# What is this fallacy: “Expecting something to continue just because it has never stopped”

For example:

Technology will keep advancing in terms of innovation purely because it has not stopped advancing.

Is there a fallacy for this?

• This is inductive reasoning, which is not fallacious per se, but it is not as concrete as deductive reasoning: youtu.be/GEId0GonOZM Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 22:21
• I am not sure if it is a fallacy, or if it has a specific name, but in this situation, the problem is overlooking the cause. Technological progress happens for a reason, but this reason may disappear. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 3:48
• It's kind of an inverse of inductive reasoning. Induction assumes a rule like `S(n) -> S(n+1)` to prove lots of `S(k)`. This takes a bunch of true propositions and tries to infer that their truth comes from a `S(n) -> S(n+1)` rule. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:26
• This reminds me of the hot hand fallacy mentioned in The Big Short in this scene. It might not technically be a fallacy though, since the psychological effect of winning might be real and positively influence subsequent games, at least in games like Basketball.
– JoL
Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 21:19
• "My horse died. He's never done that before!" ;-) Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 7:49

This can also be described as the "problem of induction," not that this is an outright fallacy. The most famous example is Hume's observation that just because the sun has risen every day for thousands of years provides us with no deductive proof or certainty that it will rise tomorrow.

The example you give is also doubtful in many other ways, since "advancement" is a value judgment many would criticize, especially in regard to technology. So we might also describe this as a "Panglossian" view of technology, from Voltaire's Doctor Pangloss, who was in turn based on a misrepresentation of Leibniz's proof that we live in the "best of all possible worlds."

One could also call it a species of "Whig history," in the sense that history is viewed as inevitable progress towards the present, assumed circularly as the best outcome of that history. Or it can just be deemed "techno-optimism," which acts as a term of ironic reprobation in the mouths of many critics, from Ned Ludd to Heidegger.

• And obviously, the sun will stop rising one day, so the induction is indeed wrong. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 8:44
• @Peter-ReinstateMonica Not that that's gonna be a problem for us unless we start figuring ways off of this rock. The sun's preceding size change will be much more pressing.
– DRF
Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 10:43
• @DRF Exactly. (That was what I had in mind -- if you are surrounded by a near-uniform red glow you cannot sensibly talk about sunrise any longer ;-). Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 11:33
• Inductive reasoning has worked so far. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 22:55
• Interesting, I just learned that "induction" has a very different meaning in philosophy and mathematics. I was about to complain, because in mathematical terms this kind of reasoning is clearly not proper induction (see also @chepner's comment above).
– Emil
Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 9:45

The specific (informal) fallacy you're talking about (the one in the question title) is called "hasty generalization". In technical terms, it is inductive reasoning with insufficient evidence. To know whether you are reasoning inductively correctly or falling into the pit of the above mentioned fallacy, inductive logic is helpful.

• ]How many centuries of advancement does it take before it's no longer hasty? Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 5:12
• @Barmar a lot of innovation during the two last centuries was made possible by simply using more energy, typically fossil fuels. I'm afraid we'll understand soon enough that it's hard to keep innovating after peak oil, for example. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 14:32
• @Barmar. Good question, with no real answer. If four centuries of technical "progress" culminates in nuclear winter nobody will call it progress. My own sense is that we tend to overlook the "externalities" of market-driven advances. Moore's law also drives the concurrent "advances" of spam and cybercrime, which can only be kept at bay by more and more computing using more more and more electricity, such that China is building more and more nuclear plants just to cool server farms. History has no halftime scoreboard, luckily. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 21:00
• @Barmar There's no amount of time, you need to come up with some other evidence for your conclusion. Using an example from another answer, "because the sun has risen every day in my life, it will rise tomorrow"... We now know that at some point the sun will not rise tomorrow, but we also have a better understanding of when that will be, so you can say "the sun will rise tomorrow because it has enough fuel, has enough mass to prevent spontaneously going out, etc." Otherwise the best you can say is "it is not know for sure if progress will continue at this rate". Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 10:22
• @user3067860 Most of science is based on inductive reasoning, it's rarely possible to prove anything true. We just keep doing experiments, and the more of them that support our hypothesis, the more confident we become in it. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:30

People cite Moore's law as if it's an absolute law of nature, but there is some evidence that it's tailing off.

“The last two technology transitions have signaled that our cadence today is closer to two and a half years than two,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said during a conference call with analysts

https://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-DGB-42647

Then there's the story of the farmers who fed the turkeys every day - until Christmas.

• In America, that would be Thanksgiving ;-). Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 8:42

While this is not a direct answer it may broaden the scope of the discussion and put the "fallacy" you mention in context.

As Nelson has said, predicting future events on the basis of regularities observed in the past — induction — is not wrong; it is merely a statement of expectations, not of certainties.

One could argue that induction is a special case of the Lindy Effect. The wikipedia article describes it as "a theory that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age".

Interestingly, the principle has much broader applications than that; specifically (if that's the right word here) it is applicable to everything. The reason is that things, circumstances, nations, theories etc. all have their respective life span. For elementary particles it may be nanoseconds, for stars it may be billions of years, for humans 50 or 100. Now when we behold something — a particle, a human, a star, the universe — it is statistically unlikely that we are very close to either end of its existence. It is no coincidence that the universe, the sun as well as you and me are somewhere in the broad middle of their existence, most likely. For purely statistical reasons we can assume that the two of us will still be there next year, the sun will not explode in the next billion years, and the universe will not change significantly in the next 2 billion years or so.

What makes this rule powerful is that it can be applied without any knowledge whatsoever about its subject. The Egyptians didn't know anything about the nature of the sun or the moon but it was unlikely that the regularity of their interactions would change soon after it had been consistent for many hundred years of observation. Without having inspected my car I can safely assume that it takes me to work tomorrow — I'm confident that it will run another couple of years.

What we call "induction" is another way of saying that circumstances we have observed for a while are unlikely to change within a time which is significantly shorter than the past observation time.

Summing up, even if we know nothing about the sun and the Earth we can safely assume that their interaction will not change during our life time after it has been consistently following the same rules for thousands of years, for purely statistical reasons: It is unlikely that we are close to a spectacular event which will alter this long-term relationship.

Thomas Paine referred to something similar to this as "governing beyond the grave". Just b/c we've done something a certain way in the past doesn't necessarily mean we should do it that way in the future.

• It's an interesting term by Paine you're referring to. Can you expand your answer, because the way it stands right now does not answer OP's question?
– user42828
Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 17:11
• The past is brought forward on the grounds that was practiced before. "We've always done it this way, so why change?" Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 1:37
• @user48488 Thanks for your reply. Not exactly what I was looking for but it sounds very interesting so I’m going to have a look. Cheers. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 3:38

The key word here is "unlikely." I have awakened every morning since I was born. Inductively, I should be immortal.

Blue Sun "2 + 2 = 5 for all moderately large values of 2"