Rhys's Newsletter #57

adrienne marie brown on Emergent Strategy; memetic bandwidth; and Splits

This newsletter goes out to more than 1,000 ambitious frontier people. Please share it with a friend who would like it. (And welcome to all the folks who joined this week!)


Hello from drizzly San Francisco! I danced indoors with strangers for the first time yesterday and I FEEL SO ALIVE.

1) Anywho, I had a great interview with adrienne marie brown recently. She does amazing work on many things, but I was especially excited learn from her on bottom-up organizing.

I often bring a more mechanistic lens to this, so I loved hearing her lens that was more based in humans and biomimicry.

Rhys: Could you tell us how biomimicry has changed how you think about organizing?

adrienne: Yeah, absolutely. I think for a long time I felt that revolution and total change of society was going to come because of how we thought. If we could just think ourselves free and if we just had enough facts then we could liberate ourselves and others.

I feel like watching creatures and watching nature, I recognize that there has to be so many factors involved. It's not just a decision that we make in our minds, but it's a set of practices, iterations, adaptations—things we do over and over and over again.

All through nature you see that this is how things change. It's how canyons are carved out. It's how sealines change. It's how mountains form. Everything big that changes, changes because of the pressure of small and repeated simple moves. So that made me think, well, what do we need to be doing in movement?

What are the small repeated moves that we could be engaged in that might actually create a larger shift in our entire culture than trying to just convince people that they're wrong? It's transformed how I approach the work that I do. I'm much more interested in how people are relating to each other and how people are accountable to each other and how people are honest with each other, and what it means when we are acting from and towards love.

“Just keep asking: How are people relating to each other!” Love it.

I was also curious how adrienne thought about movements (BLM) vs. mobs (StopTheSteal):

Rhys: How do you think about how a thing like StopTheSteal might use your tactics? How do you differentiate a mob from a movement?

adrienne: January 6 was what it looks like when people who are organized around superiority and individualism come together to try to assert their right to something. They're literally not looking after each other, not caring for each other.

Also we can ask, what are those folks trying to do? I like this Loretta Ross quote to answer that question: “A group of people moving in the same direction, thinking the same thing is a cult. A group of people moving in the same direction but thinking a lot of different things is a movement.”

I think a movement’s responsibility is to think for ourselves.

Finally adrienne really nails the idea of what motivated Stop The Steal folks, the Great Replacement Theory:

Rhys: Did Stop The Steal members get a sense of community from participating in the mob?

adrienne: Yeah, I think you're getting close to it. But one of the things I'm always careful about is we cannot discount the actual pleasure of superiority. So I think there is a belonging component, but I think it's also a belonging that makes it feel like you're meant to have power over others, and I think that that part is hard to let go.

Much more in the interview itself, here.

2) I wrote a piece last week on how our Ears And Mouths Are Optimized For Speech. It’s short but (hopefully) sweet and shows how memes are constantly striving to increase their memetic bandwidth:

In Medium-Message Fit, we showed how a given medium (like brains or text) determines the kinds of messages that can live on it.

But the medium is not fixed. Memes can change their information layer.

As an example, early sapiens made two changes to increase our memetic bandwidth for verbal communication.

First, we moved our larynx down which increased the pharynx area and allowed us to more clearly enunciate the vowels a, i, and u, which are found in all human languages.

Second, we moved various pieces of our eardrum to hear higher pitches, which allowed us to hear the consonants t, f, k, and s. Early hominins couldn't hear that high of frequency, but we could.

Early humans didn’t have a, i, u, t, f, k, or s. Now we have them all. The internet is only the latest move by memes to increase their replication potential.

3) We have five great folks signed up for RF4 starting in mid-June: a teenage community organizer, a venture capitalist exploring post-capitalism, a bioengineering PhD who is giving away all his inheritance, and more. Join us!


1) Delightful long video on the history of sapiens from 200,000 BCE to today. Cool to see the Toba catastrophe around 75,000 BCE, how China seems to invent everything, and the rise of caliphates around 600 CE.

2) Continued movement around the NFT and Creator Economy space. Platforms are increasingly providing ways for creators to monetize:

And last week Mirror introduced Splits. These allow creators to split their revenue with the folks that inspired them. As Jarrod writes here:

NFTs and splits have finally given hyperlinks a business model.

Hyperlinks are a big part of the internet.

Splits give them a business model. I like to think of this as giving creators the ability to allow money to “flow through” them. Splits have been talked about for a while (I’m most familiar with the taxeme idea from 2014). They are a crucial building block in the Internet of Value. I’m excited to see them enable interdependence, not just independence.

Related: Good to see this experiment of 25 ETH ($81,000) raised for $NOVEL.

3) The Pro Tour Was Magic. Good article from Zvi on how we’re losing “excellence as a metric” to “attention as a metric”:

The problem is that once we choose that path [of streaming], we are no longer primarily testing for, rewarding and building a culture of the skill of winning. Which is the skill of being right, and the culture of objectivity and truth-seeking, where one made their reputation primarily by brightening the light of science via Magic technology, be it deck construction, playing skill or principles, or any other way. We are no longer keeping records, with streaming archived then forgotten after short periods of time. Everything becomes fuzzy and transient, and the verdict is determined in the attention market of the internet.

I have hope that we may be able to organize ourselves around the pursuit of excellence using metrics that don't rely on elite Magic competition, and potentially keep that sufficiently distinct from entertainment to allow us to capture at least some of the thing that matters.

Be wary of attention-based signals that lose sight of impact metrics.

4) Excellent EFF interview of Ada Palmer on censorship.

First, on the chilling effect:

The vast majority of censorship is self-censorship, but the vast majority of self-censorship is intentionally cultivated by an outside power.

Second, this cool long-term view on how censorship creates doubt for historians themselves:

The fact that there was censorship means anybody can come to those documents and claim that anything was false because censorship was there, and that what people really did matches their narrative.

5) Nine Top Takeaways for Alt Protein in 2020

Alt proteins are still at less than 1% of the total meat market, but growing. We’re starting to see Wright’s Law effects as we move from Pilot Scale to Demonstration Scale. Hooray!

6) The Onion: Rich Guy Asks Around To Find Out Who The New Jeffrey Epstein Is

7) Babylon Bee: Libertarians To Begin Wearing Masks Now That Government Says They Don't Have To

8) Rhys: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Accidentally Burns Real Man In Attempt To Draw Techies To City



  • Rostock Retreat on visualizing uncertainty from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. June 21-23


A couple of readers replied with this awesome Lil Nas X remix after last week’s discussion of acapella albums:

In other news, I’ve been listening to some songs from this Vanishing Asia playlist. One of my favorites is below. It’s amazing how he uses the Suona to create bird-like sounds in a call-and-response form.

It reminds me of my time in China in 2014, when I only listened to Chinese music for 7 months. Specifically, this call-and-response with mindblowing vocals:

Hope you have a good week! Warmth, Rhys

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