Lindy was a famous deli (and a tourist trap) in New York which came to be known for a term named after it. Owing to its location- Broadway, several artists, actors and comedians would congregate in this deli, and they discovered that
Broadway shows that lasted, say one hundred days, had a future life expectancy of a hundred more. For those that lasted two hundred days, two hundred more. Basically, the longer the show lasted, the longer it was likely to last. This heuristic came to be known as the Lindy Effect.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a statistician and the author of the book “The Black Swan” tweaked the term Lindy Effect as
follows: “For the perishable, every additional day in its life translates into a shorter additional life expectancy. For the nonperishable, every additional day may imply a longer life expectancy.”
What Taleb meant is that the life expectancy of perishable organisms and commodities - the human body, cars, electrical appliances, food, etc - is inversely proportional to its current lifespan. For instance, a twenty year old woman is likely to outlive a fifty year old one. Or a brand new car is likely to outlast a twenty year old one.
However, with non-perishable entities such as ideas, works of art, ideologies - the inverse is true. The life expectancy of an idea or a book or a broadway show is directly proportional to its present lifespan.
The Lindy Effect, if understood and applied correctly can have far reaching consequences for both the individual and the world. While Broadway actors may use this heuristic to predict how long a show can last, The Lindy Effect can be used to predict almost everything else.
What systems of government seem more solid? Communism that arrived in the first decade of the last century and left at the tail end of the same century or Democracy that started with Athens in the classical ages and is still around?
What books should you read if you want to stimulate your mind? The Twilight series that was around for a decade or The Iliad which was written thousands of years ago and is still read to this day? This is why reading classics is an
insightful and rewarding experience - you’re reading books that have stood the test of time and represent wisdom
distilled through the ages.
What should you eat if you want to become fit and healthy - breakfast cereals and skimmed milk marketed by corporations for half a century, new dietary fads made up by the people on the internet, or a wholesome diet eaten by your ancestors who didn’t know what obesity meant?
The Lindy Effect isn’t to be confused with Luddism; nor is it the rejection of modern technology for its own sake. It is just a gentle reminder that the constancy of human behaviour across millenniums makes the lessons of antiquity potent. In the age of rapid scientific and technological discovery, and rampant social changes, it may bode well for us to take a step back and view the modern era from a historical lens - to value true-and-tested solutions and beliefs over hip and novel ones.
So my question to the readers this week is:
"What according to you are some things that were better done in the past than present?"