Lindy Effect

The Lindy effect is a phenomenon where the future life expectancy of an item increases with each year survived. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, there are a few explanations to this effect. The effect mainly applied to non-perishable items. Items that do not have an expiration date governed by unstoppable forces. Time plays an imprtant role in this effect. Longer an item is in play, the better fine-tuned it becomes. More equipped it will become to survive the coming times.

Books are a good example where this effect can be applied. If a book has been repreinted for the last 40 years, there is a good chance that it will be for the next 40 years. The explanation being that the content of the book has seem to find appeal to a demographic that is renewed over time. Though the medium might change from printed books to kindle to audiobooks.

Items or systems that have built a self-enforcing loop around it tend to follow the lindy effect. Businesses with moats around them are an example. They have a competitive advantage that compounds over time. Such businesses become harder to fail as time passes by.

Choosing what to read can be guided by the Lindy effect. Choose books that are foundational in the area to start with. Coincidentally, those books have been around for some time. The same applies when doing a literature review for some research. Start with survey papers. They, by definition, cannot go out of trend. Hence the popularity of survey papers.

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