Observations of the Lindy Effect

Jun 17, 2021

Lindy used to be a deli (albeit not a great one) in New York City on 53rd and 7th, where comedians and theater folks used to hang out. They observed that Broadway shows that lasted at least 100 days had a future life expectancy of 100 more days. Those that survived 200, 200 more days. It became known as the Lindy Effect.

The Lindy Effect is a heuristic that the future life expectancy of non-perishable entities is proportional to their age. The longer something has already lasted, the higher likelihood it will continue to endure. Nassim Nicolas Taleb connected the Lindy Effect to the Pareto distribution and power-laws, combined with his concept of fragile and anti-fragile. It's a useful heuristic when thinking about science and technology, where ideas age very differently.

I've collected a list of some examples of the Lindy Effect and tried to attribute them when possible.


The long a feature has been on the product roadmap, the longer it'll tend to remain on the roadmap. (Shreyas Doshi)

“However long a person’s past collected works, it will on the average continue for an equal additional amount. When it eventually stops, it breaks off at precisely half of its promise.” (Benoit Mandlebrot)

Enterprise software. The longer a technology has been in an organization, the longer it will take to move off that software. (Packy McCormick)

Programming languages will survive about as long as they have survived so far. (François-René Rideau)

The longer a book has been in print, the longer it is likely to survive (Nassim Nicolas Taleb, Black Swan).

Burn old logs. Drink old wine. Read old books. Keep old friends. (Alfonso X of Spain)

The longer a pull request is open, the longer it will take to merge. (Matt Rickard)

The longer you work on a product, the more likely you will never stop working on that product. (Sahil Lavingia)

The longer you go without shipping a product, the more likely you will never ship a product" (Naval Ravikant)

The longer a project survives after a potential violation, the less likely it is to be the target of an enforcement action. (Jake Chervinsky)