If someone offered you $1,000,000 to successfully predict one book that’d still be for sale 100 years from now, what 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 accurately predict one human that’d be alive 100 years from now, what 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.
I am better off putting the money into a bucket and lighting it on fire, allowing me to turn off the heat in my house for five minutes and save three cents on my electricity bill. But I don’t. I fall for it.
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 often 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 been useful enough to stick around.
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?
Most of what we rely on and need to transform our minds and bodies are non-perishable things, meaning they’ve been around for a long time.
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 and stores.
How do you eat good food? 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?
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.
Someone that’s lived for 50 years might be someone you want to bet on to live another 50 years because they have proven to be a somewhat resilient and healthy human. A two day old baby 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, all the while (as Taleb would say, or so I would like to think) ignoring the cemetery of evidence.
Lindy is a beginning, not an end.
But the odds are in Lindy’s favor.
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.