As the ‘Time’ of the year 2015 comes to an end, I am reflecting on the Mystic’s message, you may have seen on my Pottery blog, on how we perceive the arrow of time and its effects.
Entropy is the natural order of things all around us. The second law of thermodynamics states that the disorder in the universe always increases with time. After cleaning your room, it always has a tendency to become messy again. It is impossible for the room to somehow get clean on its own. All the forces of nature (wind, dust, external objects, etc.) work to make the room messy and remaining in the state of mess is the eventual state of equilibrium.
The entire universe is exposed to the effects of entropy. Anything that is perishable has a certain lifespan… every additional day in its life translates to a shorter life expectancy. Is there any hope to beat entropy and can anything survive through the ravages of time? The mystic’s message on the Mystic’s plate may hold some secret…
There are certain things in life that grow younger with time and every additional day of survival will imply a longer life expectancy. Nicolas Taleb calls this Lindy Effect in his famous book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.
Lindy Effect is simply a theory that says for certain things, mortality rate decreases with time. This concept is best understood with a very simple example.
Let’s consider an old man and a young person and predict all natural and unnatural possibilities of their life expectancies.
Possibility 1 – The young is expected to live longer than the old.
Humans, animals, generally material things such as automobile, furniture etc. fall within this category. This is the intuitive world that we comprehend as natural. Entropy ruthlessly marches through this world.
Possibility 2 – They both will have equivalent life expectancy i.e. irrespective of their ages, they will live through X number of years.
Information, knowledge and certain species fall within this category. For e.g. when it was discovered that earth was round and not flat, all books, theories and knowledge young and old that believed in flat earth died together. Apparently some species’ lifespan is determined not by their age / body-clock but by external factors such as temperature, ecological events, season, etc.
Possibility 3 – The old is expected to live longer than the young.
This is Lindy Effect. The old outlives the young.
This is what Taleb says about Lindy Effect –
If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not “aging” like persons, but “aging” in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of some robustness. The robustness of an item is proportional to its life!
Technology, information, knowledge, fame, etc. fall within this category. You can easily bet that religious scriptures / books will outlive any of the latest books on the New York’s best sellers list. The name and fame of Gandhi and Lincoln will outlive the name and fame of recent politicians. With very high probability Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting will outlive any of the latest popular paintings of today.
Coming back to the Mystic’s message.
जयन्ति ये सुकृतिनः रस-सिद्धाः कवीश्वराः ।
नास्ति तेषां यशःकाये जरा-मरणजं भयम् ॥
This two thousand years old Sanskrit verse says (best attempt to translate in English) the work of an artist (in this case, a poet) creates a body of art and for that body of art formed by words of fame there is no fear of old age or death. In essence it says – Art and creation has no old age or death.
The mystic is showing us a way to beat entropy and encourages us to embrace a life with characteristics of Lindy Effect. Pursue knowledge, invest in experiences, create art and that is the way to grow younger in spirt with every passing year.