Rhys' Newsletter #46

David Christian on Big History, $ESSAY, and new research on global values

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it with a friend, support me on Patreon, or apply for my online school, Roote.

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Hey you!

Missed ya last week while I was on a writing retreat. He’s a picture of me (not writing) at the nearby Sutro Baths.

Though tbh with the mask, glasses, and hat this could be anyone. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

On the writing front: If you want to hang out and discuss my book, Terra Sapien: The Networked Human Borg, I’m hosting a 60min session at The Stoa on March 11 at 5pm PT. Register here.

1) Podcast this week. #80 David Christian: How Big History Helps Us Understand Our Long Now.

David Christian is a historian who co-founded the Big History Project with Bill Gates. Big History focuses on the evolution of our universe, biological life, and human culture. It’s a fascinating, interdisciplinary field that has helped me reframe modern events in their deeper cosmological context.

Here are some of the highlights from my conversation with David.

First, I ask David for an overview of our universe:

Rhys: Could you give us the one-minute version of how things have evolved since the beginning of time?

David: Oh, a one-minute version?

Rhys: Your time begins now.

David: All of these different stories can be seen as part of one single story—increasing complexity.

The Big History story is a series of threshold crossing points where the universe suddenly generates something new.

Stars are one of the first of these new things. Then stars generate new chemical elements. With new chemical elements, you can create new types of matter.

So you can create planets, for example, which are chemically much more complex than stars. And once you have planets, you have very special environments that are chemically complex enough to create the first living organisms. Then you can tell the story of evolution—how a greater diversity of organisms appeared until eventually, you have human beings.

What is different about humans? Humans can share information in a way that no other organism can. We have, in our heads, huge amounts of information that was put into our heads by other humans. That’s the secret of our success.

I've already cheated, I've taken more than a minute.

Rhys: You’re good, you’re good.

So stars created new elements, which created DNA, which created humans who host cultural information in our heads. Got it.

We then discuss the rise of a global superorganism:

Rhys: Is it helpful to view us as this new Borg?

David: The tendency of many parts of Big History is towards the creation of groups that are so interdependent that eventually, you have to start thinking of them almost as a single organism.

We can see this with humanity. Humans always exist in communities which support each other. They also live in each other's heads because they talk to each other all the time. So what's in my head is not just my stuff. It's human stuff.

It's as if in our brains were already beginning to live inside a superorganism. Since the coming together of one global community in the last few hundred years, this superorganism has become more and more significant.

This leads into the idea of our shared global memesphere:

David: Our minds drive us to think of ourselves as a single individual. But you can ask yourself the question: If, in my lifetime, I had never talked to another human, how much of the stuff in my head now would actually be there?

Almost none of it. In other words, most of the stuff in my mind was not created by me. It was put there by other people through conversation, in school, through reading, through the internet.

I love that question: What percent of your thoughts are “natively” from you? Zero.

Much more in the podcast itself.

2) I liked this $ESSAY from John Palmer on Scissor Labels.

A scissor label is a word that establishes a widely embraced name for a trend without simultaneously establishing a canonical definition.

John gives the example of Hyperpop, a musical genre which we discussed in #26. People get into debates on what is or is not Hyperpop. These debates get represented in memes like the one below. “X is Hyperpop.”

John closes his piece by warning that scissor labels lead to endless debates. (What is the best label for scissor labels? 😂)

I agree. We’ve discussed these kinds of debate a lot in this newsletter. I call them Antifragile Attractors. These topics (memes) suck people into endless internet debates. ContraPoints showed how “trans women are women” is a bad slogan. It sucks people into a debate over “facts” when the actual debate is political. (Contra prefers “trans liberation now.”)

One final note on John’s $ESSAY: it was crowdfunded for $15,000 on Mirror. As a writer/creator myself, I’m excited by all the work that’s happening in the NFT space right now.

We’ll see if I end up writing a $BOOK, not just a book. 😉

$LINKS

1) There’s a new World Values Survey. Yay!

Over three years, this survey interviews 100,000+ folks across 80 countries about their values. They ask questions like: “How important is religion to you?” Or “How much do you value self-expression?”

In order to more easily understand the data, the researchers reduce the answers to two dimensions. The x dimension is Survival Values vs. Self-Expression Values. Do you value Now Me basic needs or Future Me meaning needs? The y dimension is Traditional Values vs. Secular-Rational Values. Is your worldview more bound by religion or not?

We can then map all countries onto those two dimensions. This is called the Inglehart-Welzel map. Here’s the version from 2017:

Countries that are worse off (many African-Islamic countries) emphasize survival and traditional religious values. Well-off countries in Protestant Europe like Sweden emphasize self-expression and secular values. The Confucian countries place emphasis on secular values (they aren’t that religious), but they don’t emphasize the individualism in self-expression values.

Here’s the new 2020 map. What differences do you see? How have world values changed in the last three years?

I created an (artisanal) gif of this transition:

Overall, we can see a “stretching” trend. The country groups are getting further from each other. Looking at specific groups:

  • Protestant Europe and English-Speaking (in yellow) became much more self-expression-y (moved right). We can see this in culture with things like: Burning Man, being yourself, gap years, conscious consumerism, finding a job with your values, and later marriage timelines. These folks are trying to find a “meaningful life”. They’re “climbing the second mountain.”

  • The Confucian countries (in orange) also became more self-expression-y (moved right). China became more individualistic as they continued to embrace capitalism. This makes their One-Party system unsustainable in the long-term. As I mentioned during the Russian protests (#41), self-expression values create a demand for democracy, which then needs to be supplied by the state. In just three years, China’s value on self-expression moved from -1 to 0 (in the scale above). If they’re even at 1 by 2030 (near Spain and Italy), we’ll see more democratic protests.

  • On the other side of the stretching, African-Islamic countries moved down and to the left. There was more scarcity and more emphasis on religion there. The average of those countries moved from (-.5, -1) to (-1, -1.25).

When the next survey comes out (2023), I expect more countries to move to the left (towards survival values) given COVID turmoil. Let’s check back then!

2) This is a hilarious 2min video about how far we still have left to go as a species. The hand sanitizer moment is amazing.

3) The Onion:

4) Babylon Bee: G.I. Joe To Be Replaced With Genderless G.I. Pat

JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

Todrick Hall is a former American Idol semifinalist who makes catchy, queer-adjacent music. The music video below is a funny jam about COVID precautions.

The song above is a remix of one of Hall’s other songs, “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels.” NHHH might be the best dance song in the last 5 years. At 2:00, Todrick starts telling you what to do. Pose, twirl, snap, etc. It’s like the macarena, updated for the 21st century. Definitely pull out the song during your first dance party post-COVID.


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Audra Jacobi, Sam Jonas, Patrick Walker, Shira Frank, David Hanna, Benjamin Bratton, Michael Groeneman, Haseeb Qureshi, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, David Ernst, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Malcolm Ocean, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Rhys' Newsletter #45

Off week. Three cute clips.

Rhys' Newsletter #44

Lenticular memes, lots of jobs, and acapella music videos

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it with a friend, support me on Patreon, or apply for my online school, Roote.

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Hello TeamFamSquad,

Let’s dive right into Stratechery’s Gamestop piece from last week, Mistakes and Memes. It mirrors many of the topics I wrote about in #42.

First, both Ben and I note how memes must meet needs. Ben writes about Tesla meeting Future Us needs for sustainability and Future Me needs for meaning:

Tesla means something: yes, it stands for sustainability and caring for the environment, but more important is that Tesla also means amazing performance and Silicon Valley cool.

Second, once a meme meets needs, it must connect to money or IRL events to survive long-term. I wrote:

A meme needs to compel its host to share the meme. Bitcoin spreads because users are financially incentivized to share it.

Another powerful meme property is to encourage in-person phenomena. #MeToo canceled many celebrities, #BLM encouraged epic protests, and #StopTheSteal manifested as storming the US Capitol. These IRL impacts get posted online, which spreads the meme more, leading to more IRL impacts.

Ben shares a similar perspective—memes must connect to infrastructure:

That’s the thing with memes: on their own they are fleeting; like a virus, they primarily have an impact if they infiltrate and take over infrastructure that already exists.

The reason why Trump was successful was because he managed to infiltrate and take over infrastructure — the Republican Party — that already existed.

TSLA was itself a meme, one about a car company, but also sustainability, and most of all, about Elon Musk himself. Instead of infrastructure leading to a movement, a movement, via the stock market, funded the building out of infrastructure.

But Ben also adds something that I missed in my analysis; memes mean different things to different people.

Gamestop was a meme: its meaning was anything, and everything, evolving like oral traditions of old, but doing so at the speed of light.

Joe Biden could simultaneously embrace the Green New Deal on his campaign website while insisting he didn’t support it in a debate. A meme can be whatever you want it to be.

The power of memes is not simply the amount of information they convey, but the malleability with which they convey it. They have shades of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, in that the very meaning of a meme is altered based on where it is encountered, and from whom. It’s meaning can be anything, and everything.

Memes are lenticular: they look different from different perspectives. To some, Bitcoin meets basic needs. To others, it meets a need for meaning. To others, it meets a need for community.

If a meme is too one-dimensional, it won’t spread as easily.

As my friend Jacob wrote:

The point about 'mutating/capturing' memes is really important, along with the idea that everyone is touching the meme elephant at the same time and seeing it from the unique POV / 'side of the meme' that they bring to it. I think BLM and gamestonk are great examples of that; basically every person has their own relationship with BLM (whether 'black', or 'blue', or both). From a psychology/therapy point, I guess this would mean that memes are vehicles for both group meaning and immensely personal 'projection'; much more so than a written text which isn't as malleable and evocative.

To summarize:

  • Memes that meet human needs will virally propagate

  • But to survive, they need to exploit existing infrastructure (politics, money)

  • Lenticular memes spread faster

One final note: Ben (finally) referenced Zeynep’s Twitter and Tear Gas. This book gives a crucial framework for understanding internet phenomena through signals vs. capacities. If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s my review of the book.

LINKS

1) Last week we shared the first legally recognized cyborg. This week, I want to share my friend Matt’s cyborg experiment. He has a cyborg hand that you can give you NFTs:

2) Your monthly US-centric COVID content:

Even though COVID prevalence in the US is (relatively) low right now, expect it to get much higher near the end of March. This is from our friend B117.

Right now, r(t) in the US is 0.82. But B117 is only 5% of cases. B117 will eventually be 100% of cases. It is roughly 50% more infectious, so when it’s 100% of cases, r(t) will be 0.82*1.5 = 1.23. It may not sound like much, but r(t) was only 1.23 during the giant wave last fall. An r(t) above 1 has made scary exponential graphs across Europe.

When will the “final” B117 surge happen? B117 is 5% of cases right now and doubling every 10 days. So it’ll be:

  • 10% by Feb 25

  • 20% by March 7

  • 40% by March 17

  • 80% by March 27

Emotionally prepare yourself for one final surge, check this site for B117 prevalence, and hope the vaccines can race it.

(The graph below has SGTF prevalence, which is a near proxy for B117.)

3) COVID inequality is awful awful awful.

45% of poor folks in developing countries had to decrease how many daily meals they ate. OxFam estimates it will take poor folks 9 years to financially recover, versus 9 months for rich folks.

It really feels like rich and poor folks are operating at different trophic levels. Sigh.

4) Damning NYT piece from Ezra Klein: California Is Making Liberals Squirm.

In Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist,” he argues that it is policy outcomes, not personal intent, that matter. “Racist policies are defined as any policy that leads to racial inequity. It’s all about the fundamental outcome.”

In California, taking that standard seriously might mean worrying less about the name on the school than whether there are children inside it. It might mean worrying less about the sign in the yard than the median home price on the block.

Politics has become an aesthetic rather than a program.

Be wary of low-effort symbols that are disconnected from high-effort reality!

5) The Onion: Study: 95% Of ESPN.com Visits Habitual

6) Babylon Bee: 'I Would Have Spoken Up About The Holocaust,' Says Man Who Is Silent On China's Concentration Camps

JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

I love these videos that mix many singers into one. This video has 500 people. It’s like SeaShantyTikTok, but in parallel not in sequence.

Related: Jacob Collier is a master at acapella harmony video. He does one of my favorite Beatles’ covers:

Acapella Science does acapella harmony video while also teaching us science:


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Audra Jacobi, Sam Jonas, Patrick Walker, Shira Frank, David Hanna, Benjamin Bratton, Michael Groeneman, Haseeb Qureshi, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, David Ernst, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Malcolm Ocean, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Rhys' Newsletter #43

Betsy Cooper on tech policy, ContraPoints on J.K. Rowling

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it with a friend, support me on Patreon, or apply for my online school, Roote.

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Hello friend,

My dad just got his vaccine appointment scheduled for March 8. Hooray! Hope the old folks in your life are getting in line too. ❤️

1) Podcast this week: #81 Betsy Cooper: How Technologists Can Craft Policy.

Betsy leads The Aspen Institute’s Tech Policy Hub, a Y-Combinator for tech policy.

Their fellowship helps technologists learn how to enact tech policy. The program is full-time, 10 weeks, and has an $18,000 stipend. (Some of the USDR folks went through their program!) Learn more and apply here by Feb 22.

2) ContraPoints (Natalie Wynn) has new video that covers J.K. Rowling’s comments on trans folks. It’s a great example of how to engage thoughtfully with [insert random internet debate here].

2a) Before watching the video, I didn’t really have an opinion on J.K. Rowling. I knew I was supposed to feel angry at her transphobic comments. But idk, Rowling's comments (about protecting women) seemed relatively reasonable to me at first glance.

I was wrong! Natalie shows how Rowling is actually being transphobic through a semantic move—“bigotry through protecting the victim”. Here’s how it works:

Instead of direct bigotry like “trans people suck”, indirect bigotry focuses on protecting the victim. For example, Rowling wants to protect kids from transitioning before they’re mature (and then regretting the decision). And Rowling wants to protect girls from being sexually harassed by transmen. (See Pronouns Are Rohypnol.)

This is sneaky! It triggers our “care” moral foundation. I care about protecting teenagers from negative decisions. I care about protecting girls from sexual harassment. Care is good.

But in this case, the care isn’t really warranted. Rowling says there’s a “4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment.” Eep, that’s a massive increase! But actually it’s because it used to be so low. (Only 32 British girls in 2009.) Even with the 4400% increase (to 0.03% of British girls), it’s still ~33x lower than we’d expect given the base rate of trans folks in the general population (1%).

Care is warranted when there’s a true victim. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. British girls are fine.

“Bigotry through protecting the victim” also shows up in other forms of bigotry. For example, white supremacists use language like “white genocide”. They turn themselves into the victim. It becomes an argument: “don’t you care about genocide?”

My key learning is to be wary when someone tries to trigger my “care” moral foundation. Ask “Who is the true victim? Who actually needs protecting, if at all?”

2b) Natalie also explains why she doesn't like the slogan "trans women are women." It pulls folks into a never-ending debate around the definition of “women”. This is similar to “sex is real”. It frames something as a fact when there's actually a political debate. (Also see 2+2=5, which we covered in newsletter #20. 2+2=5 isn’t a debate about facts. It’s a debate about politics.)

Instead, Natalie prefers the slogan “trans liberation now”. It explicitly addresses what trans folks want—equal treatment.

Choosing the right questions is important. Be wary of political debates masquerading as debates over facts.

"Some questions should be dissolved rather than solved."
—Ludwig Wittgenstein

2c) Still, Natalie does a great job of empathizing with bigotry. Natalie recognizes that bigotry comes from fear and pain:

"Feeling threatened is the distinctive psychological experience of bigotry much more so than feeling hateful."

Rowling herself experienced sexual assault as a child.

Hurt people hurt people. It's pain turtles all the way down.

Natalie goes on to differentiate when trauma-based fear can result in negative political goals:

"Having a trauma-trigger response is a real experience of suffering that is not the victim's fault, even in cases where that response is irrational or politically incorrect."

"If you got mugged by a black teen, I wouldn't judge you for being jumpy around black teens.

But if that jumpiness motivates you to push for militant policing of black folks, then you are part of anti-black racism.

That I will criticize, regardless of your trauma."

If you want to spend a fun 90 minutes, definitely check out the video. Natalie takes a bath with a Daniel Radcliffe sex doll. It’s good shit. ContraPoints is a national treasure.

LINKS

1) Citizen science is cool. There’s a crew of 100 community biologists who have been working on their own COVID vaccine. You can make 500 doses yourself for $1000. [Note: please don’t try this at home.]

Citizen criticism is also cool. Sarah Constantin is skeptical that this vaccine will work.

As citizen science becomes cheaper, expect to see more bottom-up networks like this. Community Biotech Initiative is a good convening ground for this in the bio space.

Democratize all the things!

2) Neil Harbisson is the first legally recognized cyborg. He is colorblind, so uses his implant to play different sounds when he points his head at different colors. He can also see/hear ultraviolent and infrared wavelengths. Manufactured synesthesia.

3) Hilarious ETH meme found from the depths of Reddit by my housemate, Nick.

4) The Onion: ‘Then You’ll Put Out A Nice Press Release Stepping Down As CEO,’ Whispers Rogue Fulfillment Bot Holding Bezos At Gunpoint

5) Babylon Bee: In Effort To Appeal To Socialists, Mike Lindell Introduces ‘OurPillow’

JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

This is what 425,000 COVID deaths sounds like:

It reminds me of BlackMIDI, music where the main goal is to cover the screen with notes:


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Audra Jacobi, Sam Jonas, Patrick Walker, Shira Frank, David Hanna, Benjamin Bratton, Michael Groeneman, Haseeb Qureshi, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, David Ernst, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Malcolm Ocean, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

Rhys' Newsletter #42

GameStop, duh

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it with a friend, support me on Patreon, or apply for my online school, Roote.

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Hello fellow citizen of the internet,

Last week, I received multiple requests to analyze Game Stop. Let’s get into it.

GameStop is Another Step in the Borg Waking Up

Our increasingly networked humanity is turning into a hivemind Borg. GameStop is a symptom of the underlying shift towards a networked human organism. Four main points:

1a) GameStop is the result of a post-Trump attention vacuum.

Trump has dominated internet attention for four years. Now he’s gone from office and has been removed from social media. We’re free of Trump as a mind virus, but as this SNL skit asks, “What the hell besides Trump are we going to talk about?”

We’ve only had a month to find new memes. There have been two thus far. The first meme that won was Bernie’s Mittens. The second was GameStop ($GME).

We went from 100 Attention Points on Trump to 0. For the first week, 100 Attention Points went to Bernie. Now 100 Attention Points have been captured by $GME. But how did $GME win?

1b) Which memes are selected for?

The only memes that succeed have a powerful viral loop beneath them. If a meme doesn’t have virality, we simply don’t see it. It’s like a gene in a species that doesn’t successfully reproduce. Homo erectus ain’t around.

This virality is similar to COVID. You need r > 1 for exponential growth. Every person who is infected (with $GME or COVID) needs to spread it to more than one person.

Imagine all four billion smartphone owners in a room. I start a chain by saying “GameStop”. Two of the my neighbors repeat it, then four of theirs, and so on until the crowd is all yelling it.

All memes spread like this. #MeToo spread through each woman hearing “Me too” and then speaking it to her neighbors. Bitcoin spreads like this. #BLM and #StopTheSteal too.

What determines the fitness of a meme? It needs to meet human needs—our Now Me basic needs, our Now Us need for connection, and our Future Me need for meaning.

$GME meets basic needs through money. It helped r/wallstreetbets traders pay off student loans. $GME meets our need for connection through community. r/wallstreetbets became a thriving space with its own language—boomers, autists, tendies, and paper-hands. $GME meets our need for meaning through narrative. It created a David and Goliath story—poor redditors vs. rich bankers.

This is meme LARPing. In #39, I noted how the #StopTheSteal insurrectionists were meeting their need for meaning through a similar David vs. Goliath story.

In addition to meeting human needs, a meme needs to compel its host to share the meme. Bitcoin spreads because users are financially incentivized to share it.

Hashtag-based memes aren’t the first example of compelled sharing. During the Industrial Age, chain letters encouraged their recipients to share a letter for good luck and future income. As an example, the “Send-a-Dime” letter below was sent hundreds of millions of times to overwhelmed post offices around the world.

As we can see from this example, the most powerful memes bridge the info-money barrier with a financial value component. This is also how moralizing gods spread. You could bequest land to the church to go to heaven. (By 900 CE, the Church owned about a third of the cultivated land in western Europe.) This is why $GME and Bitcoin are so powerful. They turn attention into money and back into attention.

Another powerful meme property is to encourage in-person phenomena. #MeToo canceled many celebrities, #BLM encouraged epic protests, and #StopTheSteal manifested as storming the US Capitol. These IRL impacts get posted online, which spreads the meme more, leading to more IRL impacts.

1c) Memes and the Enthnosphere

We’re still at the start of understanding the evolutionary mechanisms for memes and how they affect our global set of narratives—the enthnosphere.

We have a tree of life and an explanatory model for our biosphere, evolution. In the next decade we’ll have a tree of ideas and an explanatory model for our ethnosphere, memetic evolution.

Dawkin’s Selfish Gene helped us see the world from the gene’s perspective. We need to understand the world from the meme’s perspective. What does $GME want? We know it outcompeted less viral memes, so it has strong virality. It wants to meet the needs of its hosts and compel them to share it. This is why it mutated to gain the “David vs. Goliath” property.

Instead of being surprised by an emergent meme like $GME, how can we intentionally design memes that exploit memetic properties for good?

How can we turn social networks from a collective amygdala into a collective cerebral cortex?

Was $GME a mob or a movement? How can we stop mobs and enable movements?

1d) Assorted Other Commentary

The internet enables info to move in a permissionlessness way. This lowers friction and leads to all other phenomena:

  • Lower friction leads to a “Big Winner-Long Tail” bimodal distribution. There’s a long tail of YOLO graves on r/wallstreetbets and a Big Winner of $GME and AMC. Elon, Chamath, and AOC are Big Winners of Twitter and had an outsized impact on the spread of $GME.

  • Lower friction means things can go off the rails more easily (3-sigma black swan events). We need to add friction back in by adding humans-in-the-loop (not just code).

  • Lower friction makes abundance. Democratized blogging made lots of bloggers. Democratized investing makes lots of traders. But an abundance in quantity leads to a variation in quality. There will both be more good trading and more bad trading. There’s just more.

Regulation:

  • Robinhood is another case of “you are the product”, like Facebook. You get free trades but Robinhood sells your trade data to hedge funds. This is called “payment for order flow”. The hedge funds can then front-run your trades for profit. The hedge fund Citadel is responsible for 47% of Robinhood’s income here. They paid Robinhood $100M in Q3. Hidden business models are likely to have incentive problems.

  • The SEC is in a tough situation here. (Good luck to my old MIT colleague, Gary Gensler!) One difficulty is that SEC wants to protect consumers from risk, but risk actually provides meaning to r/wallstreetbets traders. (They use it as a signal for YOLOing.)

  • For regulation, I mostly agree with Chamath and think that the government should: 1) Put leverage limits on hedge funds. 2) Require weekly hedge fund disclosure. 3) Implement a short-term trading tax. A 0.01% tax on each trade would make $160B annually, the same as the capital gains tax.

To you, dear reader: Did you have any other thoughts on Gamestop and the new power of networked communities?

LINKS

Lots on Coherent Pluralism this week:

1) I love the term “midinformation” to describe info that exists in a liminal true-false space:

Somewhere between information nihilism and a blanket trust in unverified facts comes the harsh reality: we as a society have to accept and live with ambiguity for a significant amount of time.

We discussed midinformation in #33 as Anne Applebaum’s “medium-sized lies”. Conspiracy theories like #StopTheSteal are medium-sized lies. Yes, there was a small amount of miscounted votes. But not nearly enough to change the result. #StopTheSteal has a bit of truth and a bit (a lot) of falsehood. It’s midinformation.

Similarly, the anti-science folks in the Merchants of Doubt use midinformation to “continue the controversy”. They’d say “climate change probably happening, but we don’t know how fast or how much is caused by humans. There’s still doubt. We need more research.” This is all kind of true. But really this doubt is a form of midinformation.

2) David Chapman has a great overview of the Glen Weyl vs. Scott Alexander debate.

First, a yes-and:

Systematic social institutions are absolutely necessary for large-scale civilizations that can be improved via rational reason

AND

They are blind to factors their models overlook, depend on unmodeled human judgement to function, and are brittle to context changes

Then David notes how “the disagreement is a matter of emphasis”:

Is it more important to say “rationality is SO GOOD” (which it is) or to say “but it is limited and can fail catastrophically” (which it is and does)?

And audience:

If someone is not yet rational, YAY RATIONALITY is the right message.
If someone is firmly ensconced in rationalism, RATIONALISM IS FALSE AND HARMFUL is the right message.

Indeed, frames rule everything around me.

3) The Onion: Increasingly Bold Israel Begins Building Settlements In Downtown Albuquerque

4) Babylon Bee: BLM Nominated For New Nobel 'Mostly Peaceful' Prize

JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES

EVENTS

MUSIC

Pete Seeger-style ballad about the Gamestop saga. Praise be the internet.


Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Audra Jacobi, Sam Jonas, Patrick Walker, Shira Frank, David Hanna, Benjamin Bratton, Michael Groeneman, Haseeb Qureshi, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Malcolm Ocean, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.

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