• Brock Briggs

The Lindy Effect

I was introduced to a concept recently called the Lindy Effect. The theory states that life expectancy of a non-perishable is proportional to its current age. This implies that each additional period of survival adds to the total life of whatever it is. This sounded incredibly scientific and was drawn to it for that reason. The origin is much different than I anticipated.

The idea came about in the 1960s from a man named Albert Goldman who dubbed the concept after a place in New York City, Lindy’s, where comedians would meet after a show to discuss the goings-on in the industry. One of the topics was the speed at which new comedians on the scene would produce content and how that impacted their staying power in the industry. He suggested that “frequency of output predicts how long their series will last”. In other words, the longer something is around, the more likely it is to continue to be around.

My first inclination when pondering the subject is thinking about the duration of things in my life. Thinking this big sure makes my life seem short and small, especially given the staying power of some of the beliefs in the world. So many things that are a part of my daily life are relatively short duration. No clothing I’m wearing is long duration. The MacBook on which I’m writing this- Apple has been around for around 40 years give or take. That’s something - a brand. Looking up the oldest companies in the US yields results like JP Morgan, Jim Beam, Colgate; all brands in a variety of niches. If a brand has the power to survive surely there’s value in that.

Thinking larger than that, perhaps religion. Could argue that has been around possibly forever.

Technology - an abstract idea referring to whatever is new at the time but in a way it has a duration. So long as the items aren’t disrupted. Is there anything that isn’t disrupted?

It’s interesting to think about the duration of something as a concept of how long it has already existed. When posed with a question of how long something would last, the answer would probably be some iteration of how nimble and adaptable to change whatever the item is. Is adaptability the key to survival? Surely anything that has survived hundreds if not thousands of years is exactly the same as it was in the beginning. Maybe there is something - too big for me to grasp.

It seems the original idea was around the success of comedians. I wonder if the same applies to failure - If you fail for a length of time, does that mean you will continue to fail for the same length? That’s the glass-half-empty part of me. Sorry.

If you succeed for a length of time, does that indicate the length of success in the future? Both of those sound too absolute.

It does make me consider things I do and whether they have duration. If I build a successful relationship, will it have duration? If I achieve success in my work, is there duration? Something to think about. Put effort into things with duration. Iterate long enough and you’ll likely continue to iterate. I likely can’t help but improve over that time.

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