Lindy effect

One fundamental principle often goes overlooked in a world obsessed with the latest trends, fads, and shiny new objects – the Lindy effect.

The Lindy effect states that the future lifespan of something is proportional to its current lifespan. In simpler terms, the longer something has been around, the longer it will likely stick around. This principle can be a valuable guiding force when deciding what tools and technologies to adopt.

Future proof

For years, I relied on Evernote as my primary note-taking app. It had a sleek interface, powerful features, and a dedicated user base. However, after a while I realized a significant drawback – it stored notes in a proprietary format, making them non-portable and creating challenges when I wanted to switch platforms.

This is why I switched to Obsidian for note-taking in recent years. Obsidian stores notes in simple, plain text files — a format that has been in use since the dawn of computing. By choosing a tool that respects the enduring nature of plain text files, I essentially future-proof parts of my digital life.

“If you want your writing to still be readable on a computer from the 2060s or 2160s, it’s important that your notes can be read on a computer from the 1960s.” – Stephan Ango

Whether Obsidian exists or not in the future, I will always have control over my notes because they are stored in a universal format, building my digital life on a solid foundation. I can even publish them on my blog using the same file format.

Learning from Experience

I have encountered the pain of technological obsolescence before – inaccessible old Flash webpages, proprietary RAW files, obsolete Sketch documents, and webpages I’ve designed that no longer function. These experiences have emphasized the significance of prioritizing longevity and flexibility in our ever-evolving digital landscape.

The robustness of an item is proportional to its life

The Lindy effect can be seen in many other areas too. Books, movies, and music that stand the test of time have something important to offer that goes beyond just being popular in the moment.

“If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. (…) 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!” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile

So just use old things then?

While the Lindy effect emphasizes the value of longevity and the reliability of established practices, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should avoid embracing new technologies or ideas altogether. In that case, I would never have adapted Figma, React, or other great tools that significantly improved my work. But the Lindy effect simply encourages us to approach new technologies (and content) critically and consider their potential for enduring value. A good question for this is asking yourself, “How can I access this in decade (or two)”?