Things which trend downwards

by Suspended Reason

When long-term participation or payment is gated by short, high-stake selection games, selection candidates engage in seduction and advertising. Whether they are winning attention, proving their merit, or enticing a selector into commitment, the candidates are on their best behavior.

As a result, we can expect that most situations which are gated this way will degrade overtime. Brands, personalities, product—Uber’s pricing will always go up; on-flight amenities will slowly drop off after the introduction of a new airline.

Certain things have lifespans. It is more expensive to repair than replace them, or repair is little more than compositional replacement. When you create or purchase such objects, they will be in their best shape at the very beginning, and everything afterwards will perform more poorly.

Many new cultural practices and techologies are solution fads” to specific types of interpersonal strategy games. Their efficicacy is directly bound up in how many people have adopted and actively deploy or recognize them. The anthropic principle for discovering any social fad—be it through recommendation (social, algorithmic) or cultural exposure—is that, cet par, you are late to it, or at the peak of its adoption, because this is when most individuals who are exposed will be exposed. Gentrifying neighborhoods, popular travel destinations, hip bars—these things will typically be in worse shape a few years after you discover them, than when you first discovered them.

I said, cet par, things you encounter will be at the halfway point of their lifespans, a la normal distribution. Trends will be peaking and mainstreaming. The empire will be middle-aged. The tipping point—the peak of the hill, the spot where the rollercoaster starts tipping into gravity, where entropy takes its toll and structure falls apart.

Ceteris is rarely the paribus, of course—but this lets us establish a baseline against which to understand deviations, and the dynamics which drive them.