Rhys' Newsletter #18

How to Think in Systems

This newsletter is supported by Roote—a community of world-class systems thinkers looking to understand and build the future.

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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Hey y’all,

Rhys here. Yep, I’m still me. You still you?

1) RF1 kicks off this week. We have folks from the United States, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and India. I’m excited to see how they grow and build with each other over the next 6 weeks. More soon!

2) I’m beginning to create the lectures for Roote. The first 40min lecture is on “How to Think in Systems.” It starts with this definition:

Systems thinking is zooming out to see the world holistically as a web of foundational interconnections unfolding over time.

Check it out to learn about feedback loops, agent-based systems, multi-scale dynamics, and emergence.

If you want to see more of my enthusiastic hand gestures, check out the other two lectures from this week: Understanding Paradigms and The Roote System.


1) One of my favorite projects, Momentum is, well, gaining momentum. Their #DefeatByTweet campaign has 1000s of people donating a few cents to the Justice Fund every time Trump tweets. All together, the crowd donates $650 per tweet. Trump tweets 30x/day so the crowd donates $20,000/day, with nearly $1M donated thus far.

I love Momentum because it’s a great protoexample of “Networked IFTTT self-taxing.” In other words: how can we create network-first automatic triggers that meet society’s Now Us and Future Us needs? For example, buying carbon offsets whenever you purchase a flight (close all the loops!). Or donate to GiveDirectly whenever you purchase a luxury good.

2) Pudding.cool just released a type of newsletter that I have wanted to exist for a while—link-based meta-curation. Here’s the newsletter: Winning the Internet. The idea is simple: it sources 93 newsletters and highlights the most popular links among them.

This is quite similar to another site I love: Fifty.one. Fifty.one uses Twitter followers as a primitive instead of web links. The idea behind Fifty.one is this: instead of just looking at total Twitter followers, run PageRank on a sub-graph to determine the most important influencers of that sub-graph. For example, here are the top epi experts and here’s what they collectively shared this week.

I can’t emphasize enough how much I love this model of programmatically curating the curators. I’d love to see more network-first curation like this. Apply to Roote if you’re building something related!

3) In the Pudding’s meta-newsletter, the top link (in 8.5% of newsletters) was this call-to-arms from the late (RIP) John Lewis:

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.

4) This piece from AZL has nice UX in a similar style “text convo” as my marriage counseling piece. The Boomer Zoomer Divide.

5) Stunning images (and some data viz) create empathy in this ProPublica story about climate refugees in the Americas: Where Will Everyone Go?

From Rhys’ archives:




I listened to 500+ hip-hop instrumentals recently. Here are my favorite 25. MF DOOM is great. The “Drop It Like It’s Hot” instrumental is buttery.

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, John Desmond, Peter Rogers, Josh Nussbaum, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.