the lindy effect  

I’m intrigued by this notion of “reverse ageing”. Think about people. The older they get, the sooner they are expected to die. If you think about ideas and technologies, the expectation is that of the opposite. Because of survivorship bias, the short-lived and dead technologies are rarely remembered. That might render this concept somewhat unintuitive at first.

The Internet allows the spread of ideas, opinions, technologies, programming languages, libraries, opinionated frameworks and other non-perishable things. Much of this is just noise, and quite often, it is difficult to find the actual signal. There are fads, and there are some clear trends.

One example for an “old” library in this context might be jQuery, as it has been extensively used within the whole profession. In fact, think up the most boring job ad, and remove from it the newest, hip and cool techs. You are likely to reveal the basics that have stuck for a while. These are the ones with longer expected lifespan.

 ideas that stick

Every once in a while, a new idea will emerge in a form of some certain implementation. Consider bitcoin, most of the attention is spent towards the implementation. But decentralized cryptocurrency is the actual idea. A favourable gene mutation propagates within population, despite the individual carriers being perishable. Consider memes and religions.

Right now, within web based software development, something similar seems to be happening with React.js. The idea behind it is the virtual DOM, which looks like a good idea and is likely to stick in one form or another. Not only because the DOM in itself has it’s many problems, but that the virtuality apparently is borrowed from more advanced computer graphics. Same thing goes with Facebook’s Flux architecture, introduced with React. There exists only a barebones official version, or merely an example of it, but several implementations have arisen in a short amount of time.

I try to look for and study these ideas, instead of the specific implementations.

 problem?

The problem with these observations is that they’re all based on the past. In technology and software, the pace of change is huge, accelerating and most likely only in it’s infancy. An unforeseen technical jump can render even the oldest and stablest things useless in an instant. Luckily, implementing technological change doesn’t usually happen that fast, so there’s always those legacy projects.

I find it useful, or at least very intriguing, to observe the reverse ageing effect. It help’s with the “neomania”, or the obsession for everything that is new. I use it as an antidote of sorts, to the ever accelerating pressure of staying current with the emerging software and libraries.

I first stumbled upon this idea in Antifragile.

 
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