REFINING THE THESIS: On How We Might Activate Multiplayer Futures
Multiplayer Futures: Toward an Emergence Economy (part 5)
This is part 5 of 7 in Multiplayer Futures: Toward an Emergence economy. You can read installments 1-4 here, read the entire paper in full here, and collect it on Zora here.
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REFINING THE THESIS: On How We Might Activate Multiplayer Futures
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:
Futures exist on a long time horizon: We’re not talking about fads; we’re talking about meaningful macro shifts on 3-5-10-100 year scales.
They’re inherently collective efforts: We’re all part of the future, whether we have a say in it or not. Historically, too many of us have had the future happen to us — this flips that dynamic.
They’re built on the backs of network effects: At their core, trends are essentially memes — propagated and proliferated through culture & society writ large.
They inspire, and inspire solidarity: Shared visions of the future can “empower imaginative actors to see themselves as agents of civic change, and encourage feelings of solidarity through the ability to imagine (a world) different to one’s own.” (Olivia Oldham)
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?
This has been installment 5 of 7 of Multiplayer Futures: Toward an Emergence Economy. You’ll find installment 6 in your inbox tomorrow, and if you missed it, you can read the previous installments here.
As a reminder, we’re extending availability of our Patron NFTs for those 7 days. If the vision laid out in these pages resonates, we invite you to take part in the inaugural cycle that will bring to life our theory of Multiplayer Futures: Play. It’s the first of many more to come.
See you tomorrow 🔮