Jim Holt in the book ‘Year Million – Science at the far end of Knowledge’ makes very interesting point about longevity of things.

He mentions,

In general, things that have been around for a long time are likely to remain even longer. Conversely, a things of recent origin probably won’t. Both of these conclusions flow from Copernican principle, which says, in essence, you are not special. 

He also gives example of a Broadway Play.

Let us say you go to see a Broadway play. No one can be sure exactly how long the play will run. It could close after few nights or continue after many years.But you do know that , of all the people who will see it, 95 percent of them will be among neither the first 2.5 percent nor the last 2.5 percent to do so. Therefore, if you are not ‘Special’ – that is, if you are just a random member of the play’s total audience – then you can be 95 percent sure that you don’t fall into either of these two tails of probability distribution.

If play already had n performances at the point in its run, then you can be 95 percent sure that it has no more than 39 times n performances to go and no fewer than n divided by 39. 

It becomes pretty amazing if you apply same principle to Tech Icons of our lives.

  1. Let us look at Internet. It has been around since 1980, for around 35 years. So, we can be 95 percent certain that it will be continue to be around for 8 plus months, but it will disappear in 1365 years. So, its possible that current form of internet (as we see and perceive) would change in its entirety.
  2. Let us look at Google. It has been around for 18 years. So, by Copernican principle, it will be available for minimum of four months, though its 95 certain that it will disappear in 702 years.
  3. Facebook started in Year 2004, so its been there for 12 years. It is expected to be around for minimum of 3 plus months , and maximum of 468 years.
  4. Apple started in 1976, so its expected to be around for minimum of 1 year and maximum of 1560 years.
  5. Amazon has been around for 22 years. So, it will continue for 6 plus months, but it will disappear in 858 years.
  6. IBM started in 1911 and is 105 years old. So, it is expected to continue for 2.6 years minimum , but will be around for 4095 years.
  7. HP started in 1939 and has been around for 77 years. So, we can be 95 percent certain that it will be around for two years minimum, but will disappear in 3003 years.
  8. Whatsapp was founded in 2009 and expected to be around for 2 months minimum and 273 years maximum.

Some of the numbers above look implausible, but consider the another perspective.

Internet (and related economy) has just been around for only 30 plus years into existence. By the time it matures till year 1365, we might have developed entirely new way to communicate and share (telepathy anyone ?). There is good chance that IBM/HP will be around to witness it in year 1365 unless they mess up and disappear in two plus years.

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