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September 2nd, 2019
Arbitrage is the simultaneous buying and selling of securities, currency, or commodities in different markets or in derivative forms in order to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset.
So one smart neighborhood kid finds an unknown place where she can buy a special kind of marble for $1 and then she turns around and sells it to the other neighborhood kids for $5. That’s arbitrage.
Now, the concept of ‘meaning’ and ‘worth’ are strangely similar. If something means a lot to you, it’s identical to saying that it’s worth a lot to you. Worth has more to do with the value that transcends the individual. A dollar is worth a dollar to everyone. But the sentimental value of individual items means something to only the individual. A special rock picked up during a hike with a loved one might mean a lot to one person, but to someone without that sentimental experience, the rock means nothing.
What’s it worth to you?
Is the core question of arbitrage.
Now let’s rub away an illusion and reveal an invisible bridge.
What does the letter ‘M’ mean?
Well it doesn’t have any functional meaning on it’s own. Sure, if we trace back through the history of the graphical mark, we can maybe say that M means ‘water’, at least if we are talking about Egyptian Hieroglyphics. But absolutely no one means water when they use the letter M today.
Aside from letters that don’t also double as single-letter words (like the letter ‘a’ in ‘that’s’ a dog’), M, and all other letters mean nothing.
But combine them in ways that conform to a higher system of semantics -that of language- and suddenly these meaningless units wake up and radiate complex concepts.
As an aside, we might say the same thing about neurons in the brain. Alone, a neuron doesn’t really mean anything. In fact, a neuron quite literally doesn’t function without input from other neurons. The functioning of a neuron is based solely on the presence and activity of other neurons around it.
We need only replace the word ‘neuron’ to see how true this is, examine:
The functioning of a letter is based solely on the presence and activity of letters around it.
This interconnectedness is where the endless arbitrage of language arises.
Alone letters mean nothing and for the most part they are worthless.
This suddenly flips when we rearrange and combine letters in order to represent a novel idea. Like the ideas in this episode. The mere idea when you hear or read the words the endless arbitrage of language is an invocation of value instantly popping into existence through language creation.
If you meditate on that last sentence and let it roll around in your mind, you might begin to see that it has a recursive nature. It simultaneously identifies the process that occurs by virtue of it’s existence. It’s the language version of Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”. But in the case of language it’d be something like “I combine therefore I mean something.”
The important caveat would be that it’s a sensical combination. A random hodgepodge of letters doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
The arbitrage of language is the core of what is offered up by a blank page.
For artists, writers, and creators of all types, the blank page can be a haunting and masochistic tease because the endless abyss that a blank page communicates is a symmetrical indication of the infinite value that can be mined from it.
The moment a blank page ceases to be blank is the moment when we invoke the endless arbitrage of language.
This episode references Episode 93: The Generator
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