Lindy Effect: Why Ideas And Technologies Might Age In Reverse

The Lindy Effect is a theory about the aging of non-perishable things, like technology or ideas. Popularized by author Nicholas Nassim Taleb, the Lindy Effect states that non-perishable things like technology age – linearly – in reverse. Therefore, the older an idea or a technology, the same will be its life expectancy.

The Lindy Effect 

You are waiting in line at the post office. In front of you, there are two people.

One is a young fellow of twenty years, and the other is an old folk, he seems to be about eighty years old. In your mind, there is no doubt. The old fellow will die way sooner than the young fellow.

Of course, we are thinking about probability. In other words, we know that there are way more chances that the old folk will die sooner than the young fellow.

While this reasoning works when we are in the domain of something perishable (things with a determined life expectancy); this kind of thinking becomes flawed when we switch to another area, the non-perishable.

In other words,  As Nassim Taleb, author of Antifragile explains, when we get into the non-perishable domain the probability distribution of something happening, changes altogether.

In short, while the life expectancy of two people (humans fall into the perishable domain) follows a Gaussian distribution (also called normal distribution). When it comes to the non-perishable (such as the content you are about to create by pounding your fingertips on the keyboard), it follows a Power Law distribution.

What does that mean?

Practically speaking you are creating something that has the potential to live forever! 

But how can we leverage on the Lindy Effect to create such content?

Ideas and technologies might age the same way

Over two thousand years ago, a man, from Cisalpine Gaul (a region that stretched throughout the Northern part of Italy) aspired to become a poet.

His name was Publius.

Publius was already quite famous in Rome. In fact, the Roman Emperor, Augustus, had commissioned him to write a poem.

Although Publius had spent the last years of his life, working and drafting that poem, it always seemed to him that something was missing.

The work never seemed to be ready for being published.

The years went by, and although Publius’ work had become encyclopedic, he didn’t feel ready. While visiting a town, called Megara, he got sick and not long after he died.

As the story goes before dying, Publius ordered his literary executors to burn his work. But Emperor Augustus ordered them to disregard Publius’ wish.

That was how the most influential poem in Western literature was born. Indeed, that man was Publius Vergilius Maro (better known as Virgil), and his work was the Aeneid!

What can we learn from this story?

Three basic but incredibly powerful principles!

Learning from Virgil

Arms and the man I sing, who first made way,
predestined exile, from the Trojan shore
to Italy, the blest Lavinian strand.
Smitten of storms he was on land and sea
by violence of Heaven, to satisfy
stern Juno’s sleepless wrath; and much in war
he suffered, seeking at the last to found
the city, and bring o’er his fathers’ gods
to safe abode in Latium; whence arose
the Latin race, old Alba’s reverend lords,
and from her hills wide-walled, imperial Rome.

Those are the opening lines of Virgil’s Aeneid.

A literary work, drafted by Vergil over two thousand years ago, still read and studied all over the world. We can not only expect this content to be relevant for another one-hundred-year. According to the Lindy Effect, we can look forward to Virgil’s work to be “alive” for another two thousand years.

The great paradox of the whole story is the fact that Vigil did not want his work to be published. Once published it was a great success!

Time and survival

There is implicit learning that time applies to non-perishable things, which makes them cleaner of noise. That doesn’t mean there is no noise for things that have survived for a long time, but less noise, or at least they might have a stabilizing effect that we can’t know for sure but it’s there. 

Wrapping-up, and Conclusions

The Lindy Effect teaches us that non-perishable things age in reverse. This means that things that have survived for a longer time might probabilistically live longer.

Of course, this will highly depend upon the developed context.

Connected Business Concepts

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.
Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman since 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What in marketing can be associated with social proof.

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