleb is making in his book Antifragile.  Dr. Gardner Campbell is responsible for introducing me to the book and while I am at the beginning I am so far struck by the discussion of the special treatment something that is fragile gets and the potential that our behavior around those fragile items, ideas, topics, systems, are inadvertently preventing them from growing.  He is exploring the value or shocks in the system and the fact that systems that respond well to random, unpredictable events are actually “Anti-fragile”.  They are the opposite of fragile in part because of their ability to morph, adapt, change, and let parts perish so that new things can take their place.

I wonder what aspects of daily life on which we have stamped the red label and if some of them could perhaps benefit from unexpected shock, blow, or catastrophe as considered from a particular perspective.   Do you have anything you consider to be Fragile?  Is it imperative that that item reach its final destination completely unchanged? If not then why have we labeled it as such?

Leave a Comment