Rhys' Newsletter #24

Fires, RF2, and OnlyFans

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. If you like it, share it 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.

Hey y’all,

Sending love and hugs and presence to you. ❤️

1) I’ve had a tough September thus far. The smoke in the Bay has been brutal. I want to share two helpful (if intense) notes from friends:

Note 1: Today I am reminded of nuclear winter. Although the impact of a large scale nuclear war carries a lot of uncertainties, I could imagine the sky being darkened for a lot longer. I’m glad we’re in the world where the skies are darkened by forest fires and not the one where they’re darkened by ash from nuked cities. It feels a bit odd saying this, kind of like saying that I’m glad I’m me and not the bee, when my car hits a bee going down the road.

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Note 2: If you’re thinking about leaving the area to escape the smoke, please take a second to remember that this option isn’t available to everyone. As climate catastrophe worsens, white flight will leave marginalized communities in the most impacted areas, potentially without means to escape. Enjoy your fresh air, and when you return, think about what you can do to stop this from being the new norm ❤️

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2) To stop this from becoming the new norm—applications for Roote Fellowship 2 are open!

RF2 will solve wildfires, poverty, bad hair days, and more.

Actually though, check it out! RF2 is a great place to connect with like-minded systems folks who are building a positive future.

RF1 ended last week and I’ll share more of their projects and stories soon. For now, here’s why they decided to join RF1:

I am a nerd for deep thought and hard problems. This fellowship seems to be the type of place where people like me might like to hang out and learn and grow together. I gamble it’s not possible to be a lazy thinker and to enjoy what Rhys creates.

I joined RF to help refine my own mental framework of how I would like to work within the new paradigms that are shaping the future of our society.

I’m here because I want to connect with like-minded individuals and understand how business and society change as we move towards post-capitalism. I’d like to be at the forefront of this change and would love to help catalyze it.

RF2 starts Oct 5, lasts 6 weeks, and costs $2,000 (with some scholarships available!). Three folks are already confirmed and we’re looking for ten more this cohort.

👉 Roote.co 👈

Please apply, reach out if you have questions, or share with a friend! If you share with a friend and they end up joining, I’ll buy you a zoom drink. 🍻


1) Self-Driving Cars and the Future of Retail.

This is the final essay in the Write of Passage fellowship. In it, Adrienne does a great job of exploring the impacts of lower-cost transportation.

The internet lowered the cost of distributing info (bits) to zero, which created an abundance of info. We’re beginning to see a similar process, but with moving atoms. Unlike with bits, we can’t get the marginal cost to zero. Still, drones and self-driving EVs will drastically decrease the cost of shipping (by 40-90%).

Here’s a chart of [drones vs. other shipping options] graphed by delivery time and price:

Once these costs decrease, will see Aggregation Theory-ish impacts:

  • Platforms that control user demand weaken the bargaining power of suppliers (restaurants become dependent on GrubHub).

  • And with it, the move towards Cloud Kitchens (delivery-only restaurants that don’t pay for expensive real estate).

  • Platforms move backward to integrate supply (Netflix creating content :: GrubHub creating poke restaurants).

  • Made For You trusted subscription bundles become the norm, replacing advertising and brands (like a Spotify-personalized playlist, but through Amazon Prime).

tl;dr: Homo sapiens love decreasing the cost of moving stuff :)

2) The Insane Story of How OnlyFans Changed Porn (moderately NSFW)

This video hit #1 on r/videos and then was taken down. It’s back up now! It gives a good overview of how PornHub disrupted the traditional (VHS) porn industry with an ad-based biz model, which led to huge profits for the platform owner and little money for adult entertainers. (Also see, GAFA.)

PornHub was then disintermediated by 1:1 connection in private Snap (and later, OnlyFans). And, like other manifestations of the Passion Economy (Twitch streamers, etc.), porn viewers pay hefty OnlyFans subscriptions for a personal experience.

This is surprising: why pay an OnlyFans subscription when you can get PornHub for free? OnlyFans doesn’t compete with PornHub (on porn vids). It competes with high-end escort services (on something closer to a “virtual girlfriend” experience). And the performers love it—they keep 90% of their earnings (instead of PornHub taking everything).

(Also, like any low-friction platform, OnlyFans has bi-modal Big Winner-Long Tail dynamics.)

3) The Onion: God Selects Fall Interns.




I find “responsible consumption” fascinating. Should I be a vegetarian? (Or just pay $1/year to have the same carbon impact?) Should I actively try to support BIPOC-run restaurants? But what if I’m just supporting them because they’re BIPOC? Lots of tough questions.

Music consumption (and art consumption more generally) has similar questions. Should I not play an artist because they did a bad thing? Or because their song has a negative message?

In general, I’ve continued to play all artists. However, there’s one artist that I’ve decided to censor from my Spotify: R. Kelly, the 55th best-selling musician in the US.

I’m all for forgiveness, but damn, R. Kelly seems to have a long background in awful conduct. He currently faces a total of 18 federal counts, including child pornography, kidnapping and forced labor. His music now lives in my “Censored” Spotify playlist. (And yep, I recognize the irony in sharing it here.)

However, I’m not sure if I should censor other artists.

For example, I still listen to (and love) Pogo even though he once stated he has a “fairly robust resentment of the gay community”. However, Pogo said he was just impersonating far-right folks. And that his neuroatypical personality is a contributing factor. (Aside: I’ve seen this interaction before. A spectrum-y person says something negative and then SJA folks call them out. How should neuroatypicality play a role in a fully intersectional approach?)

As another example, check out this German track: Kreuzweg Ost - Für Kaiser, Gott und Vaterland. It translates to “For the Emperor, God and Fatherland.” It has Nazi vibes and was produced by death metal folks. Eep! This is less “the artist might be bad” (Pogo) and more “the music is bad” (Nazi themes). But maybe it’s ok? The band layers old audio clips (here, from the German version of All Quiet on the Western Front) on other music (here, an Ennio Morricone song). So they’re similar to Public Service Broadcasting. So maybe it’s more historical than supportive?

And even if it is “pure” Nazi music, should I not listen? There’s something deeply powerful about music’s ability to help us empathize with other perspectives. (See #11’s playlist on black folks reaction to George Floyd.) What music is it ok to empathize with?

I’m curious: Is there any music that you choose not to play because the artist or content itself is negative?

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.