Monday, March 22, 2021


Here’s this week’s edition of Mimetic Monday.

  • 📰 News
    Sophia is a humanoid robot artist who will auction off a piece of digital artwork in the form of an NFT (Non-Fungible Token) this week. Investors have been spending tens of millions of dollars snatching these pieces up. “I hope the people like my work, and the humans and I can collaborate in new and exciting ways going forward,” Sophia says. Pay attention to what’s happening. Many people are worried about Artificial Intelligence, but few people are worried about Artificial Desire. What happens when robots are programmed, mimetically, to want what humans want and begin to compete directly with us? If a robot is smarter than we are at a particular task, it can help us become more efficient. Great. But if a robot learns to want the same things that we want, we become rivals competing for the same goods. This is the real threat of AI.
  • 🤾‍♂️ Anti-Mimetic
    Cass R. Sunstein published a paper in 1999 (you can download for free here) titled “The Law of Group Polarization.” While most people believe that “if we just had more dialogue, we’d all move closer to the middle,” Cass’s research showed that the opposite is more often true. When two people have certain predispositions or identify themselves strongly with a controversial issue (as most people do these days…), putting them in a room together to talk actually makes them move toward the extremes. One way out of this trap would seem to be: start cultivating relationships with people who have different points of view. But it’s not that easy. We tend to self-select even those people based on our biases. The real issue is how to design better processes of deliberation which, in Cass’s words, “ensure that people are exposed not to softer or louder echoes of their own voices, but to a range of reasonable alternatives.” And that’s something most people won’t do by themselves. Sorry to punt on this one, but I am going to have to address the anti-mimetic tactic here in an entire edition of the Anti-Mimetic Newsletter (where I write longer-form reflections) in the coming months. I encourage you to sign-up so you don’t miss it.
  • 🧠 Quote
    “War is nothing but a duel on a larger scale.” —Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war and articulated the aspect of mimetic rivalry over 150 years before Girard began explaining mimetic theory.

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