If someone offered you $1,000,000 to successfully predict one book that’d still be for sale 100 years from now, which book would you pick?
- A book that just started selling yesterday.
- A book that's been selling for 100 years.
If someone offered you $1,000,000 to successfully predict one human that’d be alive 100 years from now, which person would you pick?
- A baby that’s been alive for only one day.
- An elder that’s been alive for 100 years.
Think it over.
I’ll come back to this in a second.
Neomania, a love of the new
I'm better off putting the money into a bucket and lighting it on fire. At least the radiant heat would allow me to turn the heat off on my house for five minutes, saving me three cents on my gas bill.
But I don't.
I fall for it.
I burn my money in an entirely different way.
I sign up for a new kind of website technology called The Grid. It's an artificially intelligent website builder that shapes itself around the type of content you create.
Well, I don't really like my website. So this new thing has to be better. The future! Yes! It sounds fresh and exciting. Who needs that smell old stuff everyone else is using? I'll check it out.
Us humans have a love for the new. What’s the hippest and coolest app? What’s the latest and greatest training method? What’s the revolutionary new diet?
Nassim Taleb refers to this love for the new as neomania, which makes it sounds like a disease. And that's a good thing, because our love for the new often backfires.
No matter how exciting new things seem, most new things aren't as effective as old things. Old things are old because they've proven useful enough to be old.
In your right hand, there are perishable things. Things that go bad. Things that die. Things with a true lifespan. Food. Humans. Animals.
In your left hand, there are non-perishable things. Things that never go bad. Things that pass through generations. Books. Beliefs. Technology.
The Lindy Effect says that, with every passing day, the perishable things in your right hand get closer to extinction, where as the non-perishables in your left hand get closer to immortality.
Predicting a book that’s going to be around 100 years from now? Choose a book that’s been around for 100 years already.
Predicting a human that’s going to be around 100 years from now? Choose a human that hasn’t yet seen 100 days.
If you want to avoid neomania, you can run everything through Lindy. Ask yourself: has this stood the test of time?
Neomania, Lindy, and fitness
Most of what we need to transform our minds and bodies are non-perishable things, meaning we have Lindy to look towards.
How do you live a good life? Most of the useful advice of today has roots in Stoicism and Buddhism. Even the most useful points of psychology (cognitive biases) can be seen throughout old books.
How do you eat? Food itself is perishable, but the idea of eating certain things to sustain life isn't. Were people eating what you're eating 100 years ago?
How do you train? The ThighMaster isn’t popular anymore. That there hunk of iron? Eugen Sandow was hoisting that in 1900. Gymnastics rings. Pull-up bars. Parallel bars. All have been around for a loonnngggg time.
Supplements? I'll let you do the mental gymnastics on this one. I can't give you all the answers now, can I?
Lashback for Lindy
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 everything that withstands the test of time is useful, and not everything new will prove to be useless. And sometimes perishable things that've been around a while have the upper hand in lasting longer.
If you want to pick a human that'll be around 50 years from now, you might want to pick a 50 year old over a newborn. Because the 50 year old has proven to be a somewhat resilient and healthy human. A newborn doesn't have that same track record.
But you're also wrong.
Because you're falling trap to the survivorship bias and overvaluing the few successors floating above the much larger cemetery of evidence.
Have luck with Lindy
So while that electronic abdominal blaster gizmo will seem cool — you’ll buy one, don’t worry; just like you’ll buy outrageous supplements — keep Lindy in mind when your internal GPS is ready to recalculate.
Because even though Lindy is a beginning and not an end, the odds are still ever in Lindy's favor.