Mimetic Monday: February 22, 2021

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Hi everyone,

Here is this week’s Mimetic Monday: the art, people, and news that inspire imitation—for better or for worse.

  • 🌊 Most Mimetic Thing of the Week. Bitcoin rose to $57,553 last Friday, giving it more than a $1 trillion market cap. It has come off those highs (currently around $53, 500)—but both of these numbers will seem crazy to anyone reading this Mimetic Monday a year from now. The question is whether they will seem crazy high or crazy low. I’ll say this: I’ve learned not to bet against Bitcoin. What I want to call attention to today, though, is a particularly mimetic component of finance that is particularly important in crypto: the concept of beta. Beta is a coefficient that tells an investor how a particular asset correlates to the broader market. A stock with a beta of 1 moves in sync with a broader market indicator, like the S&P 500. If a stock has a beta of 1.2, then it typically rises 1.2% when the market is up 1% or falls 1.2% when the market falls 1%. If the beta is less than 1, then it is less reactive to the overall market dynamics. Beta is one measure of an asset’s mimetic properties. I’ve been reading this recent Bloomberg crypto outlook, which finds that Ethereum’s (ETH) price increasingly depends on the price of Bitcoin (BTC). Its beta has risen from less than 0 in 2017 to over 1, indicating an increased correlation. Bitcoin has become the proxy for the overall crypto market—the numerator in the equation. Many altcoins (though not all) rise and fall on the fortunes of Bitcoin. My question to you, though, is this: do you have a beta of close to 1 with any other person in your life? What about artistic taste? Reading list? How closely does it correlate with the overall “market of ideas? I’ll be diving deep into this concept of beta in the Anti-Mimetic Newsletter.

 

  • 🎶 What I’m Listening To. I’ve owned a pair of Sony MDR-7506’s for a very long time (great for podcasts), and they’re currently pumping in “A Better Man—The Avener Rework.” I went through a Deep House phase while I was in my twenties, and it has never quite left me—especially when I need to do tedious heads-down work. (If you’re into that song, the French deep house DJ The Avener‘s whole Spotify playlist is worth listening to.) Where did I catch the ‘bug’ for this music? A friend and I were walking down the street in L.A. at 2 a.m. and we walked by what looked like an abandoned warehouse, inside of which the legendary (didn’t know it at the time) Marques Wyatt was spinning. The bass drew us in like Sirens, and we had the night of our lives. Most of us find 90% or more of our new music through algorithms, friends’ recommendations, maybe even radio stations. But what about those serendipitous encounters like the one we had in L.A.? I am very intentional about carving out space in my life to “stumble on” things—partly as a flâneur, to be sure, but partly out of a sense that I have a responsibility to cultivate a general disposition of being open to alterity. By definition, an algorithm has to give you more of what it already knows. It’s entirely immanent and circular. What if there were an anti-algorithm that could open me up more to wonder and unexpected surprises? That would recommend books and music and restaurants to me that a normal algorithm would think I wouldn’t like but in fact I would—if I were only exposed to them? There’s only one solution, only one anti-algorithm, that I have found. And it’s not technological.

 

  • 🧐 Historical Mimetics. “On 27 May 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart purchased a starling. Three years later, he buried it with much ceremony. Heavily veiled mourners marched in a procession, sang hymns, and listened to a graveside recitation of a poem Mozart had composed for the occasion.” What did Mozart know about these fascinating birds that we don’t? I used to live in Rome. I would often sit on a wall near the ruins of the Roman Forum near sunset and watch starlings murmur (the technical name for what they do when they move in patterns) for hours. This fascinating paper (from which I pulled the quote above) attempts to explain Mozart’s interest and the social mechanism of communication through which these creatures move in patterns. I’m convinced that the movement of starlings will teach us something, as nature so often does, about the mimetic nature of human movement—esepcially the kind of movement people most commonly overlook: the movement of desire.

Have a wonderful week, everyone—
Luke

Comments or questions? You can send me a tweet @lukeburgis (adding #mimeticmonday helps me find it). Text “mimetic monday” to (+1) 202-918-3743 to get text alerts about Mimetic Mondays via your phone and stay in touch with me directly via text.

 

 

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