Rhys' Newsletter #34

Help me find a co-founder, crypto is anti-authoritarian, and digital public infrastructure

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.

Hello you!

Thanks to all the folks who sent me pics of bloodily devouring pomegranates. If you haven’t bought one yet, there’s still time! Make it a Thanksgiving tradition.

1) I am looking for a co-founder to help me build Roote. Woot!

You can check out the full job description here. I’m looking for someone who is especially driven and has a bias towards concrete action.

Why someone driven and concrete? It’s because I’m not those things. They are blindspots of mine. Although I may look driven, I actually have some deep personal issues with how I relate to success. For much of my childhood, my mother told me to win less and be less of a nerd. So I shied away from competitive sports. I skated by in school. I called effortful people “try hards”. (What a brutal slur.)

Only later in life did I start to “try” myself. But I still shy away from success or winning. I’m too “chill”. And I ain’t proud of it.

However, I’m not stuck in this fate. I do best when I’m pushed to excel by folks who have a drive to succeed. (Like my AP Physics teacher who pushed me by setting high expectations.) I’m excited to work with someone who is driven in a way that I’m (embarrassingly) not. Post-capitalism won’t build itself 🙃.

Again, check out the full job description. If you’re interested in working together, please reach out! Or send it along to friends who might be. If it works out, we’ll toast you as the matchmaker at our wedding, er, IPO. Thanks!

2) Podcast this week: #75 Jill Carlson, Slow Ventures: Apolitical Orgs and Crypto as a Tool to Combat Authoritarianism.

It’s cool to hear about Jill’s focus on crypto to combat authoritarianism. Jill gives a recent example in Nigeria where the government shut down parts of the banking system and groups like Feminist Coalition had to start accepting Bitcoin. (Also see my podcast with Yele Bademosi on this.)

Jill also pointed me to Venezuela, where the U.S. government is using blockchain-based stablecoins to get around extreme controls on Venezuelan bank accounts imposed by the Maduro regime. Maduro can exercise controls on bank accounts but not on stablecoins.

While we’re discussing crypto, the price of Bitcoin has nearly 4x’ed (to almost $20,000) from a low of $5,000 in March. No one really knows why. It could be PayPal adding crypto support, a hedge on macro instability, Eth2 progress, rise of DeFi, or just an especially fire “orange coin good” meme on r/wallstreetbets 🤷‍♂️. One interesting part is that the price has been decoupled from attention on cryppto. When Bitcoin almost hit $20,000 at the end of 2017, all of my friends were texting me. This time, no one has.

You can see this represented in the graph below. In 2020, Bitcoin increased in price while Google Trends traffic stayed flat.

Image from Kevin Kelly.


1) Black Friday is coming up. I’m pretty anti-consumerism, but here’s an amazing coffee table book with 250 images of how humans affect the Earth: Overview Timelapse: How We Change The Earth. They’re all taken from the Instagram account @DailyOverview.

The pic below is Amazon rainforest deforestation from 1989-2019.

2) More and more momentum is gathering around Digital Public Infrastructure.

To be honest, it’s appalling how little of our digital frontier was allocated for the public, and how much was left to companies. It’s like if East India Trading Company had led the colonialization of Africa and the Americas, not just India. Or if the Trail of Tears was sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Anywho, here’s a nice 2min video from Civic Signals (now @New_ Public) that outlines the mission.

If you want to go deeper, check out Ethan Zuckerman’s recent piece: What Is Digital Public Infrastructure?

Our digital infrastructures are only accidentally public infrastructures – Facebook was designed not to enable citizenship but to display ads to users. We should aspire toward a set of tools that are intentionally digital public infrastructures.

A tax on surveillant advertising could fund a new set of institutions that parallel those set up in the 1960s and 1970s to build public media in the United States.

A “Corporation for Digital Public Infrastructure,” a parallel of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, could invest in creating digital spaces designed to help us understand our world and participate as citizens.

The original Corporation for Public Broadcasting helped support projects such as the Children’s Television Workshop, which researched learning through broadcast and ultimately created Sesame Street.

And if you’re really into it, apply to share your research at Data & Society’s upcoming workshop Trust and Doubt in Public-Sector Data Infrastructures.

3) The Onion: Report: You Were Lonely Before The Pandemic Started, And You’ll Be Lonely After It Ends.

Just Rhys Tryna Be Funny: Woke friend hits snooze for the third time.




This week on Lindy Bro Radio Show, we chat about:

Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

❤️ Thanks to my generous patrons ❤️

Shira Frank, David Hanna, Benjamin Bratton, Michael Groeneman, Haseeb Qureshi, Todd Youngblood, Jim Rutt, Zoe Harris, Yancey Strickler, Jacob Zax, David Ernst, Brian Crain, Matt Lindmark, Colin Wielga, Malcolm Ocean, John Lindmark, Collin Brown, Ref Lindmark, James Waugh, Mark Moore, Matt Daley, Peter Rogers, Darrell Duane, Denise Beighley, Scott Levi, Harry Lindmark, Simon de la Rouviere, and Katie Powell.