Technology is rapidly evolving; each year brings new innovations, new devices and improved software solutions. If one were to start a new software project, one might reason as follows:

I could build my project on (current state-of-the-art system), but it's inferior to whatever will be available next year. Therefore, it makes no sense to do it right now. I should wait and build it on the superior (cheaper/faster/more accurate/easier-to-use/whatever) future system instead.

Obviously, this argument would then be repeated next year, ad infinitum.

Even if we assume that a future solution will always be substantially better than the current solution, the argument must still be inherently flawed since it won't ever allow anything to be produced; everything will always end up being postponed indefinitely.

Is there a name for this kind of fallacy?

  • 1
    Aaron Burr is credited with "Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow. Delay may give clearer light as to what is best to be done". Is it always a fallacy? Not necessarily. Your argument against it is a slippery slope, but there needs to be a slope for it to work, and it needs to be slippery. It may be rational to put something off, not indefinitely, if the need is not pressing and there are specific reasons to believe that it could be done better later. They call it procrastinator's dilemma. As with all informal arguments, validity turns on context. – Conifold Oct 1 '20 at 10:26
  • I concur with Conifold. Often there are good reasons to wait. An extreme example would be manned space travel. We could build a rocket ship and send it to Alpha Centauri but it would take many years to get there. It might even need to be a generational ship. If we have any reasonable expectation of faster-than-light travel in future then it is much better to wait. In general, everything depends on what can be achieved now, what could be achieved in future, how long it might take, and how big a difference it would make. – Bumble Oct 1 '20 at 13:01
  • This does not imply indefinite postponement, as it will depend on three things - how long it takes now, how long it will take later, and how long is between now and later. If you can accomplish your task 100x faster by waiting 1/100 of your current duration, it's worth waiting. If you can accomplish your task 2x faster by waiting 10x your current duration, it is not. Supposing that you should postpone because you can accomplish your task faster by waiting does not account for how long you have to wait. – Nuclear Hoagie Oct 1 '20 at 16:31

This is not necessarily a fallacy. Consider the application of Moore's law, where for several decades computer processing power doubled and costs halved approximately every 18 months, to a computationally-intensive project.

Suppose your budget would buy kit able to complete the computational programme in 4 years. If you waited 18 months, Moore's law meant that same cash would then buy you kit capable of completing the task in just 2 years, a net programme saving of 6 months. Alternatively, you could buy cheaper kit which took 2.5 years and save money on the 4-year schedule.

  • Similar to this is interstellar travel (I forgot if just manned or also unmanned). I have heard estimations that it makes sense to wait another about 600 years with that because earlier than that the sent ships will just be overtaken by later ones. – kutschkem Oct 2 '20 at 6:20
  • I remember reading an SF story about that in the 1960s. But I prefer real-world evidence wherever possible. – Guy Inchbald Oct 2 '20 at 11:55

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