Rhys' Newsletter #26

Reader responses and probabilistically prepping for a violent election

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it with a friend or support me on Patreon!

If you want to go deeper on these ideas, apply for my online school, Roote—a community of world-class systems thinkers looking to understand and build the future.


Hi internet / IRL friend,

Lots of reader comments this week. (Thanks y’all!) Let’s dive in.


Last week I shared my review of Joseph Henrich’s new book on WEIRD psychology.

A reader, Lawrence Lundy-Bryan, asked this question:

I don't think I really understood the importance of the patrilineal decent for WEIRD path dependency. It has got me thinking about the implications of a non-WEIRD world in the next 75-100 years with China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and others dominating demographic, economic and cultural growth. What would the implications be for a more collective and less-WEIRD world? I would be interested to read your thoughts on this in the next few issues!

This is a great question from Lawrence. (Remember, the world is adding 3B people by 2100, and almost all of them are in Africa.)

I have two quick thoughts on it:

  1. As the East and Global South adopt non-kin-based voluntary institutions, they will become more WEIRD. Countries on the Inglehart–Welzel cultural map will continue to shift up and to the left. As a leading indicator: China is becoming more individualistic.

  2. The West will become less individualistic and analytic. These kinds of thinking are not a good fit for our networked global world. We will see post-WEIRD psychology become more collectivist and holistic.

  3. There will be a lot of unrest as these two transitions occur: from kin to non-kin in the East/South and from individualistic to collective in the West. e.g. I’d predict Africa and the Middle East to make polyamory illegal by 2100.

LINKS

1) Two weeks ago, I shared this video on how OnlyFans changed porn. One reader noted:

The OnlyFans Youtube video was super fascinating. The one thing that I didn't hear mentioned about the growth of adult businesses is the mental health and addiction problems that arise in consumers, mostly men. There’s tons of research on how porn is more addictive than most drugs.

At the end of the video, the narrator says: "it’s awesome these performers can make content and get directly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars." Yes! But the question I have is: What is it doing to the users? To me, it's similar to saying: "It’s awesome that heroin dealers can sell drugs and make money." But what are the externalities?

Not saying we should ban porn or get rid of a safer and better value transfer mechanism for these women, but I do wonder if there is some way to curtail the pervasive mental health issues these types of sites perpetuate.

Indeed. The internet provides us with supernormal stimuli that leads to an acceleration of addictiveness. All businesses need to address the impact of their product on users.

////

2) Two weeks ago, I shared the piece Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Retail, which discussed how GrubHub weakens the power of restaurants. Reader Lauren Sinreich responded:

On the point of squeezing suppliers, I personally choose not to use platforms like GrubHub but not everyone does. Is the only way to mitigate this concentrating and ultimately homogenizing force consumer morals or government intervention? It's so interesting to see trends in a system so focused on competition so frequently driving anti-competitive outcomes.

I love two parts of Lauren’s response. First, asking what can we do to mitigate monopoly platforms—morals or laws. (My answer is that morals live a layer above laws—as a determination of right and wrong. And laws are one way to manifest and incentivize morals, along with the rest of the Pathetic Dot: laws, code, markets, and norms.) Second, Lauren highlights the paradoxical nature of internet competition: that low friction leads to competition initially but big winners laters. This is the Big Winner–Long Tail paradox.

////

3) One of my favorite pieces of 2020 art is from Columbian Sako-Anko:

Image

It’s similar to this recent reddit piece inspired by the popular game Among Us:

A reminder to ask how people are doing instead of who they are.

////

4) There’s been a lot of talk recently about a peaceful transition of power in the United States. (Trump may not want to leave. He’s a “winner”.) See The Atlantic’s The Election That Could Break America and FiveThirtyEight’s What if Trump Loses and Refuses to Concede.

Like COVID in February, this is an uncertain situation where the tail risk is extremely bad (civil war/unrest). I don’t want to create unnecessary anxiety in y’all, but I think it’s important to prepare ourselves for a possibly dangerous situation. Here’s roughly how I’m thinking about it:

Probability of Outcomes

I think we most need to be worried about a close race that isn’t called on election night. In this scenario, Trump is ahead on Nov 3 but there are still millions of blue mail-in ballots left to cast.

What’s the chance of this “Drawn Out Close Race” scenario? According to FiveThirtyEight, there’s a 70% chance Biden wins the popular vote by more than 4%, and a 10% chance Trump wins the popular vote outright. Let’s assume that in these scenarios, the election is called on Nov 3 and there’s a peaceful transition of power. But there’s a 20% chance that Biden only wins the popular vote by 0–4%, the electoral college is close, and we need to wait many weeks for mail-in ballots. Let’s say that 50% of these scenarios turn violent in some way—10% of all outcomes.

So there’s roughly an 80% chance of a “clear winner” peaceful transition, a 10% chance of a “drawn out close race” peaceful transition, and a 10% chance of this close race turning violent. (I’d define peaceful as less than 10 election-related deaths.) Let’s call it 80-10-10.

What should you do?

First, treat it probabilistically! Whether your numbers are 80-10-10 or something different, you should at least be preparing for a world in which there’s a violent transition, even if that is 1%.

Then, prepare for each scenario! See this article from SSC on how we should’ve done this with COVID: A Failure, But Not of Prediction.

As I see it, you can starting preparing for civil unrest with either fight or flight. For the fight response, read up on 10 Things You Can You To Stop a Coup. (Aka be an Activist!) For the flight response, prepare yourself with things like bug-out bags. (Aka be a Prepper!)

And no matter what, again, mentally prepare yourself for the range of outcomes, even if there’s only a small chance a given one occurs!

////

5) Coinbase decided to disallow political discussion at their workplace to stay focused on their mission and not be distracted by activism. This is a spicy take. Here’s my response, a good analysis from 0x’s Jason Somensatto, and Jennifer Kim on top-down vs. bottom-up decisionmaking.

6) The Onion: California Firefighters Massage 2.5 Million Gallons Of Moisturizer Into Forests To Prevent Dryness.

JOBS / OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

Two responses from readers on our most recent question: Is there any music that you choose not to play because the artist or content itself is negative?

Reader #1:

My opinion is very 1st Amendment-esque regarding the Nazi song. If your consumption doesn't harm others, and you don't harm others as a result of listening to the song, it's probably ok. But maybe keep your headphones in :)

Agreed, though it can be difficult to determine harm. e.g. If I turn alt-right as a result of listening to Nazi songs (among other internet habits), then hurt someone, is the Nazi song partially to blame?

This is at the heart of the SJA vs. free speech debates. SJA folks will claim that some content has caused them serious harm [“trauma”], while free speech folks will say they’re just words [“snowflakes”].

Reader #2:

The metal band Sabaton takes an apolitical stance writing songs about great acts of martial heroism on all sides of the war.

This includes “negative” songs like Ghost Division about the elite 7th Panzer division led by Rommel.

But also “positive” songs including Inmate 4859. This track describes Witold Pilecki, a Polish intelligence officer and resistance fighter, who intentionally got himself sent to Auschwitz concentration camp to document the atrocities. He escaped and produced the first intelligence product with an inside view of what was happening in the camps.

I would never go to a Sabaton concert because I could not stomach being around people cheering on a military unit that participated in Rommel’s Operation Barbarossa. If it was mere empathy for some conscripts sent to freeze to death on the Eastern front it would be a different story (they even have some songs about empathy such as no bullets fly). But celebrating the successes of an elite German unit that enabled so many atrocities without in any way confronting those atrocities is a bridge too far for me.

They also have a great youtube video series, Sabaton History, where they talk about the history their songs describe. They are one of the few metal bands that reads primary sources in the archives, in some cases primary sources that have not been explored by historians. In once case, they wrote a song based on Flemish primary sources a fan mailed them and which they needed the fan to translate.

I’d never heard of Sabaton, but I find them fascinating. (Thanks, reader!) They’re definitely controversial because they show WWII in all its glory and pain. Here’s an example Youtube comment that I found on one of their videos: Footage like this isn’t Nazi ideology, its history.

I’m wary of Sabaton’s apolitical stance. It’s similar to the permissionlessness of digital platforms. They abdicate responsibility by claiming they’re just “sending bits”.

I also think this highlights the importance of meta reflection and intention. It’s one thing to go to a Sabaton concert and cheer on Rommel. It’s another to have them explain (before the song) about the negatives of facism, WWII, etc. and then to sing the Rommel song.

In any case, like with Cuties, we want to differentiate whether the artist’s intent is appreciation, appropriation, or criticism. And we also want to understand the art’s impact, irrespective of intent. Related: do intentions or impact matter more in censoring work?

////

Finally, episode #2 of the Lindy Bro Radio Show is here. We bring on our music aficionado friend Ben Klibaner to discuss Toots and the Maytals (RIP), 100 gecs, and PC Music. Spotify playlist here.


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Todd Youngblood, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Yancey Strickler, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Jonny Dubowsky, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Samuel Jonas, Andy Cochrane, Malcolm Ocean, Ryan Martens, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Coury Ditch, Brayton Williams, Jeff Snyder, Mike Goldin, Chris Edmonds, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Rhys' Newsletter #25

Book Review: "The WEIRDest People in the World" by Joseph Henrich

Hey you!

I’m trying something new this week. Instead of just linking to my recent article, I’m going to post the entire text here.

The article is a book review of The WEIRDest People in the World by Joseph Henrich. It’s a delightful book that beautifully outlines the co-evolutionary process between voluntary institutions and the West's individualistic psychology. Or, in Roote language, how our institutional ontology co-evolves with our ethics.

Hope you enjoy the review! Next week I’ll show how we can use Henrich’s model to predict the future.

P.S. RF2 applications are open for the next two weeks!



Book Review: "The WEIRDest People in the World" by Joseph Henrich

Image

The cultural evolution of psychology is the dark matter that flows behind the scenes throughout history.

Joseph Henrich is the world's leading scholar of cultural evolution. He released a brilliant book last week, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous.

The book starts from this question: Why are Western folks psychologically different than other people around the world?

This Western peculiarity was found after scientists realized that many of their research subjects were homogenous: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Developed. Henrich calls these folks "WEIRD". Psychologically speaking, WEIRD folks are especially individualistic and analytical. In contrast, non-WEIRD folks (from Asia or the Amazon) are more collectivist and holistic.

Henrich asks the question: Why are WEIRD folks so peculiar? And how has this WEIRDness made the West so prosperous?

He tackles this question by exploring the co-evolutionary process between genetics, biology, psychology, norms, and institutions. Henrich looks at how these processes co-evolve through time: from apes, to early homo sapiens, kin-based structures in the Agrarian Age, the Catholic church in the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, and finally to the modern institutions of our modern era.

Let’s start by giving an overview of Henrich's model—how genetics, biology, psychology, norms, and institutions co-evolve.

I. Systemic Evolution

Systemic evolution (my term, not Henrich's) is the co-evolutionary process outlined above—how biology co-evolves with culture. It is the unique lens that cultural evolution provides as an academic field. For a simple example of this lens, let's consider how our genes have co-evolved with our culture.

Why do folks in Nordic countries have blue eyes? First, early homo sapiens had to survive in the cold north. To do so, we developed the technology to farm cereal. This allowed us to move north and still eat. But the north doesn't have much sun, which means we get less Vitamin D and don't need to worry as much about UV skin damage. So then we started to produce less melanin and our skin got whiter. As part of this, one of our melanin-producing genes had a mutation which made it produce less melanin. This made our skin whiter. And coincidentally, that "skin color" gene was close to our "eye color" gene, and so we got blue eyes!

Before humanity developed farming technology, all of us had brown eyes. Then we developed an adaptation at the cultural level (farming), which changed us at the genetic level (blue eyes). This example of culture-gene co-evolution points to the essence of systemic evolution—that our biology evolves as our society evolves.

There are five levels of systemic evolution: genetics, ontogeny, psychology, norms, and institutions.

  • Genetics: Genetic evolution happens slowly on generational time-scales of thousands of years. "Fitness" is determined by what genes reproduce the most.

  • Ontogeny: Ontogeny refers to the physical development of an organism during its own lifetime while genetics (or phylogeny) refers to how the organisms have evolved across lifetimes. As an example, taxi drivers have highly developed hippocampi, the part of the brain responsible for navigation.

  • Psychology: Psychology is how our brains process information. As opposed to the levels above, which are purely biological, psychology is more culturally-focused. As an example, WEIRD societies are individualistic, while non-WEIRD societies are collectivist.

  • Norms: Norms are what happens when we project our inner psychology out into the world. It is the praise we receive for jumpstarting a neighbor's car. Or the shame when someone steals a bike. These norms can become moderately calcified into habitual actions like shaking hands to greet each other.

  • Institutions: Institutions are the formalization of norms into even more calcified structures like laws, markets, corporations, and nation-states. These institutions are usually written down and change more slowly.

I like to think of these levels like Stewart Brand's pace layers—they move at different time scales. Here's Brand's pace layering:

And here's Systemic Evolution, which moves in a slow-fast-slow pattern:

In addition, System Evolution moves from the inner biological world, to the outer social world:

How can we understand the evolution of these layers? To do this, we need to understand the how higher cultural layers in the evolutionary stack "fit" onto lower down biological anchors.

II. Biological-Cultural Fit

Biological-cultural fit is the extent to which cultural adaptations fit onto our biological anchors. For example, we can't make biological ants believe in a Sun God. Ants' simple biology isn't a good anchor a complex culture.

For another example, let's look at how our cultural marriage norms were built on our biological pair-bonding instincts. As homo sapiens moved away from apes, we developed pair-bonding instincts to have a male-female pair watch over their children as their brains developed. From that biological instinct (pair-bonding), we developed the cultural technology to create marriage norms like wedding vows. But if we didn't have our pair-bonding anchor, those marriage norms wouldn't have stuck. Imagine trying to get sex-happy polygynous bonobos to settle down with one partner for life!

We can only jump so much in our evolution at any given time. This leads to a certain kind of "path dependence". Homo sapiens in 2020 are who we are because of homo sapiens in 10,000 BCE. And homo sapiens in 3000 can only follow from homo sapiens in 2020.

In technology, we'll often call this the "law of the adjacent possible." The iPhone wasn't possible in 1930s before computers. We needed information theory, transistors, digital cameras, and GPS before we could build the iPhone.

As another technological metaphor, think of Product-Market Fit (PMFit). PMFit says that a product will only be successful if it meets the needs of the market. Similarly, a given cultural innovation is only possible if it fits our natural biological anchor. We could call this Biological-Cultural Fit, or BCFit.

Now that we've understood Systemic Evolution and BCFit, we can trace these over time to understand how the West got so WEIRD.

III. Apes (Pre-200,000 BCE)

We started as apes. Now we're apes who wear clothes!

As apes, we didn't have the solidified norms and institutions that we've developed today. Those are inventions of homo sapiens.

However, we did have two important biological instincts which provide the anchor for future cultural evolution:

  • Polygynous Mating: All ape species besides homo sapiens engage in polygynous mating. All future mating/marriage norms need to be built on our initial anchor of polygyny.

  • Kin Altruism: Other ape species engage in kin altruism, where individuals cooperate with close kin in order to increase genetic fitness of close relatives. For example, I may give some extra food to my hungry brother because it increases the chances of his reproduction (and doesn't hurt me too much). Many of our kin-based institutions (like patrilineal clans) are built on the biological anchor of kin altruism.

IV. Early Homo Sapiens (200,000 BCE - 10,000 BCE)

Homo sapiens began to branch off from our ape ancestors. Many of the evolutions around this time were based on social learning and homo sapiens big brains. In fact, our ability to do social learning is what differentiates us from our ape ancestors. In the graph below, we can see how human toddlers compare to chimpanzees and orangutans on a series of cognitive tests. As you can see, humans are roughly equal to apes on tests of physical space, quantity, and causality. But we're much better than apes at social learning.

Homo sapiens brains are optimized for social learning. Instead of being "smart" when we come out of the womb, we start "dumb" but then pick up cultural adaptations extremely quickly. It's what makes us so flexible. Thousands of years ago, we could learn animal tracking from our community. Now, we learn the base-10 counting system.

Genetically, our bodies adapted for new big brains with things like wider hips for females to birth big brains. Culturally, we adapted by developing pair-bonding instincts. These instincts encourage the male-female sexual pair to bond and parent the child during their formative early years.

From a BCFit perspective, pair-bonding instincts were built on the polygynous anchor described above. This means that our (monogamish) pair bonds swim upstream of our polygynous nature. And as we'll soon see, these pair-bonding instincts set the anchor for later marriage norms.

V. Kin-Based Structures in Agrarian Age (10,000 BCE - 500 CE)

Around 10,000 BCE, humans learned how to domesticate animals and plants for farming. This technological evolution led us to larger, more complex societies with proto-institutions like states.

But these institutions were not like the Western institutions we have today, which are built on impersonal trust of strangers. Instead, we built institutions based on our kin instincts. These kin-based institutions had stronger Biological-Cultural Fit. Almost all of these kin-based institutions were based on some form of unilineal or patrilineal descent.

Patrilineal Descent

Patrilineal descent is the cultural adaptation that we should organize our kin structures around our male lineage. In Western societies, children take the father's last name. Or last names themselves will show your lineage: Johnson, Wilson, Anderson, etc.

Why did patrilineal descent show up? Remember, it was evolved, not invented. It's not like some old rich white guy decreed "one must track descent through the father." As it evolved, it needed to outcompete the exist system of bilineal descent (tracking both mother and father lines).

Patrilineal descent outcompeted bilineal descent because it mitigated conflicts of intra-family interest while also providing clear lines of authority. To see the difficulties of bilineal descent, Henrich gives the example of a hunting party:

To see bilineal conflicts, suppose we start with a father who is putting together a defensive party of 10 men to drive some interlopers off their community’s land. The father, Kerry, starts by drafting his two adult sons. This is a nice trio, evolutionarily speaking, since not only are all three closely related but they are also equally related—fathers and sons are genetically related at the same distance as brothers. This parity minimizes conflicts of interest within the trio.

Now, Kerry also recruits his older brother’s two sons, and their sons, who are just old enough to tag along. Still short three men, Kerry recruits his wife’s brother, Chuck, and his two sons.

As you can see, this is a mess of potential conflicts with several possible cleavages. What if Chuck faces a choice between saving one of his own sons in the melee or Kerry’s two nephews? What if Kerry’s nephew gets one of Chuck’s sons killed?

This is why bilineal descent is confusing. Who is on your team? And who do you take instructions from?

Instead, we can use patrilineal descent to reduce the conflicts of interest. Henrich writes:

To mitigate such conflicts, clans elevate one side of a person’s genealogy over the other and shift the focus of kinship reckoning from one centered on each individual to one centered on a shared ancestor. Thus everyone from the same generation is equally related to a shared ancestor, and everyone has the same set of relatives. This notion is amplified in how these societies label and refer to their relatives in their kinship terminologies. In patrilineal clans, for example, your father’s brother is often also called “father”.

Patrilineal descent simplifies kin structures by turning them into an us vs. them dynamic. It's ____-son vs. ____-son (Anderson vs. Johnson).

Patrilineal descent birthed a variety of social norms like patrilocal residence (which builds bonds among a father's children), equal-stake inheritance (so all children have aligned financial incentives), incest taboos (which decrease sexual competition within the clan), and arranged marriages (to create a network of alliances). In addition, humans created segmentary lineages—genealogical trees with deep rituals to remember the full clan.

By 500 CE, patrilineal descent had created a world full of strong kin-based clans. These clans had built kin-based norms and institutions on top of our biological tendency towards kin altruism and pair bonding.

However, our modern 2020 society is full of non-kin-based institutions like companies, governments, universities, and organized religion. How did we move away from kin-based institutions? The Catholic Church.

VI. Catholic Church in the Middle Ages (500 CE - 1500 CE)

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church both: a) broke down existing kin-based institutions and b) built up new non-kin-based institutions. Let's look at each.

VI.A How the Church's Marriage and Family Program (MFP) Broke Kin-Based Institutions

When it formed, Christianity was a hip new kind of religion—one with a moralizing god. Previous religions didn't care much about your personal actions. But Christianity (and Islam, among others) had found a cultural adaptation. By saying "if you do good, God will get you into heaven", these new religions were able to increase impersonal trust between strangers, which allowed larger, more complex societies to form.

As these religions began to spread, they competed with existing kin-based institutions. The Catholic Church competed with kin-based clans by: a) Breaking kin lineages and b) Redirecting financial inheritance from kin to the church.

The Church broke kin lineages by exploiting their Achilles' heel—they must produce heirs every generation. Henrich writes:

A single generation without heirs can mean the end of a venerable lineage. Mathematically, lineages with a few dozen, or even a few hundred, people will eventually fail to produce an adult of the “right” sex. This means that all lineages will eventually find themselves without any members of the inheriting sex. Because of this, cultural evolution has devised various strategies of heirship that involve adoption, polygamy, and remarriage.

The Church exploited this weakness by breaking kin lineages with new rules that constrained adoption, polygamy, and remarriage (their "Marriage and Family Program").

In addition, the Church took money away from kin-based lineages by encouraging inheritance donations to the Church. They even provided a powerful carrot: if you donated to the Church, you were more likely to go to Heaven. And, instead of requiring this during life, you could do it at the end:

Rich people could bequest some or all of their wealth to the poor at the time of their death. This allowed the wealthy to stay rich all their lives, but to still thread the proverbial needle, by giving generously to the poor at their death.

This was a massive moneymaker for the Church. Bequests of land were the most common:

By 900 CE, the Church owned about a third of the cultivated land in western Europe. By the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the Church owned half of Germany, and between one-quarter and one-third of England.

Over the course of centuries, the Church slowly broke down kin-based lineages by: a) Destroying the lineages themselves and b) Redirecting their sources of income.

VI.B The Creation of Non-Kin-Based Voluntary Organizations

The Church dismantled kin-based tribes that had previously provided humans with interdependence networks that met our needs of safety and connection. But we still needed to meet those needs. What would take their place?

At this time, a wide variety of non-kin-based voluntary associations began to form in cities: companies, churches, guilds, unions, political parties, and universities. These looked like similar organizations in the East, but were actually built on a new proto-WEIRD foundation. Henrich writes:

While the urban centers of 11th-century Europe may have superficially looked like puny versions of those in China or the Islamic world, they were actually a newly emerging form of social and political organization, ultimately rooted in, and arising from, a different cultural psychology and family organization. Smaller families with greater residential and relational mobility would have nurtured greater psychological individualism, more analytic thinking, less devotion to tradition, stronger desires to expand one’s social network, and greater motivations for equality over relational loyalty.

From 800-1800 the urban population in Europe increased from 5% to 20%. As these cities formed, they created charters and laws to regulate urban behavior. Popular charters (like Magdeburg Law) were copied and remixed throughout Europe.

In these newly booming cities, colleges began to form. The first modern university started in Europe in 1000. 500 years later, there were 50 universities across Europe.

Markets spread as well. Cities applied for grants to hold violence-free markets in their jurisdictions. At the same time, these cities began to attract merchants, traders, lawyers, and other professionals to engage in commerce. They developed lex mercatoriaa set of norms and laws around impersonal exchange.

These voluntary organizations co-evolved with a proto-WEIRD psychology that elevated the individual over the collective, singular objects over holistic relationships, and self-focused guilt over community-given shame. In our previous kin-based culture, it was incredibly important to think of oneself in relationship to the personal contexts around us. But as voluntary associations began to form, it was increasingly important for us to provide a clear individual outward face for others to interact with, like an API.

These voluntary organizations were possible because of both the destruction of old kin-based culture and the incubation of an individualistic proto-WEIRD psychology that made individuals more likely to adopt impersonal associations.

In addition, these voluntary organizations (and their accompanying proto-WEIRD psychology) provided the anchor upon which the Protestant Reformation, Industrial Revolution, and modern nation-states would form.

This is all shown in the feedback loop below. Ape instincts led to the co-evolution of kin-based clans and psychology. Then The Church broke that an led to the co-evolution of WEIRD institutions and psychology.

VII. Protestant Reformation and the Industrial Revolution (1500-2000)

Protestantism sacralized the psychological complex that had been percolating in Europe during the centuries leading up to the Reformation.

In other words, the Protestant Reformation took our proto-WEIRD individualism and codified it into religion:

Embedded deep in Protestantism is the notion that individuals should develop a personal relationship with God. To accomplish this, both men and women needed to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, and not rely primarily on the authority of supposed experts, priests, or institutional authorities like the Church. This principle is known as sola scriptura.

As Max Weber argues in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, this Protestant ethic led directly to the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism.

But was this the only explanation for why Europe was the center of the Industrial Revolution? No. Henrich writes:

Proposed explanations for “Why Europe?” emphasize the development of representative governments, the rise of impersonal commerce, the discovery of the Americas, the availability of English coal, the length of European coastlines, the brilliance of Enlightenment thinkers, the intensity of European warfare, the price of British labor, and the development of a culture of science.

Henrich believes it was our proto-WEIRD psychology that underpinned each of these explanations:

I suspect that all of these factors may have played some role, even if minor in some cases; but, what’s missing is an understanding of the psychological differences that began developing in some European populations in the wake of the Church’s dissolution of Europe’s kin-based institutions.

The cultural evolution of psychology is the dark matter that flows behind the scenes throughout history.

Let's look at a few manifestations of this psychological WEIRD dark matter: a market mindset, individual rights, and scientific practices.

VII.A Doux Commerce as Domesticated Intergroup Competition

Capitalism rose with a market psychology that Henrich touches on. (And, imo, is most clearly explained in Albert Hirschman's The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism Before Its Triumph.) The idea is one of domesticated intergroup competition. Instead of killing each other in competition, we just beat each other in the market.

This mindset (of gentle commerce, or doux commerce) was spearheaded by various thinkers at the time:

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule that wherever manners are gentle there is commerce; and wherever there is commerce, manners are gentle.
—Montesquieu (1749)

Commerce is a pacific system, operating to cordialise mankind, by rendering Nations, as well as individuals, useful to each other...The invention of commerce...is the greatest approach toward universal civilization that has yet been made by any means not immediately flowing from moral principles.
—Thomas Paine (1792)

VII.B Individual Rights and Democracy

In addition, our proto-WEIRD individualism also led to the formation of modern law and especially the concept of individual rights. Henrich again:

The Declaration of Independence asserts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

If the idea that people are endowed with such abstract properties makes sense to you, then you are at least a little WEIRD.

By contrast, from the perspective of most human communities, the notion that each person has inherent rights or privileges disconnected from their social relationships or heritage is not self-evident.

And from a scientific perspective, no “rights” have yet been detected hiding in our DNA or elsewhere. This idea sells because it appeals to a particular cultural psychology.

Individual rights gave individuals power they had never had before. In addition, democracy itself began to empower the general populace. Before democracy, only gods or lineage gave one legitimacy. Now, the people themselves were seen as a source of legitimacy. (Crazy!)

VII.C Individualistic Science and the Collective Brain

With the rise of universities, European science was beginning to blossom. These new European scientists were a bit different though—they had proto-WEIRD individualism. Instead of respecting their scientific elders, they new actively pushed back against them. This led to paradigm shifts like Copernicus' discovery of heliocentrism in 1543.

In fact, the very notion of "discovery" was discovered at this time. The word itself first appears in European languages around this time: Portuguese in 1484, Italian in 1504, etc.

In addition, scientists began to associate discoveries with individuals. Henrich writes:

Our commonsensical inclination to associate inventions with their inventors has been historically and cross-culturally rare. This shift has been marked by the growth of eponymy in the naming of new lands (“America”), scientific laws (“Boyle’s Law”), ways of thinking (“Newtonian”), anatomical parts (“fallopian tubes”), and much more. After about 1600, Europeans even began to relabel ancient insights and inventions based on their purported founders or discoverers. “Pythagoras’s theorem,” for example, had been called the “Dulcarnon” (a word derived from an Arabic phrase for “two-horned,” which described Pythagoras’s accompanying diagram)."

Ideas themselves could now be stolen:

"Marking this in English, words for “plagiarism” first began to spread in the 16th century, following the introduction in 1598 of the word “plagiary,” which derives from the Latin word for kidnapping."

With the rise of the printing press and knowledge societies, these new individualistic scientists began to operate as a collective brain. Henrich again:

The Cistercian Order, in particular, built a sprawling network of monastery-factories that deployed the latest techniques for grinding wheat, casting iron, tanning hides, fulling cloth, and cultivating grapes. At mandatory annual meetings, hundreds of Cistercian abbots shared their best technical, industrial, and agricultural practices with the entire order. This essentially threaded Europe’s collective brain with Cistercian nerves, pulsing the latest technical advances out to even the most remote monasteries."


These examples—individual rights, doux commerce, and an individual collective brain—are all manifestations of this new individualistic WEIRD psychology. Can we get closer though? To measure WEIRDness itself?

The most direct way to measure this psychology is through the BIG-5 personality test, which is a scientifically-backed set of 5 traits that all individuals can be measured by. You can remember them with the mnemonic OCEAN: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

So, we'd expect WEIRD folks to look different than non-WEIRD folks, right? Like maybe Western folks are more extraverted?

Wrong! In fact, non-WEIRD folks don't even register on the same personality test—they have a completely different set of personality dimensions. For example, some anthropologists studied the remote Tsimané people. Their society is built differently than Western society (i.e. no impersonal institutions). And therefore, the personality types that one can "be" in their society are different. Instead, their personality types mostly group along two clusters: pro-sociality and industriousness. In rural Tsimané society, there's no evolutionary niche for 5-dimensions of personality to emerge. While in a more urban culture, there's room for occupational diversity.

We can see this statistically by looking at the intercorrelation among BIG-5 traits. In theory, the traits should be orthogonal to each other. For example, in the USA, there's only a 0.10 correlation between traits. But in a non-WEIRD country like Tanzania, there's nearly a 0.50 correlation between traits!

The graph below (from Henrich) shows how urbanization rate correlates with BIG-5 intercorrelation.

This is all to say: BIG-5 personality traits are just a manifestation of WEIRD psychology and parallel co-evolution of WEIRD impersonal institutions. It's not the BIG-5, it's the WEIRD-5.


VIII. Conclusion

In today's article, we looked at why the West is so WEIRDly individualistic: The Church broke down kin-based structures which created space for impersonal institutions that highlighted the individual. These new institutions became embedded in people as a WEIRD individualistic psychology. (Which then led to even more impersonal institutions.) Here is how Henrich explains the whole trajectory:

But I'd represent it as this Loopy. Ape instincts led to the co-evolution of kin-based clans and psychology. Then The Church broke that and led to the co-evolution of WEIRD institutions and psychology.

In the next part of this series, I'll show how we can use Henrich's model to positively shape the future. Until then!

Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Todd Youngblood, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Yancey Strickler, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Jonny Dubowsky, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Samuel Jonas, Andy Cochrane, Malcolm Ocean, Ryan Martens, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Coury Ditch, Brayton Williams, Jeff Snyder, Mike Goldin, Chris Edmonds, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Rhys' Newsletter #24

Fires, RF2, and OnlyFans

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it with a friend or support me on Patreon!

If you want to go deeper on these ideas, apply for my online school, Roote—a community of world-class systems thinkers looking to understand and build the future.


Hey y’all,

Sending love and hugs and presence to you. ❤️

1) I’ve had a tough September thus far. The smoke in the Bay has been brutal. I want to share two helpful (if intense) notes from friends:

Note 1: Today I am reminded of nuclear winter. Although the impact of a large scale nuclear war carries a lot of uncertainties, I could imagine the sky being darkened for a lot longer. I’m glad we’re in the world where the skies are darkened by forest fires and not the one where they’re darkened by ash from nuked cities. It feels a bit odd saying this, kind of like saying that I’m glad I’m me and not the bee, when my car hits a bee going down the road.

Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor

Note 2: If you’re thinking about leaving the area to escape the smoke, please take a second to remember that this option isn’t available to everyone. As climate catastrophe worsens, white flight will leave marginalized communities in the most impacted areas, potentially without means to escape. Enjoy your fresh air, and when you return, think about what you can do to stop this from being the new norm ❤️

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

2) To stop this from becoming the new norm—applications for Roote Fellowship 2 are open!

RF2 will solve wildfires, poverty, bad hair days, and more.

Actually though, check it out! RF2 is a great place to connect with like-minded systems folks who are building a positive future.

RF1 ended last week and I’ll share more of their projects and stories soon. For now, here’s why they decided to join RF1:

I am a nerd for deep thought and hard problems. This fellowship seems to be the type of place where people like me might like to hang out and learn and grow together. I gamble it’s not possible to be a lazy thinker and to enjoy what Rhys creates.

I joined RF to help refine my own mental framework of how I would like to work within the new paradigms that are shaping the future of our society.

I’m here because I want to connect with like-minded individuals and understand how business and society change as we move towards post-capitalism. I’d like to be at the forefront of this change and would love to help catalyze it.

RF2 starts Oct 5, lasts 6 weeks, and costs $2,000 (with some scholarships available!). Three folks are already confirmed and we’re looking for ten more this cohort.

👉 Roote.co 👈

Please apply, reach out if you have questions, or share with a friend! If you share with a friend and they end up joining, I’ll buy you a zoom drink. 🍻

LINKS

1) Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Retail.

This is the final essay in the Write of Passage fellowship. In it, Adrienne does a great job of exploring the impacts of lower-cost transportation.

The internet lowered the cost of distributing info (bits) to zero, which created an abundance of info. We’re beginning to see a similar process, but with moving atoms. Unlike with bits, we can’t get the marginal cost to zero. Still, drones and self-driving EVs will drastically decrease the cost of shipping (by 40-90%).

Here’s a chart of [drones vs. other shipping options] graphed by delivery time and price:

Once these costs decrease, will see Aggregation Theory-ish impacts:

  • Platforms that control user demand weaken the bargaining power of suppliers (restaurants become dependent on GrubHub).

  • And with it, the move towards Cloud Kitchens (delivery-only restaurants that don’t pay for expensive real estate).

  • Platforms move backward to integrate supply (Netflix creating content :: GrubHub creating poke restaurants).

  • Made For You trusted subscription bundles become the norm, replacing advertising and brands (like a Spotify-personalized playlist, but through Amazon Prime).

tl;dr: Homo sapiens love decreasing the cost of moving stuff :)

2) The Insane Story of How OnlyFans Changed Porn (moderately NSFW)

This video hit #1 on r/videos and then was taken down. It’s back up now! It gives a good overview of how PornHub disrupted the traditional (VHS) porn industry with an ad-based biz model, which led to huge profits for the platform owner and little money for adult entertainers. (Also see, GAFA.)

PornHub was then disintermediated by 1:1 connection in private Snap (and later, OnlyFans). And, like other manifestations of the Passion Economy (Twitch streamers, etc.), porn viewers pay hefty OnlyFans subscriptions for a personal experience.

This is surprising: why pay an OnlyFans subscription when you can get PornHub for free? OnlyFans doesn’t compete with PornHub (on porn vids). It competes with high-end escort services (on something closer to a “virtual girlfriend” experience). And the performers love it—they keep 90% of their earnings (instead of PornHub taking everything).

(Also, like any low-friction platform, OnlyFans has bi-modal Big Winner-Long Tail dynamics.)

3) The Onion: God Selects Fall Interns.

JOBS / OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

I find “responsible consumption” fascinating. Should I be a vegetarian? (Or just pay $1/year to have the same carbon impact?) Should I actively try to support BIPOC-run restaurants? But what if I’m just supporting them because they’re BIPOC? Lots of tough questions.

Music consumption (and art consumption more generally) has similar questions. Should I not play an artist because they did a bad thing? Or because their song has a negative message?

In general, I’ve continued to play all artists. However, there’s one artist that I’ve decided to censor from my Spotify: R. Kelly, the 55th best-selling musician in the US.

I’m all for forgiveness, but damn, R. Kelly seems to have a long background in awful conduct. He currently faces a total of 18 federal counts, including child pornography, kidnapping and forced labor. His music now lives in my “Censored” Spotify playlist. (And yep, I recognize the irony in sharing it here.)

However, I’m not sure if I should censor other artists.

For example, I still listen to (and love) Pogo even though he once stated he has a “fairly robust resentment of the gay community”. However, Pogo said he was just impersonating far-right folks. And that his neuroatypical personality is a contributing factor. (Aside: I’ve seen this interaction before. A spectrum-y person says something negative and then SJA folks call them out. How should neuroatypicality play a role in a fully intersectional approach?)

As another example, check out this German track: Kreuzweg Ost - Für Kaiser, Gott und Vaterland. It translates to “For the Emperor, God and Fatherland.” It has Nazi vibes and was produced by death metal folks. Eep! This is less “the artist might be bad” (Pogo) and more “the music is bad” (Nazi themes). But maybe it’s ok? The band layers old audio clips (here, from the German version of All Quiet on the Western Front) on other music (here, an Ennio Morricone song). So they’re similar to Public Service Broadcasting. So maybe it’s more historical than supportive?

And even if it is “pure” Nazi music, should I not listen? There’s something deeply powerful about music’s ability to help us empathize with other perspectives. (See #11’s playlist on black folks reaction to George Floyd.) What music is it ok to empathize with?

I’m curious: Is there any music that you choose not to play because the artist or content itself is negative?


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Yancey Strickler, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Jonny Dubowsky, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Samuel Jonas, Andy Cochrane, Malcolm Ocean, Ryan Martens, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Coury Ditch, Brayton Williams, Jeff Snyder, Mike Goldin, Chris Edmonds, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Rhys' Newsletter #23

Biden Memes and Ironesty

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share with a friend or support me on Patreon!

If you want to go deeper on these ideas, apply for my online school, Roote—a community of world-class systems thinkers looking to understand and build the future.


Hey y’all,

I was feeling sad this past week. Some combination of smoke, foot injuries, dating life, and procrastination. It could also just be the COVID blues. Sometimes we’re happy, and sometimes we’re sad. And that’s ok. ❤️

1) I’ve started a pro-Biden memes page with my friends Jacob and Adam. It’s called Malarkey Memes with Presidential Themes.

Image may contain: 1 person, meme, text that says 'WELCOME flip.c TO MALARKEY MEMES'

I usually don’t discuss U.S. politics in this newsletter. There’s enough attention on it already.

In fact, I mostly see nation-states as a legacy institution from the Industrial Age. Instead, I’m focused on other systems for public goods (liberal radicalism), evolving the current system (with an expanded House of Reps), and exploring GovTech and CivicTech (e.g. as networked nonviolent protest).

And yet, damn, the world would be so much better off with Biden instead of Trump. There’s only two months before the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Trump has a 30% chance of winning. Eep!

Plus, Biden is actually a great candidate. Jacob, Adam, and I wanted to make a case for “Pro Joe” while also upping our meme game. It’s been fun (and difficult!) to find great meme templates and then wordsmith dank memes on top. Here are two recent favorites:

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor, text that says 'Bernie Iam once again asking for you to vote for Joe Biden'Epic Handshake Meme |  BIDEN 2020; Progressives who want large government, not an authoritarian narcissist; Conservatives who want small government, not an authoritarian narcissist | image tagged in memes,epic handshake | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Like the page on Facebook here: Malarkey Memes with Presidential Themes.

And whether you’re in the U.S. or not, please vote in your upcoming elections!

Now back to your regularly scheduled, non-political programming…

2) Here’s some feedback from my friend Gabby Hibbert on last week’s WAP article:

Without a doubt the onus of power & pleasure is placed on the male rapper (ex. in Playboi Carti's music video for Broke Boi, a woman is being held at gunpoint while giving him head).

Women like Princess Nokia, City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion, and Cardi B reversed the onus of power. Lil' Kim started it all back in the early 90s in the U.S. When I have seen people reference Lil' Kim, I see them casting a nostalgic lens on her work, even though she did many of the things that Cardi * Megan do now.

TL;DR: rap is like punk. It is vulgar, freeing to certain groups, and problematic to some.

LINKS

1) Art is one of the best ways to understand Metamodernism (which is a manifestation of Roote Pillar #3 Coherent Pluralism).

This 8min “Cute House” video perfectly shows the metamodernist stance. In it, a group of men get excited by their friend’s cute house. But one of the men has trouble with thinking of himself as cute. So the men stage a therapy session for him to embrace his cuteness.

Why is it metamodern? Because it’s both hilarious and heartfelt. It’s not “naively honest” (as modernism would be). But it’s also not purely ironic (as post-modernism would be).

Instead, it has both ironic and honest sides (ironesty). It’s metamodern!

Compare this to the controversial #MeToo Gillette ad. That ad is honest without irony. I’m not sure the best way to move towards more compassionate masculinity, but ironestly exploring boyhood socialization seems like a good start.

2) The New Progressive Agenda. This is a good overview from the Tony Blair Institute on a tech-enabled progressive agenda. It starts with the claim:

The institutions of the 20th century are fundamentally mismatched to the challenges of the 21st century.

Then highlights various areas of GovTech: predictive health for all, personalised education for all, universal digital inclusion, charter sectors, platforms for public services, networked institutions, and more.

3) I loved this critique of the tech industry: tech brain.

tech brain is a sort of constant willful reductionism: an addiction to easy answers combined with a wholesale cultural resistance to any kind of complexity.

4) Entropy Theory. This is a good overview (from Packy!) of how new internet protocols create abundance, which leads to new companies that need to “wrangle that entropy”.

5) The Onion: Spotify Celebrates 100th Dollar Given to Artists.

JOBS / OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

My brother John and I love talking about weird music. So we decided to record ourselves listening and bumpin’ to tunes we like. Check it here:

Here’s the show’s playlist. I especially recommend the jazz cover of Ain’t No Sunshine:


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Yancey Strickler, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Jonny Dubowsky, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Samuel Jonas, Andy Cochrane, Malcolm Ocean, Ryan Martens, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Coury Ditch, Brayton Williams, Jeff Snyder, Mike Goldin, Chris Edmonds, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Rhys' Newsletter #22

microCOVIDs, WAP, and DeFi fair launches

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share with a friend or support me on Patreon!

If you want to go deeper on these ideas, apply for my online school, Roote—a community of world-class systems thinkers looking to understand and build the future.


Howdy (internet) neighbor—let’s dive in!

1) microCOVIDs: A Tool To Quantify the COVID Risk of Daily Activities

Many of us feel trapped by COVID.

We don’t want to get COVID or spread it in our community, but it doesn’t make sense to always hermit at home. We also want to see friends for our mental health. What can we do? How bad is going to a bar? Or taking a Lyft? How risky are the daily activities of life?

Enter: The microCOVID Calculator. This tool tells you how risky activities are in terms of microCOVIDs—a one-in-a-million chance of getting COVID.

Thinking of going to a bar in California? That’ll be 40,000 microCOVIDs (or a 4% chance of getting COVID). Going on an outdoor walk with a friend? That’ll be just 10 microCOVIDs.

I’m proud to be part of the team that developed this open-source tool. (It was my house and our friends, with a special shout-out to my housemate and fearless leader Catherine Olsson.) Thinking in terms of microCOVIDs has been incredibly helpful for our group house. I hope it helps you too.

Try out the calculator and let me know if you have any feedback!

2) In completely unrelated news, I wrote a piece this week on Cardi B’s new song: Does WAP Empower or Objectify Women?

In it, I look at:

  • How empowerment vs. objectification is an example of Coherent Pluralism

  • Empowerment Washing: Why sexualized content wants to signal that it’s empowering, not objectifying

  • Why debates like these garner so much attention

As a dude, I’m especially curious for feedback on this piece. What did I miss or misunderstand? [Update: just got this feedback today!]

One point I didn’t see you address is womxn who feel empowered by controlling how they are objectified. For example, a womxn dancing in a cage with a throng of men gathered below. If she is choosing her environment, is excited about her work, and feels good about how the men are treating her, then she’s being objectified exactly how she wants and is empowered in that. It’s not always an “or”.

Also, I’d say Cardi B does have some power in controlling how she gets objectified, based on what content she shares and how she delivers it. There’s always a varied scope of control. For example, I could strut down a street feeling empowered in my choice to be eye candy and enjoy being objectified. But if someone grabbed my ass unexpectedly from behind it would be horrible objectification for me and out of my control. The person abused their power, and so I lost my empowerment.

3) Last week I finished my final Roote Fellowship lectures. These 17 lectures total 13 hours of content and give an overview of the 5 Pillars of the Roote System:

I. Systems

II. Networkism

III. Coherent Pluralism

IV. Bentoism

V. Generosity

They are the curriculum for RF, but I’m open-sourcing them because info wants to be free. I hope they’re helpful!

LINKS

1) Last week I discussed climate climate and complex systems. Here’s a follow-up piece from ProPublica: They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

In prehistoric California, natural wildfires burned 7.5M acres per year. Now we burn only 13,000 acres each year.

How did we get here? Culture, greed, liability laws and good intentions gone awry. There are just so many reasons not to pick up the drip torch and start a prescribed burn even though it’s the safe, smart thing to do.

The overarching reason is culture. In 1905, the U.S. Forest Service was created with a military mindset. Not long after, renowned American philosopher William James wrote in his essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” that Americans should redirect their combative impulses away from their fellow humans and onto “Nature.”

But some fire Cassandras are more optimistic than others. Lenya Quinn-Davidson is working on forming burn cooperatives and designing burner certificate programs to bring healthy fire practices back into communities. She’d like to get Californians back closer to the fire culture in the Southeast where, she said, “Your average person goes out back with Grandpa, and they burn 10 acres on a Sunday.”

We’re not at war with nature, but are in relationship with it. To develop resilience, we need to give the forest intermittent shocks—a black-and-green checkerboard pattern of prescribed burns.

2) I re-found this amazing piece from MoreToThat: Travel is No Cure for the Mind. In it, Lawrence argues that new things (travel, new cars, etc.) don’t make us happier. They eventually get old. Instead, we should develop a gratitude practice to be happy with our daily experience.

Or in the words of my recent piece, How to Live a Meaningful Life, we should be “Presentists” with the “Antifragile Attractors” of our daily experience.

3) There’s a ton of fascinating work happening right now in crypto’s DeFi.

First, Uniswap just passed Coinbase in 24-hour trading volume: Uniswap has $426M, while Coinbase has $348M. This is a pattern in how open infrastructure and protocols impact society. There’s lots of underlying work that no one sees, and then bam—it looks like it came out of nowhere.

Second, we’ve seen a renewed interest in “fair launches”. The idea here is this: Crypto projects want to distribute their tokens fairly to their initial community. But how? New projects in the DeFi space do this with “yield farming”, where they give out their native governance tokens to community members who do “work” for the protocol (usually by providing liquidity).

Here are some recent examples: $YFI first popularized the fair launch idea. $YAM followed up with its own fair launch. The team didn’t expect much interest so didn’t audit their smart contracts. (And because the were fair launching, they didn’t have money to do so!) Unfortunately, after hundreds of millions of dollars entered the project, a bug in the contract was found.

As a response, some folks founded fair launch capital (FLC). They provide money to do contract audits for community-owned fair launch projects like $YAM. And if the new fair launch protocol gains traction, then that project “pays back” FLC to allow another project to do a fair launch.

Meanwhile, $YAM has switched 98% of its users to the safe v2 smart contract. And the community just voted to self-tax 1% of their flows into a Gitcoin Grant to fund public goods for the $YAM ecosystem.

It’s fascinating stuff. I don’t really know where all this will go (will they even make money?). Here’s the best future prediction that I’ve found: Fair Launches Will Disrupt Crypto VC.

No matter what, lots of money will be lost as these experiments continue to run (that’s an inevitable result of new protocols). But I’m still bullish on the idealist vision of many crypto folks. Here’s how Andre from $YFI responded recently when defending against a community proposal that would make him more money:

“Yes this could add revenue, but I feel it goes against the ethos of DeFi.

We could fork Aave/Curve and create those markets, but that isn’t what this movement is about.

It’s about supporting each other. Not for our personal well-being, but for DeFi as a whole.”

3) The Onion: Michael Phelps Breaches Surface To Ask If Coronavirus Still Happening Before Returning To Briny Depths.

JOBS / OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

See the article above: Does WAP Empower or Objectify Women?

Here’s a playlist with my favorite songs about a very, uhhh, explicit type of female empowerment:

And here’s a hilarious remix of Ben Shapiro cold reading the lyrics to WAP.


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Yancey Strickler, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Jonny Dubowsky, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Samuel Jonas, Andy Cochrane, Malcolm Ocean, Ryan Martens, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Coury Ditch, Brayton Williams, Jeff Snyder, Mike Goldin, Chris Edmonds, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Loading more posts…