The Lindy Effect and its Meaning

The "Lindy" idea originated with Albert Goldman and was further developed by Benoit Mandelbrot and Nassim Taleb to describe a phenomenon related to intangible objects.

Time as a Filter

The lindy effect refers to timeless things that do not undergo natural decay. This includes books, ideas, religions, and certain types of food. It's not about the physical matter itself but rather its intellectual or functional representation. For instance, a "Lindy book" refers not to the printed paper but to the contained words and ideas. Food is considered Lindy if it has been consumed for a long time, like olive oil, in contrast to modern food industry inventions like jelly beans. According to the Lindy rule, things that have existed for ten years are likely to exist for at least another ten years. If something is a hundred years old, it will likely survive for another five hundred years. The concept of Lindy is rooted in the filtering effect of time. Lindy becomes something only if it has proven itself through evolution. This is why religious traditions endure for long periods — they represent mysterious filters shaped by centuries and millennia of experience. Time often proves them right.

Some Practical Considerations

Will e-book readers replace paper books? Far from it! E-books lack the tactile and visual experience of traditional books and cannot fully replicate them. Books offer additional uses. They serve as decorative elements that can be displayed on shelves. They can be used as paperweights, quick reference tools, and more.

The real competitors of e-book readers are tablets, as they combine nearly the same advantages and uses. They are portable, compact, can store a large number of books in electronic format, and are large enough for comfortable reading.

A different case relates to nutrition. Why should we switch our diet, which has been functioning for 10,000 years, to artificial foods, and why would that be healthy?

The Absorbing Barrier

Nassim Taleb explains that the Lindy effect emerges due to the distance to an absorbing barrier. An example from the world of books: Ideas do not survive if their carriers die. In book form, ideas can continue to exist. However, they will only be read long-term if they have context-independent relevance. The absorbing barrier for books includes events tied to the book (a political scandal, a president) that become irrelevant after a certain time. The author must place the events in a context that truly relates to the principles of life; otherwise, the book will fade into obscurity twenty years later.

The Lindy Effect as a Proxy

The Lindy Effect also serves as a proxy filter. Age isn't the root cause of longevity in itself. The challenge lies in the fact that we lack foreknowledge of the factors that lead to survival. Hence, this proxy filter is our best option, as other filters make assumptions about short-term ecological rationality that might not hold in the long run. For instance, during the pandemic, it was wise to invest in pandemic-related stocks. However, once the pandemic subsides, this filter becomes obsolete.

Proxy filters can activate short-term filters if they align with the Lindy principle. Over time, erroneous filters emerge and then fade away. Lindy proxies weed out these erroneous filters. Take, for example, the belief that vegetable oils are healthy due to their plant-based nature. The Lindy filter rejects this notion, even though it doesn't scrutinize the property in question.

What attributes can describe a good proxy filter?
  1. Time Dependency: The proxy is either based on time itself (Lindy) or is relevant only within specific time frames.
  2. (Structural) Coupling: The proxy can either be tightly linked to a single factor (where low complexity renders the proxy obsolete) or weakly associated with multiple factors (relevant in high complexity scenarios). In high-complexity situations, the proxy can be linked to a Lindy factor (like the number of books read) or exhibit negative linkage to a non-Lindy factor (relevant solely for negative filters).
  3. Symmetry: If there's a substantial divergence between the proxy and the actual event, it suggests that the proxy's connection to the factors was too feeble. In the case of election forecasts, the weight placed on the "response to surveys" factor is excessive, as the pivotal election decision-making occurs in a distinct context with numerous influential factors.
  4. Flexibility: The proxy should have broad applicability, meaning it can be applied across a wide range of scenarios and possess a high number of potential paths.

Find lindy books on Browse through the list


Goldman, Albert (13 June 1964). „Lindy’s Law“. The New Republic. p. 34–35.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas: Lindy as a Distance from an Absorbing Barrier.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas: Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

Dellanna, Luca: The Lindy Effect: Definition, Examples, and Generalization

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