Michael: Hey Robert, what is “Lindy?”
Robert: Well, the Lindy Effect is complex, so 10 column-inches is too little space to discuss its full history. To summarize, it stems from a 1964 essay published in The New Republic. “Lindy’s Law,” it was first called, was later developed into a paradigm of statistical survivability: For example, the Pyramids at Giza are still standing after 3,500 years. Most human construction between then and now has completely vanished, so Lindy’s Law suggests that the pyramids will stand another 3,500 years to come. But I think it’s more fun to apply Lindy to cultural practices and products than anything else.
Michael: So the longer something has been around, the more Lindy it is?
Robert: More or less. Lindy isn’t exactly a value judgement, but calling something “Lindy” suggests that some quality helped it to escape the filter of time, despite almost everything else failing to do the same. Lindy phenomena are worth examining to understand why they stick around for so long, and, conversely, whether newer developments are worth keeping.
Michael: So, we’re having a dialogue right now. Conversations between humans have been around since the dawn of humanity. That would make it pretty Lindy, right?
Robert: As Lindy as it gets!
Michael: But newspaper columns have only been around since people started printing newspapers in the last 200 years, so that would make them not-so-Lindy, right?
Michael: So what does this have to do with almonds and their milk?
Robert: Well, you’d think that almond milk isn’t Lindy, because it’s so associated with overpriced coffee and highfalutin cafes. But people have been using almond milk for over 1,000 years!
Michael: Wow! How does that work?
Robert: We know almond milk is vintage because it’s mentioned in medieval cookbooks throughout the Mediterranean, where almonds could be grown. Historians believe it was popular as a substitute for cow’s milk during traditional and religious fasting periods, such as Lent. It was so common that medieval cookbooks omitted recipes for it, instead using it as an ingredient in soups, stews and desserts.
Michael: Incredible. So almond milk has been with humans for over a millennium. Despite all that’s different today, it sounds like our diets haven’t changed all that much. I guess that means humans are rather consistent!
Robert: I agree that Lindy foods like almond milk certainly are still pervasive, but the human diet has changed in other ways worth discussing in later weeks. Nevertheless, evidence abounds for continuity. Beer, for example, was produced in ancient Mesopotamia, and the ancient Greeks had a fermented fish sauce called garos, almost the same as today’s Worcestershire sauce. But food isn’t the only Lindy way we still live our lives.
Michael: Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of Lindy items out there! I suppose the reader will have to read next week to find out more!