On Big Think, Sam McNerney writes
A curse of the 21st century is the belief that the new prevails over the old and that the new is superior to the old. I’ve realized the opposite is true with respect to ideas. What survives must possess intrinsic value that time recognizes but our cognitive laziness usually misses. A thought experiment to explain.
If a Martian visited Earth he might wonder why only a tiny fraction of ideas that we humans have conjured still exist while the vast majority have perished. The answer is that an invisible hand discriminates ideas based on their value in the same way a sieve filters desired materials based on their size. Think about it. Every generation produces a number of ideas but only a few survive into the following generation and even fewer survive into the generation after that ad infinitum. Call the percentage of ideas that survive the leap from one generation to the next the “sieve constant.” It is a very small number, and the implication is that most valuable ideas that exist today are ancient. As the cliché goes, they’ve stood the test of time – they’ve managed to stay on top of the sieve.
[Illustration from Wikimedia Commons]