I'm better off putting my money into a bucket and lighting it on fire. Fire is cool. The radiant heat would keep me warm — I'd be able to turn my furnace off for five minutes and save three cents on my gas bill.
How can a fire be cool and warm at the same time? Questions for another day… Questions for another day…
But I don't light my money on fire. I burn it an entirely different way by buying for The Grid — an artificially intelligent website builder.
My thoughts at the time:
I don't like my website. This new thing has to be better. The future! Yes! Sounds fresh and exciting. MOTHER. FUCKING. ARTIFICIAL. INTELLIGENCE. Who needs that smelly old stuff? Yuck.
Of course, I'm not using The Grid. I never even tried using The Grid. I still use the smelly “old” technology. And, quite frankly, for all the futuristic hoopla The Grid promised, I know of no websites that use The Grid.
I'm telling you about my (Gr)idiocy because the vast majority of people, my (Gr)idiotic self included, have something called neomania. (It's not an STD, don't worry.)
Neomania is a love for the new.
As much as I want to go on an Illuminati BEHOLD A PALE HORSE diatribe and blame neomania on capitalist-consumerist culture, I can't. Because, quite frankly, we're reminded of how awesome new things are almost every day.
Old people die. Kids run around with no joint pain (and actually enjoy life). New cars work. Old car break down. New cheese is delicious. Old cheese is blue-green with mold.
Which is exactly why, if I asked to pick what book would be for sale fifty years from now
- a new book that just started selling yesterday
- an old book that’s been selling for 100 years
you'd lean towards the new book. Because the new book is fresh. Brand new. Like a baby. It has its entire life ahead of itself.
That old book? It's grandpa. Can't even shit in the toilet anymore; it needs diapers. It's gotta' be on the way out.
It sounds all so right.
But it's actually all so wrong.
Because Lindy said so.
In the land of perishables
The images that pop into our head when we hear the words “new” and “old” are often perishable things, like humans and foods. Both of these things deteriorate over time.
Leave an apple on your kitchen counter, and it'll be rotten as fuck in two months. It won’t even look like the original apple.
In the land of perishables, new things tend to be better than old things. And, chances are, something new will outlive something old.
But there's a problem.
Not everything is time's bitch.
In the land of non-perishables
There's a world opposite of perishables, aptly named non-perishables. Non-perishables don't deteriorate over time (as if you couldn't guess).
Think of Einstein's theory of relativity. It was created in 1905. It's the same now as it was back then.
Surely, the pages the original theory was written on aren't pristine because the pages themselves are perishable. But the idea is always going to be the idea. An equation's letters and numbers will never decay.
When old is better than new
In the land of non-perishables, the stock associations we have with newness and oldness turn upside down. In other words, old things tend to be better than new things. And, chances are, something old will outlive something new.
Because, when it comes to non-perishables, things only get old if they are useful. If something isn't useful, it won't get old. It'll get forgotten.
So imagine you have an idea for an invention. You get a patent. You invent the thing. If your invention is shit, it won't last long. And the things your invention attempted to replace will remain.
In other words, old things are good (and safe) because they've continually proved their utility. New things, however, are bad (and risky) because they have yet to prove their utility.
The Lindy effect
Above is the Lindy effect, in a nutshell. The Lindy effect says…
- Every passing day brings perishables closer to extinction, hence: newness > oldness.
- Every passing day brings non-perishables closer to immortality, hence: oldness > newness.
Lindy is a lifesaver because we rarely go through the mental gymnastics necessary to decode perishable things from non-perishable things. In fact, there's good chance, prior to reading this, you never made the distinction.
We have a bias towards perishable-based thinking when it comes to newness, oldness, and timeliness, which is exactly why we favor the new book to outlive the old book.
The effect of the Lindy effect
I've come to appreciate the Lindy effect because, without being aware of it, I always find my way to it… but never directly. I spiral around it first, like a turd in a toilet.
Some of the most of the useful advice I've come across is rooted in Stoicism and Buddhism. These philosophies have been around for a long time.
Eugen Sandow was hoisting iron things in 1900. Gymnastics rings. Pull-up bars. Parallel bars. All have been around for a loonnngggg time.
Food itself is perishable, but the idea of eating certain things to sustain life isn't. What were people eating 100 years ago?
Biases and such can be seen throughout old books and fables. Aesop's The Fox and the Grapes, for instance, has seeds of cognitive dissonance.
I'll let you do the mental gymnastics on this one. I can't give you all of the answers now, can I? I mean, I guess I could. But I won't.
One two punch
The “answers” to those problems above are all Lindy approved. But it took me a while to get to those answers because of neomania.
I could go back and show you how topsy turvy neomania makes each category above.
- Despite the ThighMaster being all the rage, uhh, it's not really around anymore. Lindy.
- Despite trans fats being recommended over saturated fats, uhh, they're on the verge of being banned. Lindy.
For the most part, the fitness and self-improvement industry is a Petri dish for neomania. HAHAH I'M WRITING THIS. RIGHT NOW. THIS IS A NEW PUBLICATION. WE CAN'T ESCAPE OUR OWN KNOWLEDGE.
Then again, the entire world is a Petri dish for neomania. Capitalism and consumerism run on people providing new shit and people buying new shit. The hedonic treadmill. You're never allowed to be happy with what you have, you always need more. More. MOre. MORe. MORE. MORE.
To entice us further, most new things promise to be better than the old things their striving to replace.
Ohhh. One two punch. Newness and the promise of potential. There's nothing that hooks our mind more. DIVORCE YOUR WIFE, GO WITH THE NEW FLING MAN. IT'LL STAY SPICY FOREVER, SURE.
Just remember this.
Despite new things often promising to be better than old things they're striving to replace, the only way to turn promise into proof is with Lindy.
Bet against yourself
And yet… you're still going to get pulled all sorts of ways. That electronic abdominal blaster gizmo will seem cool. You'll buy one, don't worry. Just like you'll buy outrageous supplements. Just like you'll try all sorts of muscle building techniques.
But you'll learn.
And, after you learn, you'll be able to shrug off the fact that there's a new health bar supplement shake toning contraption born every week. (Day?)
Another way to stay grounded is to ask yourself, “How much longer is this going to be around?” In other words, if you had to bet your money, car, or house on “x” (a non-perishable) being around 100 years from now, would you?
If not, then why be so gullible now?
The chink in Lindy's armor
I can hear it.
YOU'RE WRITING THIS ON A COMPUTER, YOU IDIOT. COMPUTERS ARE NEW! THE INTERNET! LINDY IS STUPID. YOU'RE STUPID.
Not every non-perishable thing that withstands the test of time is useful. Not every new non-perishable thing will be useless. Likewise, when comes to perishables, things get messy in the middle.
A 30 year old chick might last longer than a newborn because the 30 year old has proven to be a somewhat healthy, robust, and resilient creature. The same can't be said for the newborn.
Lindy is a heuristic, which is to say: it's imperfect… on purpose. It's a mental shortcut that helps you avoid getting booby trapped by your brain's biases without your conscious awareness.
It isn't always a beacon of truth. This is why Lindy is a start, not an end. And even if it were an end, the odds are ever in Lindy's favor.
Because when you dig to find the evidence against Lindy, you're falling into the survivorship bias. You're plucking out a few examples in your favor and turning a blind eye to the much larger cemetery of evidence.