Rhys' Newsletter #17

Cool things every week I promise

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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, and more.

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Hello friend! 👋

Seriously, hi! Hello from across the internet pond. I’ve been well recently (lots of ice cream!). Hope you’re well too.

1) RF1 (the first cohort of the Roote Fellowship) starts next week. We have our full cohort of 10 fellows but we’d love any last-minute additions! Please apply here by this Wednesday.

Are you still confused/curious about Roote? This new 8-minute video gives a great overview of the four pillars of the Roote System: Networkism, Coherent Pluralism, Bentoism, and Generosity.


1) The social justice/free speech space is especially juicy right now. I liked these two recent essays that provide a philosophical view on “Wokeism.”

The first piece is What The Right Gets Wrong About Social Justice Culture

This piece looks at social justice activist (SJA) culture as a religion that provides “meaning, purpose, community, and ritual.” This is highly aligned with last week’s piece on Antifragile Attractors. SJA (and other movements like Effective Altruism) act as a form of religion/meaning in that that lay a Clear Important Path on top of an Antifragile Attractor. For SJA, that attractor is the (never-ending but still meaningful) exploration of intersectionality and systems of oppression. For Effective Altruism, that attractor is the (never-ending but still meaningful) exploration of QALY optimization across species and timescales. To be sustainable, all movements need an Antifragile Attractor to bring attention and meaning.

The piece ends with an invitation for alternative moral visions:

Those who have problems with the new culture, or with aspects of it, aren’t going to get anywhere simply by dismissing it or mocking it. To the extent that social justice culture offers a new moral vision, they’ll need to offer an alternative moral vision.

The second piece is on Cancel Culture as Simulated Religion.

This piece centers on the idea of Baudrillard’s “simulacra”:

In ‘Simulacra & Simulation’, Baudrillard suggested that we are living what he called a hyperreality. This is a world in which our signs and symbols, which proliferate through modern media, no longer reference back to something in the real world, only to other signs and symbols. As a result, we become trapped in a self-replicating simulation of reality. Nothing is real, and nothing feels authentic.

Or, to again reference last week’s article, this is where the symbolic only references other symbols, instead of referencing the Real. (The image below shows the opposite—when the Symbolic does map onto the Real.)

We can see this happening with “Wokeism” when the “woke signaling” takes up more space than the good social justice work. e.g. Woke Capitalism—when companies spend the least effortful signals of wokeism while still pushing for profit.

The second article ends with a similar cry for empathy:

This is why it’s important to understand Wokeism through as many lenses as possible, because somewhere in there is a sameness that we can use to connect to one another. From there, we can have a different type of conversation that challenges, while remaining compassionate.

Interesting stuff!

My rough hot take on the two pieces above is this: I’m actually excited about Wokeism or Effective Altruism or Witnesses of Climatology as “new religions”. As homo sapiens, we want to feel like we’re on Clear Important Paths. I want those paths to be coupled to real-world impact like “ending systematic oppression” (SJA) or “finding the most impactful intervention” (EA) or “saving the Earth” (Witnesses of Climatology). The problems come if you see Your Path as the Only Path. Instead, be Coherently Plural about your Clear Meaningful Path.

2) FiveThirtyEight continues (or reposted?) its amazing series When Women Run—audio clips from women who have run for office. I love this as a way to empathize with the daily realities of being a woman.

I also recently learned from FiveThirtyEight that women outspend men 1+ hour per day on childcare (averaged across ages 0-18). Wow wow. Numbers like this make me think we should just have a constant “low flow” self-tax from men to women (to account for women’s less “market-quantifiable” social care).

3) Hilarious (and scary) video of FOX Sports “digital fans”.

4) Cool new GameB library and glossary.

5) Apple commits to be 100% carbon-neutral by 2030. Let the Race to the Top continue!

6) Kate Raworth releases “Creating City Portraits”—on how her team has scaled down Doughnut Economics for cities like Portland, Philadelphia, and Amsterdam.

7) RIP flash games.

From Rhys’ archives:




Thanks for sending me music last week! Here’s a playlist of songs from y’all:

A one-sentence note on each:

Booming low piano notes to make a drop. The new HAIM album is amazing. Cool freestyle from the Blindspotting soundtrack. Cute song with the lyrics “I want to live in your pocket.” Funny track that uses letters to talk about love. Layered accapella with an electronic backbeat. The unique skill of the Trampled by Turtles string section. An 80s jam covered to be even more 80s. Alan Watts with strings.

Thank you!

Thanks as always for reading. Please share this newsletter, support me on Patreon, or reply if you have feedback.

Hope you have a good week. Warmth, Rhys