Tanner Talks (5/18/2020)


Welcome to Tanner Talks. I hope this email finds you well.

Today, you and I are going to go back in time to discover the ideas that have endured. By the end, I hope you have a new appreciation for what we’ll call Lindy information.

Quality Information Ages in Reverse

“Remember rather that the man who writes for fools always finds a large public: and only read for a limited and definite time exclusively the works of great minds, those who surpass other men of all times and countries, and whom the voice of fame points to as such. These alone really educate and instruct.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularized an idea called the Lindy Effect in Antifragile. Here’s how he describes the Lindy Effect:

“For the perishable (think, human life), every additional day in its life translates into a shorter additional life expectancy. For the nonperishable (think: ideas), every additional day may imply a longer life expectancy.”

I know that seems vague. Let me clear it up for you.

If a man is 40, his life expectancy may be roughly 44 more years. With each year he grows older, he is moving closer to his eventual death. Morbid, I know. But it helps illustrate this point.

On the opposite side are nonperishable items, like ideas. If a book was written in 1980 and is still in print today, it’s existed for 40 years. According to the Lindy Effect, the fact that it has “lived” for 40 years suggests that it will remain in print another 40 years. And if it truly does exist for all 40 years, its life expectancy would increase to 80 more years.

For every additional year a nonperishable item survives, its life expectancy grows.

Make sense?

(If you want to learn more, Taleb goes into more depth in pages 316-320 in Antifragile.

I think this perishable / nonperishable lens is useful when we are considering our information habits.

A lot of what you and I have consumed today is perishable information. Most peoples’ Twitter feed is an endless scroll of information whose relevancy will not outlast the day.

Conversely, there are a much smaller number of books, essays, speeches, and videos that have endured “the baptism of time”, as Nagasawa spoke about in Norweigan Wood.

We would do well to focus on these nonperishable information sources. With each encounter, we are submerging ourselves into ideas that age in reverse.

By now you’re wondering where you can find some of these Lindy Information sources. Well I have good news for you!

Below, I’ve listed five of my favorites. If you want to see a complete list, check out my favorite links.

Like most sources of Lindy Information, they require a more significant time investment than a tweet that is irrelevant five minutes after it was posted. But, you’ll take more away from nonperishable ideas.

  • Solitude and Leadership (October 2009): A powerful 2009 speech given at West Point. William Deresiewicz discusses the timeless idea that leadership requires original thinking, and original thinking requires solitude. It’s more relevant today than ever: a strong signal of the Lindy Effect.
  • The Age of the Essay (September 2004): Paul Graham of Y Combinator explores the origins of the essay and shares wisdom into what makes an essay worth writing and reading.
  • The Day You Became a Better Writer (June 2007): The shortest piece on here. The creator of Dilbert gives us a crash course in becoming a better writer.
  • A Lesson on Elementary Worldly Wisdom (1994) & The Psychology of Human Misjudgment (June 1995): Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s business partner) gives readers and listeners more wisdom in each sentence than I could give in one essay. You won’t want to skip these.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. – “I Have a Dream” (August 1963): King’s most famous speech. The power of the vision has not faded today. I suspect it won’t 57 years from now either.

These ideas will obviously take more time and effort than a short quip on Twitter, but the ideas will transform the way you think and act.

When you build your life on ideas that get stronger with time, you’re helping your future self. When you continually take action that is long-term positive, you get to reap the rewards of compounding.

And who doesn’t love some nice compound interest?

Some Extra Fun Stuff

I want to end our time together with some lighter stuff that I think you’ll enjoy.

First, I was introduced to the McGurk Effect (0:54 video) by Dilbert creator Scott Adams. I won’t spoil it by putting an explanation in the body of the email, but you can read an explanation of what’s going on after you watch the video here.

Second, watch this hilarious video of how the Nazis responded when they found out Chuck Norris was coming. (4-minute video)

Lastly, a Last Dance reference (30-second video): Nick Anderson really shouldn’t have said that.

That’s all for today. Thank you so much for reading. I hope something in this expanded your mind.

If you check out any of the resources, let me know! I’d be happy to discuss takeaways with you.

I can’t wait to talk again soon.

All the best,