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!


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.




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.