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Taleb: technology “ages” backwards

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

Nassim Taleb asserts that, on average, old technologies have longer life expectancies than younger technologies, which helps explain why books are still around and CD-ROM magazines aren’t.

For example: Let’s assume the sole information I have about a gentleman is that he is 40 years old, and I want to predict how long he will live. I can look at actuarial tables and find his age-adjusted life expectancy as used by insurance companies. The table will predict he has an extra 44 years to go; next year, when he turns 41, he will have a little more than 43 years to go.

For a perishable human, every year that elapses reduces his life expectancy by a little less than a year.

The opposite applies to non-perishables like technology and information. If a book has been in print for 40 years, I can expect it to be in print for at least another 40 years. But — and this is the main difference — if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another 50 years.

This is adapted from Taleb’s recent book, Antifragile. Anyone read this yet? I really liked The Black Swan.

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