George RR Martins (who wrote Game of Thrones) takes a very modern view on superpowers in the book, Wild Card – a book about superheroes.
He analyzes superpowers: those who are most powerful are the ones with defensive superpowers. Defensive attributes overcome all offensive attributes in a battle. The one that’s indestructible – even with no other superpower – can pick up any weapon and kill everybody else.
It’s the ‘impossible to kill ones’ that end up winning all the battles. The ones with the really cool and sexy superpowers are useless.
It’s easy to win the war if you’re indestructible. A defense is only good as long as it’s indestructible. Indestructible trumps deadly. Unbreakable is better. Anti-fragile is best.
The superheroes that are the most frightening are the ones who – when you shoot them with a laser beam – shoot your laser beam back at you. You mind-read them, and they absorb your mind-reading and mind-read you.
It’s the one that absorbs others’ power, and plays it back at them, that’s anti-fragile. I’m indestructible, I have every power, and you just better get out of the way. I’m looking for the fight.
We see that theme throughout history. The really successful governments, empires, and organizations… they’re continually fighting. They’re continually absorbing and adapting.
The Romans absorbed the Carthaginian’s navy in 90 days. It’s easier said than done. It wasn’t like some Roman politician said, ”These are Carthaginian ships and they humiliated us. We want them to be our own ships.”
They were not too proud to copy, not too proud to absorb it.
Anti-fragile is our superpower.