Mnemonic Arbitrage

in the now

In the comments of this comic, I was introduced to the concept of mnemonic arbitrage by my friend Chung-chieh Shan.

André Aciman understands. In his essay, “Arbitrage,” Aciman introduces and explores the concept of “mnemonic arbitrage” (152), which ties into the idea of experiencing the moment to look back on it. Mnemonic arbitrage occurs when an individual “[firms] up the present by experiencing it as a memory, by experiencing it from the future as a moment in the past” (151). The individual “grounds the present on the past, and the future on the past recaptured” (152), such that riding a bike in Central Park is not ‘the moment.’ Instead, the moment is consecutively remembering the last time you rode the bike in Central Park and anticipating the fact that you will remember this current bike ride in Central Park. You are “not just remembering. [You are] remembering remembering” (152). Mnemonic arbitrage is a more complex idea than memory or nostalgia; it captures the human instinct to save memories for later.

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