Rhys' Newsletter #10

The Abstraction of Money, Simple COVID Models, and Collective Ownership

This newsletter covers humanity’s ongoing paradigm change.

It goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people: bentoists, sociotechnical researchers, progress studiers, effective altruists, metamodernists, ~gameB players, crypto-anarchosyndicalists, social justice activists, VCs, doughnut economists, systems thinkers, and more. Share it with a friend!

Sup y’all,

Hope you’re doing well :).

1) This week’s article is on the Abstraction and Abundance of Money. It continues our theme from recent articles (Defining Abundance and Abstracting Trust). We look at:

  • How money is created through value and trust

  • How governments abstracted the process of money creation (w/ money printer)

  • How crypto abstracted the process of money creation (w/ Bitcoin forks and ICOs)

  • How Capital-as-a-Service leverages code-based trust to compete with bank loans

  • Why abstraction and abundance (of money) are orthogonal

👇Graph below: Crypto abstracted the process of money creation, which led to “good” and “bad” money. (Variable-quality abundance.) 👇

As always, let me know if you have any feedback!

2) Kaliya Young gave me some pretty blunt feedback on last week’s article: Making Trust Abundant.

Trust is a human feeling. It has nothing to do with "maths" in crypto.


I agree that trust is a human feeling—it’s on my favorite feelings wheel! But code can minimize the need for trust (while still recognizing trust in intermediaries, e.g. Angela Walch’s Miners as Intermediaries).

Fundamentally, I see code as one way to "produce" trust, just like we can produce trust through laws, religion, or interpersonal vulnerability.


1) I haven’t been linking to too many COVID-specific articles. However, I wanted to highlight two this week:

First, this recent article (viewed 17M times!) has deeply informed my risk model of virus transmission: The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them. Key ideas:

To become sick, we need 1000 SARS-CoV2 infectious viral particles.

Successful Infection = [Exposure to Virus] x [Time]

A single cough or sneeze has ~200 million virus particles, traveling at ~100mph. While breathing releases only ~20 particles per minute.

Risky environments: enclosed with poor air circulation and high density of people (sneezing/coughing!). Superspreader events account for 90% of transmissions—call centers, meat packing, indoor funerals, etc.

Of the countries performing contact tracing properly, only a single outbreak has been reported from an outdoor environment (less than 0.3% of traced infections).

This has helped me allocate my risk budget better (in an 80/20 way).

Stay away from high-risk situations (lots of time in an enclosed space with lots of people). And if someone coughs or sneezes—eep, watch out!

But don’t worry too much about low-risk situations like being outside with masks or touching most things (fomite transmission is only responsible for 6% of cases).

Second, for the macro perspective, I loved this interactive article from Nicky Case. What Happens Next? COVID-19 Futures. The whole article is fun to play through. But the key graph for me is this one:

It’s a simple image that shows the goal (R < 1) and three key ways to achieve it (lockdown, testing, vaccination).

Also, I think this article gives realistic expectations on COVID timelines (not just the next 3 months, but likely for 18+ months).

2) Beyond COVID, I wanted to highlight three recent articles on collective ownership.

First, Yancey’s piece in the Bentoism newsletter: Coops and the Rise of Collective Ownership. Key idea: Coops will win because they compete on an orthogonal axis that existing competitors can’t compete on:

If a new social network launched with collective ownership core to its offer, Facebook’s ownership structure would prevent them from copying it.

Second, from Nils Gilman and the “Future of Capitalism” group at the Berggruen Institute: The Mutualist Economy: A New Deal for Ownership. The key idea in this piece is that we should do pre-distribution, not redistribution. I especially liked its historical perspective on how we’ve allocated new wealth in the past:

The Land Grant and Homestead Act took "new wealth" (land from indigenous folks) and gave it to the American people.

The Land Grant gave it to the general public (as new universities). While the Homestead Act gave it to individuals (if you developed land for 5 years, the government gave you ownership over the land).

Third, from a16z’s Jesse Walden: Crypto’s Business Model is Familiar. What Isn’t is Who Benefits. Yancey’s piece is about collective ownership as a human value, while Jesse’s piece is about how (blockchain) technology enables us to pursue that value. As Jesse notes:

The principal innovation of crypto networks is their ability to grow network effects by enabling users to share in the value they create.

Let’s tie these three articles together. Thus far, we’ve allocated new digital wealth to the owners of GAFA. It’s like we took land from the American West and gave it to only 100 people.

But that was just Web 2.0. In Web3, we can use crypto networks to manifest our new value of collective ownership.

We can build a new history.


Some nice new opportunities this week:



No Spotify playlist this week. Instead see:

Thanks as always for reading. Please share this newsletter if you like it or reply if you have feedback!

Hope you have a good week. Warmth, Rhys