Toward an emergence economy
There’s something in the air. Ideas that have been bouncing around for months are finally coalescing into a potent vision of what’s possible.
It’s happening in our server, in our inboxes, on our feeds. It’s not just us. Beyond RADAR, some of the deepest thinkers across web3, community, and the future of the internet are posting more and more from what feels like some sort of hive mind — offering thoughts that support the thesis RADAR’s been incubating for a while now.
It’s kind of our thing, knowing when things are reaching their tipping point.
And now feels like that moment for us.
In the chapters that follow, we’re placing our stake in the ground and putting forth a new theory of change. One that relies on interconnected emergence rather than individual innovation; one that believes mass adoption can occur much more rapidly under these circumstances; one that’s supercharged by new behaviors & new technology. But we’re not stopping at theory; we’re also laying out our proprietary approach to inducing them through emergent research, novel incentive design, and collective imagination.
Ready? We are.
If you’ll excuse me, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.
After checking out of my job in advertising in my mid-20s, I checked myself into Schumacher College — a kind of rehab for the soul. It’s a special place that offers short courses like: ‘flourishing in uncertain times’ and ‘co-creating the emerging future.’ I didn’t know much of what that meant at the time, but it seemed like a good place to weather a quarter-life crisis.
It was there, in deepest, darkest Devon, that I first discovered the work of Meg Wheatley:
“What you’ll learn: Relationships are what matters — even at the subatomic level; Life is a vast web of interconnections where cooperation and participation are required; Chaos and change are the only route to transformation.” — Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
When I left Schumacher, I found myself looking for a place to explore these ideas more deeply and joined a collective called Swarm. Their vision echoed what resonated so deeply about Meg’s work:
“We are living in a time of massive change, where uncertainty and adaptability is the new normal. Swarm exists to help accelerate those responding and adapting to these challenges and opportunities.”
Fast forward a few years and I’ve found another home in RADAR, alongside 250+ co-conspirators who look at the world just as sideways as I’ve learnt to. As we’ve worked together to define RADAR’s role in the world and the path we want to carve, it’s become clear that there’s something special here. A confluence of circumstances has enabled us to develop an approach that’s fit for purpose in our networked, rapidly decentralizing, and increasingly wiggly world. We call it ‘accelerating emerging futures.’
It’s an approach to multiplayer futures and a new way of organizing, made possible by the coming together of three special ingredients: an ancient truth, a new technology, and a purple orb.
An Ancient Truth: Organizations are living systems; more verb than noun. We are, by nature, complex, self-organizing beings, living in complex, self-organizing networks, in a complex, self-organizing world, flying through a similarly complex universe. It’s fractals all the way down (and up).
RADAR’s inaugural focus, ‘A Future In Sync,’ brought to light the many ways this ancient truth is finally, once again, breaking the surface and bubbling up through the cracks in the Story of Separation.
And yet, humans, particularly those influenced by Western schools of thought, have a tendency to see ourselves outside it all: as “separate individuals among other separate individuals in a universe that is separate from us as well”.
A New Technology: New, decentralizing technologies (and newish concepts) provide the infrastructure for us to tap into that ancient truth — enabling an increasingly networked society to organize as living systems themselves.
WTF am I talking about? Web3.
Distributed ownership, orchestrated by tokens, aligns the interests of the individual with the collective — and, importantly, vice versa. It’s a positive-sum environment, where cooperation is in all of our best interests; where scale beyond the confines of a typical company is healthy and invigorating, not bloated and problematic. In these environments, co-ownership is the means, not the end; as Chase Chapman writes, it “isn’t just a technical or financial shift, it’s how we connect with one another.” And it unlocks the magic of a more collaborative, co-creative, connected, and resource-rich way of organizing — one that transcends the bankrupt economics of ‘more for you is less for me’.
A Purple Orb: RADAR’s founding instigator is a purple orb called ‘Fancy.’ That’s how it goes in web3; many people use pseudonyms. But that’s beside the point. To understand RADAR is to understand Fancy and the style of leadership that keeps this new way of organizing in constant motion.
It’s a style that was introduced to me at Swarm as ‘Host Leadership,’ and it comes naturally to Fancy. He calls it ‘instigating.’ Of course, it helps that he’s an anti-fragile human ball of energy; but it’s not simply who Fancy is, it’s what he knows about — and how he operates in and around — this new organizing technology in web3.
To ‘instigate’ is to enable and empower the dispersal of leadership throughout an organization. It’s to create a network of trust between members, with safe spaces for people to show up as their whole selves and step into positions of leadership. It’s to know how to create momentum for a cause (or simply, a vibe). It’s to build an environment that acts like a magnet — one where, we’re told, people show up and show out like nowhere else.
And so it’s from this combination — an ancient truth, a new technology, and a purple orb — that our new way of organizing emerges; a truly multiplayer mode of organizing that makes it possible to aim for something as ambitious as ‘accelerating emerging futures.’
When I say multiplayer… RADAR consists of 250+ contributors, all of whom choose to be here; want to see RADAR flourish and thrive. They are many things: researchers, strategists, cultural analysts, network weavers, creative catalysts, facilitators, producers, entrepreneurs, co-designers, writers, makers. But there are two ties that bind: an interest, talent, or just a knack for sensemaking — connecting dots, unpacking drivers, spotting patterns; and, critically, a desire to activate that knack in service of building a better world.
There’s the core team, full of committed, talented, above all good people — Emily Howell, Sergio Ariza, Jarrod Barnes, Caitlin Keeley, Pandy Marino, Domingo Beta.
There’s RADAR’s founding instigator, and purple orb, Fancy.
There’s our Research Instigator, Keely Adler: a time-traveling futurist who has attracted so many brilliant minds into the RADAR ecosystem.
And there’s me, the Incubate Instigator, helping emerging futures to hatch.
“People are always trying to straighten things out… but the real world is wiggly, wiggly, wiggly.” — Alan Watts
For decades, our prevailing theories of change were predicated on thinking of ourselves, our organizations, and the world as machines; a metaphor that reduces everything into parts to replace and problems to fix. In this mechanistic worldview, people believed that the future could, in principle, be known; they believed that the more careful your measurements are today, the better you could predict what would happen tomorrow.
If that was ever truly the case, it certainly isn’t anymore.
The future is unpredictable, now more than ever. As we wrote in our first Futures Report, A Future In Sync, “our world is becoming harder to comprehend, tougher to keep pace with, and exhausting to make sense of — as everything accelerates seemingly all at once, at far greater speeds than our bodies and brains are meaning to keep up with.”
Bodies, brains, and businesses too: a top executive at IKEA was recently quoted in the Financial Times lamenting, “we have no concept of predicting with precision what’s going to happen in 6 to 12 months.” Lifelong educator and activist (and fellow RADAR member) George Pór put it more bluntly, recalling an old Yiddish saying in his recent piece ‘Toward an Enlivenment Theory of Change, Part One’: “we plan, God laughs.”
So, if we can’t plan for replacement parts and solved problems, then what?
In short, embrace the chaos.
“When the winds of change blow — some people build walls, others build windmills.” — Chinese Proverb
Recent discoveries and conversations across scientific spheres all confirm what Alan Watts knew: the world is indeed wiggly. Chaos, complexity, circumstances outside our control; interconnected, interdependent, deeply and uncomfortably unpredictable.
Simply being aware of the chaos and complexity isn’t much comfort if our focus remains on the efforts of the individual. In Western strategic tradition, change is viewed as the result of struggle, conflict, and force. The hero is the one who defeats the odds to impose their vision on reality. Exceptional individuals wrestle chaos, complexity, and uncertainty into disciplined order.
When everything comes down to the ‘exceptional individual,’ there’s only so much chaos one can take.
If, instead, we place our focus on the scene rather than the individual actors, we can transcend these worn out stories of brute conflict and individual exceptionalism. We can get comfortable with the chaos; we can try softer.
“I know most people
try hard to do good
and find out too late
they should have tried softer."
— Andrea Gibson
When we start thinking about the world as a living system, everything changes. Because when you shift the metaphor, you shift the framework — and bring forth a new world of wisdom that can inspire a new mode of action. As the biologist and author Janine M. Benyus puts it, “living systems have had billions of years of R&D.” Nature has the answers.
“Emergence is how life creates radical change and takes things to scale.” — Meg Wheatley & Deborah Frieze
Think of it as a leaderless bird ballet. You’ve seen the pictures, they’re incredible. Come on.
Really, just stay with us.
See, life self-organizes as interdependent networks of relationships. From these connections, complex patterns can emerge — spontaneously and unpredictably — with properties far more powerful than any individual. In this way, simple parts can self-organize into a more extraordinary whole. That’s emergence.
In all living systems (which, yes, includes us humans and anything to do with us), change always happens through emergence. It’s how reality unfolds: how trends suddenly enter the mainstream, how innovation scales, how ants assemble themselves into living bridges. It’s how starlings do something as improbable as collect themselves into a gorgeous, soaring bird ballet in the sky.
We can’t control emergence, but we can create the conditions for it:
“Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.
This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits.”
— Meg Wheatley & Deborah Frieze
To create the conditions for emergence is to cultivate connections.
Connections are the building blocks of change.
So while we may not be able to create change from thin air, we can enable it.
“Maybe we need to go underground — working in networked, symbiotic companionships, like mycelial arrangements, to generate infinite micro-revolutions.” — Anab Jain
The emergence of any new system, cultural shift, or better world starts with the pathfinders who dare to leave the comfort of the norm to break ground somewhere new. This is the focus of RADAR’s decentralized research process: uncovering and unpacking these movements-in-the-making (but more on that later).
If these groundbreakers remain isolated from one another — which is often the case — their movement doesn’t move terribly far beyond their individual locales. To truly foster emergence, we need new ways to create new connections between local actors and local efforts.
We need to help them embrace multiplayer mode.
On their own, very few (if any) individual pathfinders can affect serious change at scale — no matter how much they’d like to, how much they’ve been conditioned to by the exceptional individual narrative many of us have been accustomed to for so long. If they band together, the whole strengthens each part, manifesting something far greater than their sum. If they band together, powerful cultural shifts and change at scale become possible, even probable.
If they don’t…the antibodies of the dominant, dated system seek to destroy, absorb, and/or co-opt the groundbreakers out of self-preservation. Better futures never bear fruit.
As public theologian and faith leader Rev. Jennifer Bailey has said, “change happens at the speed of relationships.” And yet, today, so much of our infrastructure is built — purposefully or not — to slow relationships down, making single-player mode the default and dooming us to the status quo.
If we’re going to accelerate emerging futures, we’re going to do it in multiplayer mode — creating the conditions for pathfinders and groundbreakers to come together, learn together, and play together; to survive and thrive in a wiggly world.
In one of our first collective conversations including newish RADAR member Caitlin Keeley, she vamped a thought that has been lodged in many of our brains ever since:
“The future belongs to those who think about it.”
It calls to mind so simply one of the problems with the futures industry (and the trend forecasting industry, and the advertising industry, and the consulting industry…) that RADAR is trying to tackle.
Who thinks about the future today?
Brands after their own self-interests. Agencies after their own self-interests (or, if we’re lucky, after their clients’ interests). Employees in trendy offices surrounded by like-minded co-workers and like-minded networks, courting cookie-cutter clients with cookie-cutter visions of tomorrow.
At least, that’s who’s paid to think about the future; whose narratives of the future are elevated and celebrated; whose narrow ideas keep us cycling through the status quo in service of a broken capitalist model; who compete with one another through same-but-different storytelling rarely rooted in human truth. After all, it behooves them to sell us a particular vision of the future where everything continues just as it is, only better.
“Today, we are living deep inside the Consumer Story, a foundational story of humans as inherently self-interested and competitive. This story has shaped not just individual behavior but organizational design, economic theory, the role of government, morality — all of culture and society. But this is not as inevitable and inescapable as it feels, for stories do change.” – Jon Alexander, Citizens — Why the key to fixing everything is all of us
It’s one of the first things people notice when they join RADAR, that they’ve entered some kind of respite from what has been their professional experience to date.
Suddenly surrounded by more, diverse minds with more, diverse experiences thinking more diversely about the future, everything shifts. Freed from the expectation that every story must serve consumerist outcomes, their worlds open up. Here, they’re welcome to think about the signals they share and the trends they spot in service of better futures — and surrounded by peers who genuinely want to act on them. As member Kiana Pirouz said recently (and echoed in a tweet), “it's so refreshing to be in a place where making things is possible.”
As Rebecca Solnit wrote for The Guardian, “Our greatest power lies in our roles as citizens, not consumers, when we can band together to collectively change how our world works.”
It’s collective change that starts with collective vision.
“Rather than providing pre-packaged images of possible futures, it is important to encourage do-it-yourself and do-it-together attitudes towards the creation and exploration of futures.”
— FoAM, The Art of Futuring
If the future really does belong to those who think about it (and we believe it does), then we believe that should include more, and we mean way more of the population than it does today. We’re not talking about individual daydreaming or even about creating new pathways into the same old industries. Rather, we’re talking about engaging the collective imagination in discovering better futures, so we can in turn cultivate a community of visionaries capable of actually creating better worlds.
We didn’t realize at the time, but what we’ve been doing at RADAR for a bit over a year now is perfectly captured by fellow member and Sentiers author Patrick Tanguay’s reading of Cassie Robinson’s work on Imagination Infrastructures: “Not just replacing wrong or incomplete stories with better ones, not exactly inventing fictions further out in time, not exactly strategic foresight, futures, forecasts, or any of the related term either. A new space between all of them, with a lot more people purposefully included.”
In so many words, that’s our answer to Ikigai. In finding the intersection of what we love, what we’re good at, what the world needs, and what we can be paid for (we know, we’re working on this last bit), what we found was this idea of working upstream of research and innovation — in the world of activating imagination.
We don’t just report research, we bring to life visions of better worlds in better futures to motivate the many and activate change. Because when you think of better futures like memes (by which we mean, the academic, Richard Dawkins, OG definition of memes), you can start to see the potential in their propagation. You open up, in Kiana’s words once more, “a portal of possibilities — a modality to explore, collaborate, contribute, play, prototype” together, all with a shared outcome, a better future, in mind.
“You shouldn’t keep your vision carefully packed away on the top shelf, take it out into the world, play with it, work with it, test it in a wide range of situations. See the present as an experimental ground for the future.” — FoAM, The Art of Futuring
Experiments in multiplayer futures. That’s just what we’ve been up to. More on that in our next chapter.
Over the last year or so, we’ve been designing the processes, thinking and experimentation needed to turn visions of the future into memes, and memes into movements. It’s all been in the spirit of testing and learning; of embracing RADAR as a living organism that is always learning, always evolving, always adapting.
In V1, we explored A Future In Sync.
It started, as our cycles do, with research — and many, many experiments in cultivating collective intelligence.
We brought together an unlikely mix of researchers new to Discord; web3 natives introduced to futures through a new and yet-unproven server; and a host of curious humans seeking digital camaraderie — those who would stoke their interests and passions, and maybe teach them something interesting along the way.
And we set them on a journey that started with signals, signals, signals. It wasn’t a journey without its bumps, but it proved our community thesis: that we could bring together dozens of perspectives from around the world, throw them into the chaos of a Discord server, and let them work it out from there — facilitating and expanding collective wisdom through dot connection and pattern recognition in its purest sense.
Over the course of a few months, this group: curated hundreds of signals on dozens of topics; collectively decided upon a single topic to investigate, in line with RADAR’s values and vision; came together in Caves and Campfires, learning and leveraging new tools for collaboration; collected and connected dots across space and time, bringing their own unique backgrounds and perspectives to the table; and converged on a narrative of the present and map of the future as a community, rallying behind a center of gravity that would propel us into what came next.
See, we wanted to break the legacy paradigm where research too often sits static; we wanted to hold ourselves accountable to turning passive reporting into forward motion that could result in products, services, and concepts that would bring us closer to the better future we’d discovered.
Enter: Incubate — and our first Futurethon.
Following the launch of the Future In Sync report, we planned, produced, and ran the Futurethon — our reimagination of a traditional hackathon. It’s not that we had any real beef with the traditional model of PvP hackathons; they just weren’t fit for our purpose. And so we dreamed up something new. The Futurethon was co-created in the RADAR community – over three collaborative workshops, 18 active contributors, hundreds of stickies, and quite literally countless 🥚emojis.
We knew we wanted to create a multiplayer moment that engaged builders in bringing A Future In Sync closer to reality — and we successfully did it. But what we didn’t count on was just how much energy we’d generate, how many connections we’d make, and the kind of network that would start to gather full of individuals aligned behind the desire to manifest this shared vision of a better future, of this particular future.
We’d created the momentum, but we didn’t have the infrastructure to sustain it. And so the energy dissipated. But for a moment, we were able to peer into this crack in the fabric and catch a glimpse of what we could really do.
We needed to take what was a multiplayer moment and turn it into a mode, into a movement.
We just needed the infrastructure to make it happen.
"We need new infrastructure, something transparent, ownable, accessible, financially sustainable, where we can share the value we create, something for the community, something that’s ours.” — ZORA
Thus far, we’ve unpacked a new-meets-old theory of change, we’ve gleaned the power of pathfinders in multiplayer mode, and we’ve explored what it looked like to design V1 of a multiplayer futures process. What was missing was the infrastructure.
And that’s no mistake, when you really think about it.
Despite the fact that humans are wired for collaboration, single-player is our default mode of operation. Single-player game mechanics are baked into our infrastructures and platforms; in Western cultures, they’re baked right into society itself — school, social life, you name it. Everything has been designed with the mechanistic worldview in mind; for exceptional individuals, for scarcity, for separation.
To choose to operate in multiplayer mode is to swim against the current.
And to find people to swim with? Well, the system’s just not quite set up that way.
Earlier in this piece, we stated that connections are the true building blocks of change. And that if we could only enable and empower more, better connections among pathfinders and groundbreakers, we could accelerate the pace of change.
None of that is to say that connections are impossible in today’s circumstances. It’s just that when they happen, it’s in a single-player context. Relationships occur in spaces of centralized power, necessarily extractive and driven largely by self-interest. To build a real coalition is resource-intensive; it doesn’t come naturally. PvP is the norm; imagining connections outside the boundaries of a single organization or a single partnership is hard to do because the blueprint hasn’t been there.
And yet, they’re just what we need. To quote yet again from Rebecca Solnit in The Guardian, “the rescuers we need are mostly not individuals, they are collectives — movements, coalitions, campaigns, civil society.”
So how, then, might we reimagine our infrastructure and remap our incentive structures to turn multiplayer mode into the new default?
We’ll explore incentive structures in just a bit — for now, let’s talk infrastructure.
Here, we’re particularly inspired by the work of Olivia Oldham as she’s been exploring the concept of ‘imagination infrastructure’ with The National Lottery Community fund and a growing network of people and organizations.
By her definitions, imagination is a transformative practice that has the capacity to cultivate and foster alternatives to social, political, cultural and economic conditions; it is a prerequisite for changing the world for the better; while infrastructure is the material, intellectual, informational and institutional structures and operations upon which “something else rides or works.”
As Cassie Robinson elaborates, this is a long-term investment: “it creates capacity, connects activity and people up as the work grows — and strengthens it over time. It’s a commitment for the long-haul.”
This is exactly what we’re after: an imagination infrastructure for the collective; a natural home for multiplayer futures; a long-game in the interest of accelerating better futures.
Because we’ve said it from the start: the more brains, hands, and resources we can put behind a vision of the future, the more likely we’ll all be to manifest — and benefit from — its fruition.
Web3 supercharges our ability to build imagination infrastructure for multiplayer futures.
Until now, both imagination and infrastructure have been loci of power — and with few exceptions, prone to reinforcing old, centralized structures. By bringing collective ownership and decentralized decision making into the fold, we change the game.
New organizing structures within web3 have offered us a new way. Because when values and incentives are aligned, connections cultivate themselves. Communities become superorganisms, acting as one whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Collective ownership unlocks what was previously behind closed doors; the second stage of emergence: communities of practice.
“When local efforts connect as networks, then commit to work as a community of practice, a new system emerges at a greater level of scale.” — The Berkana Institute
“By making (ownership) a multiplayer game, it becomes a tool for social movements.” — Chase Chapman
But collective ownership in combination with futures research? We think it’s the recipe to unleash an even more potent power:
But what could accelerating emerging futures really look like, in practice?
“It is now becoming more important for Futures work to be inclusive and participatory. To be able to work with difference, while remaining aware of one’s own assumptions…if we want our work with futures to make a real difference in the lives of the people involved, it should be transformed from a noun to a verb.” — FoAM, The Art of Futuring
We’ll explore it in detail at the end of this not-so-litepaper, but in the meantime, imagine:
A community of thinkers, makers, pathfinders, and groundbreakers aligned behind a shared vision of a better future. Their combined skills, talents, wisdom, and capacity aimed at creating not just new products or services, but new categories, new lifestyles, new worlds. Decentralized, distributed, and collective decision making determining where they’ll point their energy. A collective working at the level of a shared story, writing the next chapter together.
Now….where will they get the resources?
We’ve already painted the picture: visions of the future are powerful memes. They can tell us collective stories about what the world could look like. They can inspire millions of pathfinders, groundbreakers, and early adopters to bet on them; directing time, energy and resources into making those visions a reality. They can tip the scales of culture.
They also, if timed right, have the potential to be immensely valuable, creating new markets and motivating first movers.
Netflix, Uber, Facebook, even AirBnB. None was first to its category; but by combining clarity of vision and sense of timing, each was able to capitalize on new behaviors and cultural tailwinds in category-defining and market-leading fashion.
And while these exceptional innovators had the foresight (and, yes, the good luck) to make the right bets, they are the exception, not the rule. Far too often, ideators, innovators, and builders miss these opportunities. Left to the devices of a world in single-player mode, they’re disconnected from market demand, gatekept away from critical resources, and unable to tap into network effects — and so their individual visions fail to propagate. Too early, too late, too misunderstood to have an impact, their visions fall short of capturing culture-market fit.
But timing the market just so is easier said than done, right? Otherwise brands, institutions, VCs, and tech companies wouldn’t be investing billions trying to crack it.
So what if we could create a market for a future to emerge?
In ‘Cultural Liquidity: The Rise of Cryptomedia,’ Rex Woodbury outlines web3’s unique ability to turn culture — a previously illiquid and nebulous ‘asset’ — into something liquid, hinting at the ability to unlock resources from thin air and allowing culture to be bootstrapped, traded and speculated on.
In Life After Lifestyle, Toby Shorin looks at how the ‘vibe economy’ (a term coined by Dena Yago) allows members of a given subculture to turn the intangible into social or financial capital, in turn making cultural economies an investable asset.
Typically, prediction markets require there to be a winning and losing side; whereas equities, on the other hand, are positive sum: you don’t need someone to take the other side to invest in a startup. Packy asks, what if prediction markets behaved more like equities, allowing anyone to invest in a prophecy of the future?
In Prophecy Markets and Startup Prophecies both Jacob and Packy propose a use case where NFTs serve as a tool to make predictions on future outcomes. By unlocking equity in the moment — which can be public, traded and also used as a cultural identifier — this approach would allow creators and collectors to express and reflect their belief in what the future holds.
Packy’s piece ends on a provocative set of questions:
These are questions we’ve been working on and thinking about deeply at RADAR, and we believe we can go even further…
What if we could turn visions of the future into the cultural liquidity to actually build them?
What if we could launch self-fulfilling futures by incentivising adoption with ownership?
Not just for specific startups, but for entire markets of emerging culture.
In our effort to accelerate better futures, each emergent vision would have an associated token representing ownership — allowing anyone, anywhere to become a stakeholder in the vision: aligning behind, supporting and building toward the vision, while being symbiotically incentivized to make it a reality.
Ownership over the future = co-creation, freedom and autonomy to make it a reality.
But now you’re probably wondering, how could you possibly time these shifts to manifest new markets of culture?
At RADAR, we’re creating an infrastructure to do just that.
Hopefully, by now, you understand the core of what RADAR builds and does: We identify emerging futures through a decentralized foresight process, validating the shifts we believe are poised for adoption. We launch emerging futures as tokenized collectives that grant holders stake over the vision and its path forward. We accelerate each future through innovation sprints, designed for maximum ideation and innovation among a vision-aligned collective.
You also know, now, much of what we believe about change: that it doesn’t happen one person at a time, but at the speed of relationships, connections, and networks that enable the propagation of shared visions and, in turn, facilitate emergence.
And, finally, you know what stands in our way: that despite humanity’s predisposition toward cooperation, we’re stuck in a world where single-player mode is the dominant default.
So we know what we need to do: we need to activate multiplayer mode in service of better futures. And to do it, we need to bolster our multiplayer infrastructure across the spheres that make RADAR, RADAR: community, research, and incubate.
1. Multiplayer Infrastructure for Community
As we’ve said already, we think about the RADAR community as a living organism — an entity that’s ever-evolving, ever-learning, and ever-adapting to the wiggly world around us. And so, of course, we require a community infrastructure that will wiggle with us: a bit like how skyscrapers are designed to sway in high winds, rigidity works against us.
For us, this takes a few shapes: first, in our approach to community growth and ongoing onboarding. RADAR membership can never be bought; we filter in new joiners by way of an application we take seriously — with the intention of cultivating a community that satisfies what’s called ‘the edge effect.’
This means we’re consciously seeking out diversity in the ecosystem, keeping our eyes out for the ‘deviants’ (as @visakanv puts it) who will bring something special to our world, fortifying our collective with new, different, and critical perspectives. It also means that we’re looking for life that fills our ecosystem with all the good stuff it needs to thrive: shared vision, vested interest, a knack for sense-making and signal scanning — whether it comes naturally, or professionally — and a desire to activate that ‘knack’ to help build better futures.
Taking our ‘lessons from nature’ metaphor one step further, we’re also intentional about the way we manage membership: a perspective we’ve talked about before as ‘transitional communities & intentional churn.’ Taking cues from the ebbs and flows of nature’s seasons, and from cycles of new growth and decomposition, we acknowledge that our community will never be a static mass.
“Everything we attempt, everything we do, is either growing up as its roots go deeper, or it’s decomposing, leaving its lessons in the soil for the next attempt.” — Adrienne Maree Brown
“From starfish I have learned that if we keep our core intact, we can regenerate. We can fall apart, lose limbs, and re-grow them as long as we don’t let anyone threaten that central disc’s integrity. We can grow so many different arms, depending on what kind of sea star we are. We have to nourish ourselves with the resources we are surrounded by, with our community assets if you will, and by doing so we help keep ecosystems delicately balanced.” — JoLillian T. Zwerdling, as quoted in Brown’s Emergent Strategy
Some members may find their fit matches up with their bandwidth in certain moments and not the next; some will come back around cycles later when things sync up in their favor yet again; some will have had their moment with RADAR, taught us what they could, and moved onto their next horizon. All of these are welcome — because they’re natural. We wouldn’t expect anything otherwise.
As our membership ebbs and flows, so too does our experimentation. While our cycles are very public forms of testing and learning — weeks-long experiences that engage countless individuals — we’re building our infrastructure to support smaller pods and smaller experiments, too: giving life and resources to new ideas as they emerge and facilitating their role in the greater ecosystem.
What may seem like disparate philosophies are all rooted in the same belief: that facilitating multiplayer futures means cultivating a healthy, generative, mutually-beneficial, and vibe-rich environment where people want to be, where people care about the outcomes, yes, but more importantly the people and the process, and where people can activate their whole selves in service of futures they believe in.
2. Multiplayer Infrastructure for Research
Earlier in this piece we staked our claim: “If the future really does belong to those who think about it (and we believe it does), then we believe that should include more, and we mean way more of the population than it does today.” So how do we build an infrastructure for research that facilitates it?
For us, the answer lies in enabling and empowering more people to more easily think about and contribute to the future together. We’re tackling this in a few ways:
But of course, by now you know that research in and of itself isn’t the endgame. So as part of our multiplayer infrastructure for research, it’s also critical that we facilitate forward motion in the form of building intention and momentum around our yearly cycles.
And for that, we’ve shifted course on the way (and the when) we plan ahead.
SuperCuration has always been core to our research process. It’s how we bridge the always-on signal scanning and context creation that happens in the community to the topics we decide to pursue in-cycle. A small group of high-signal, high-context individuals come together to make sense of everything that’s been happening in the server. They bubble up constellations worth pursuing, debate and discuss amongst themselves how we might strengthen, elevate, or combine those that surface, and ultimately, create a short-list for the whole community’s input based on co-created ‘Future Criteria’ that RADAR believes best fit the bill for a full cycle.
Originally, we thought this process would happen before each and every cycle, tapping into the latest and greatest conversations in the moment. But through experimentation and conversation, we realized there was a better way. What we were doing as a community was far greater than chasing ‘of the moment’ fads as they flew through the zeitgeist; we were resolving to nurture better futures with real and profound potential to bear fruit.
Enter our new annual planning process — or, to put it less corporate-ly — RADAR Resolutions: our once yearly supercuration effort where we take stock of the world as it stands, look ahead to the world as it might be, and suss out the seedlings we believe are worth nurturing in the year ahead. From here, and with the community’s input and support, we’ll decide upon our three yearly cycle topics with ample time to build momentum and excitement both within and outside the community, while still allowing for flex as the world evolves around us.
In doing so, we create the conditions for Incubate to do what it does best. (Smooth segue, huh?)
3. Multiplayer Infrastructure for Incubate
Earlier, we talked about an economic theory for tokenizing markets to create shared upside. Theory is nice (most of this paper is theory); but at RADAR, right now, we’re about taking theory into action. The incubate phase is about how we create and cultivate those tokenized markets — and not just any markets, but ones aligned behind a better future. About how to take the vision that research puts forth, and build the group of people who are ready to create the things that will thrive in that future, that will bring that future closer to reality.
“The world changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.” — Meg Wheatley & Deborah Frieze
This is incubate: our process for developing networks of relationships and creating the conditions for them to build towards a shared vision.
How we attract: make it memeable.
In order for this vision of the future to spread, we’ll create something that will transmit rapidly from person to person, offering each person the chance to iterate, shape, adjust, personalize and tweak so as to see themselves as not just a receiver of this vision but an active participant with a hand in building it. We design a highly transmissible vector of ideas, that propagates itself by leaping from brain to brain through the capacity to share in a piece of common culture, establishing new forks and iterations while tying back to the original, co-owned cultural capital.
Memes. We’re talking about memes.
We’ll start with our RADAR report, treating it as a creative brief. Inviting people to mash-up, remix, imitate, and evolve the original vision we’ve set forward. The status quo in the futures industry is for work to be closed off in walled gardens, or even worse, gathering dust on clients’ shelves. Our first act is to give ours away; turning our discoveries into the raw materials for creativity.
As Packy McCormick says in his piece Story Time: “Bottoms-up narratives are a powerful way to build worlds.”
And so by inviting the builders into this participatory visioning, we’ll also start to manifest the world. This meme of the future, sparked by our reporting, becomes its own headless brand — one whose direction and manifestation are deeply owned by the collective of creators who push it forward.
How we incentivize it: co-ownership & governance
“The threads of community are of two types: gift and story, warp and woof. In short, a strong community weaves together social and economic ties.” — Charles Eisenstein
To activate multiplayer mode, we need to design a structure that includes both social and economic ties.
The people coalescing around this shared meme of the future establishes a headless brand, one co-owned by the creators and aligned in their vision. We call these groups Future Collectives. Each cycle drives the creation of an autonomous collective outside of RADAR, with ownership over their shared meme and rooted in the envisioned possibilities laid out in the report.
They are defined by and mobilized with a few fundamental tenets:
By establishing this shared ownership and incentive, we design a structure that unlocks the opportunity that our first Futurethon uncovered — turning a multiplayer moment into a multiplayer movement.
How we scale it: exit to community.
‘From moment to movement’ isn’t as simple as shared ownership and incentive, though – plenty of groups of people have failed with these alignments. So, we’ll create the optimal conditions for the projects, ideas and ambitions of these communities to thrive.
First, with a place to start. We’re developing a proprietary set of tools to set these communities up to run fast and iterate quickly, creating a self-sustaining and self-learning system to thrive. This includes inspiration to weave the threads, lore, and vision of their community; organizing tools that allow them to learn together and identify emergence (many of which we’ve developed through the creation of RADAR itself); and platforms created with a format and design that supports connections.
Second, with resources to scale. The RADAR community exists in a symbiotic relationship with each future collective, providing access to our resources. We’ll support them with connections — think: ideas, signals, research, mentors, processes, technology, equipment and more — and guidance: offering our member’s deep knowledge to know which processes, techniques, and strategies work best.
At the same time, the communities will have much to offer RADAR: From individual expertise sourced from inside the community, to test markets for RADAR products, having this audience and opportunity working closely with us will accelerate RADAR’s work, too.
A few tangible examples:
Third, with access to an ever-expanding ecosystem. A year at RADAR encompasses three cycles. Three futures reports, three future collectives, three community-owned visions of a participatory future that invites people to become a part.
The theme of our current report is Play, envisioning what might be possible in a future with more delight, whimsy and joy – what might happen when play goes beyond leisure to become a new approach for how we exist in, interact with, and build the world. Next cycle, we’ll tackle Our Centaur Future — exploring the impacts and opportunities the rapid explosion of AI technologies can bring to us.
Now, imagine what might emerge when we foster critical connections between the Play collective & the Centaur collective. We’re not simply building disparate communities of interest aligned people, but instead, an ecosystem that can cross-pollinate, identify its own emergence, and build intersecting futures together. Perhaps, even, a new community is born: a child of Play & AI that offers us even more new possibilities with their visions of the future. These systems of influence, of course, again share in the upside from their co-created futures — as does RADAR. The $SIGNAL token metagoverns the entire ecosystem, with RADAR as a 10% holder of each collective. The more connections and creations that are fostered, the more everybody wins.
RADAR asks the question, how do better futures emerge?
We hope, by now, that you have a sense of how we think they can. We’ve laid out a theory that, in many ways, relies on people beyond us to drive it forward. Thus is the nature of multiplayer; it’s interdependent. Our role with incubate is to simply to set things in motion — and then allow the stakeholders, aligned behind their shared incentives and visions, to shepherd the future forward.
We started RADAR with a mission to create a new model for a broken industry.
But when we brought the most brilliant people we could find together and asked them what that looked like, through a series of workshops, connections, moments of inspiration and opportunities for emergence (an unwitting prototype for the process we’ve laid out here) what emerged was not a new model for a futures company, but rather, a new model for the future itself. The one we’ve offered you here today. One that is intentional with fostering emergence. One that leverages web3 technology as a means not an end. One that leans into complexity and invites it to sort itself out through an infrastructure that allows connection and co-creation to bubble the best ideas to the top. This is how better worlds emerge.
RADAR itself is a living organism. It’s a canvas for experimentation. For prototyping the emergence we’re starting to recognize – for watching in action how the theory of change we’re offering can manifest. It means that — as we continue to trial these methods for enabling moment-to-movement, vision-to-action, concept-to-creation — RADAR might not always look just like the vision we’ve laid out here. But fundamentally, it will remain architected around one core belief.
That belief is that the future is community owned.
The more critical connections we can make between pathfinders and groundbreakers with shared visions for the future, and the more brains, hands, and resources we can put behind them, the more likely we’ll all be to manifest — and benefit from — its fruition.
It’s our perspective on multiplayer futures — and we think it’s the most likely way we’ll change the world.
Now, we invite you to ask yourself:
If a better future was not just possible but probable;
if you could have a stake in making it reality;
if you could work towards it as a multiplayer movement, aligned behind one shared vision;
what would you imagine, support, and build together?
This paper was authored by RADAR’s instigators: Matt Weatherall, Keely Adler, Em Howell, and the inimitable purple orb at the center of RADAR known only as Fancy.
Our thinking has been deeply influenced by a variety of writers and organizations, without whom Multiplayer Futures could not exist in concept or implementation. We publish this with gratitude to the thoughts, ideas, inspiration, feedback, and support of:
Adrienne Maree Brown
B (The Honest Sorcerer)
Brad de Graf
Dwayne ‘The Jock’ Ronson
Good for Nothing
Janine M. Benyus
JoLillian T. Zwerdling
Near Future Laboratory
Rafa (The Builder)
Rev. Jennifer Bailey
Rita C Vargas
…and every single other member and supporter of the RADAR community.