What is the Lindy Effect?
The Lindy Effect is a theory that suggests that the longer something has been around, the more likely it is to continue to be around.
In other words, the more often something is repeated, the longer it will last.
The Lindy Effect was first proposed by mathematician and physicist Albert Einstein in the 1930s.
One of the examples of the Lindy Effect in action is the swing dance known as the Lindy Hop (where the name originated from). This dance style was created in the 1920s and was very popular throughout the 1930s. However, the Lindy Hop experienced a resurgence in the 1990s and is now more popular than ever. This is in part due to the Lindy Effect. The Lindy Effect can also be seen in popular songs, books and movies with the so called classics.
Nassim Taleb says: If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not “aging” like persons, but “aging” in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of some robustness. The robustness of an item is proportional to its life!
Lindy Effect for Life Hacking
If you consider stick with only what’s stuck around for the last few thousand years, you get an interesting list. Here are some that come immediately to mind.
- Red wine
- Olive Oil (since 400 BC)
- Coffee (since 1500) & Tea (since 200 BC)
- Intermittent Fasting
- Books — classics like Aristotle, Plato, Herodotus Aurelius, Charles Darwin etc.
The latest NY Times best selling sensation will likely become irrelevant in a decade. The classics on the other hand will likely continue to become relevant.
It’s interesting given this that we don’t generally spend more time on books that will stick but instead focus on the latest fad.
To help me focus on things that are more likely to be timeless, I try to consider whether it’s likely to stick around into the foreseeable future. A simple thought exercise: I’ll fast forward mentally 100 years into the future and picture what the item in question is.