Mimetic Monday: March 1, 2021


Hi everyone,

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

  • 🌊 Mimetic Value Capture. The broad market has roared again this Monday. I recorded a podcast conversation this morning with Michael Covel, author of the book Trend Following: How to Make a Fortune in Bull, Bear, and Black Swan Markets (already in its 5th edition), and several others. I expected that Mike and I would talk about how trend following is one of the best investment strategies for capturing mimetic value. But Mike has a great deal of range, so we ended up talking a lot more about cancel culture, mimetic rivalry in politics, and social media this morning. Love it. Those things are far more important and urgent than not getting slaughtered in the market—because first we have to avoid slaughter in the streets (or we have no market). I would like to say a word about mimesis and markets here, then, since it didn’t make it into the podcast episode. “Speculation” has become a dirty word. Many people rightly see that speculation is driving some of the wild swings in the stock market. Yes. But I would caution you to resist the temptation to think speculation is bad. Check out the etymology of the word ‘speculate’—it originally meant something like “intelligent contemplation, consideration, the act of looking.” It’s one of those words that has taken on a very different meaning over time, which hasn’t been kind to the idea of speculating. Here’s the thing: we all speculate—if not in the stock market, then in other spheres of life. (Haven’t you ever speculated about the odds of your favorite team winning a championship at the beginning of the year and invested your time and energy and heart into watching some of their games?) Speculation is as natural to human beings as mimetic desire itself. We all desire things that we think will be good for us—without solid, or at least empirical, evidence. In the markets, speculation is an important part of price discovery. Now it might not seem like it’s “helping” to discover prices given what happened with $GME (wasn’t the price wildly “out of whack” with any objectivity?), but the price is the price—the price is the closest thing to “truth” that we find in the market, and it has mimetic desire baked into it. Saying that we’re going to eliminate speculation is like saying that we’re going to eliminate mimetic desire. Good luck! We have to let these processes work themselves out without getting trigger happy on the regulatory side.
  • 🤯 Mimetic Knowledge. 23AndMe and other genetic testing and analysis services like Ancestry.com are helping people build their family trees and learn their biological genealogy. But how well do we know our intellectual genealogy, the history of our ideas? This is far more important because ideas determine the fates of societies, families, cultures. A few technologies have emerged in the past few years that help people build what amounts to a Wikipedia of their own brains—and its connections to other brains. Obsidian has the most beautiful interface, but Roam has the strongest long-term vision, IMO. What’s often not taken into account with “networked thought”, though, is mimesis. Learn about the relationship between mimesis and knowledge in the latest edition of the Anti-Mimetic newsletter, where I reveal 23 of my own intellectual chromosomes and trace a thread that ran from the discovery of a book in first grade until just last week. What are your most important intellectual influences?


  • 🧐 Clubhouse. Peter Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook, said this about the nascent social network: “Facebook first spread by word of mouth, and it’s about word of mouth, so it’s doubly mimetic. Social media proved to be more important than it looked because it’s about our natures.” I can’t help but think about Thiel’s line as I watch the emergence of the audio drop-in app Clubhouse, which is exploding in popularity. There are many rooms on Clubhouse filled with people talking about how awesome they think Clubhouse is. It is doubly, maybe triply, mimetic—because Clubhouse also integrates with other social media platforms like Twitter where the intrigue about what happened in a Clubhouse room (audio is typically not saved) is fomented by people live-tweeting out what’s happening inside the rooms, which only they can hear. Buckle your seatbelts, folks. (By the way, did I mention I run the “Mimesis & Culture” on Clubhouse? You should join it. Marc Andreessen did.) You shouldn’t be talking about mimesis if you can’t see the comedy…

Have a wonderful week,

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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