The Betterment Institute

ideologies you choose.





making or becoming better;


verb, noun

a facility or habit to build, create, raise, or educate;

btrmt. is about the ideologies you choose. We are saturated with these rituals of thought, feeling, and action. They are protective—graceful solutions to an impossibly complex world. Yet, remarkably dangerous left unexamined; instituted simply by default. So, our analects examine them. Our manifesto details those we've chosen. And our projects institute them. Now it's your turn.


The Analects Image



In order to choose ideologies, we must first examine them. The analects are a collection of examinations: long form articles, video, and audio exploring common ideologies and coming up with the sharpest possible version of those things. A particular cut on an idea, with the evidence considered and a decision made. Elsewhere you'll also find short form commentaries like the Marginalia which are my notes on interesting content around the web, or the Missives---the newsletter and the changelog, so you can keep track of what's happened since you were last here.

Project Petrichor Image

Project Petrichor


Humans, of all the animals, have the greatest capacity for nurture. Our capacity to thrive is due to our ability to adapt, and our ability to adapt is merely a reflection of our ability to come together and share ideas. And yet, as James we are often “half awake. Our fires are damped, our rafts are checked… the human individual lives usually far within his limits”. Project Petrichor is the institute's manifesto for why, and how, like petrichor, we can rise again after the rain.
Curricula Image



Many of our existing ideologies are filtered through an economy of shame, outrage, yearning, and terror. The narratives of growth we have left are increasingly superficial. The scholastic enterprise has gone a bit funny too. A thousand proliferating disciplines, showering us with knowledge split into a million isolated fragments until "we know more and more about less and less". The curricula are our attempt to make something rather more useful. A collection of heuristics, or frames, through which we make some of the chaos into meaning while accepting that in doing so, we are choosing to make some meaning into chaos.

The Armchair Collective Logo

The Armchair Collective


Humans, of all the animals, have the greatest capacity for nurture. Our capacity to thrive is due to our ability to adapt, and our ability to adapt is merely a reflection of our ability to come together and share ideas. The Armchair Collective is a place to do just that: our membership community.

Things to Read

Latest Newsletter


November 23, 2022

New article: trans-opportunism is boring.

Over the past couple weeks:

  • restyled analects
  • finished up the site copy updates
  • added a little parrot to the home page (we'll see how long that lasts)

November 10, 2022

New article: the colour of the inhuman world

Also, some considerable work on the articles pages. All my articles are markdown files, and lots of features went unparsed when they get rendered as HTML. But now, we have linkable headings, a table of contents, a properly working footnotes feature, and the ability to see the ideology and summary at the top of each page. Very pleasing.

October 13, 2022

Now publishing the front-end changes---a little more dramatic. Most obvious would be a crude darkmode, with a toggle button at the bottom left. Lots here to be unhappy with, particularly the flicker on some page transitions. But it works well enough for viewing the site at night. Colourscheme changed slightly to better accommodate.

Also a scroll to top button at the bottom right---particularly useful when reading the articles!

Both are javascript only, unfortunately.


The gossip trap: How civilization came to be and how social media is ending it. Interesting enough exploration of our 'silent years'---the huge gap between modern physiology and modern civilisation. The thesis: when society is small enough for each of us to know each other, society is organised through social pressure. When we exceed that, natural social hierarchy breaks down and we are forced to use other tools (i.e. civilisation). 'Gossip' is posed as a constraint on innovation. The outro suggests that social media has brought back the 'gossip trap'.

It is not clear precisely to me how this is entirely a bad thing, although the author things so:

The gossip trap is our first Eldritch Mother, the Garrulous Gorgon With a Thousand Heads, The Beast Made Only of Sound.

I'd be more likely to agree that this modern form of the gossip trap is a bad thing, and point to the loneliness epidemic, the hydraulic trap and the amusement trap as examples. But I'm inclined to suspect the gossip trap facilitated not by social media but by actual connections to people brings many benefits we are quick to dismiss or ignore.

Pop-ideas to think about when considering improving science.

The best overview of Judith Butler I've ever come across.

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