While New Structures and New Stories lay the groundwork for A Future In Sync, it’s New Behaviors that truly put it into action. From new modes of healing that help us put the pieces back together, to moments of collective effervescence that crank our feelings of catharsis up to eleven, we’re interested in cultivating behaviors that cross the boundaries of synchrony. These behaviors help us reach a better future for ourselves, for each other, and for the planet. And maybe — just maybe — that all comes down to cultivating a world that’s a little more playful.
There’s a growing acknowledgement and embrace of the idea that ‘everyone is healing from something.’ Look left, look right, look in the mirror, and we bet there’s some form of healing looking back at you. This realization offers a refreshing reset, while informing new perspectives, behaviors, and emerging societal systems all around us. And while self-care is supposedly the start we need to heal the world around us, the new modes of healing that we’re seeing emerge surpass the interior lives of the individual. From connecting with the awe of the natural world and rewiring the mind via psychedelia, to resetting our natural cycles and re-conceptualizing ideas of maintenance and repair, synchrony is the key to our collective healing.
As we continue to better understand the benefits of syncing up with the shorter rhythms of life and the longer rhythms of time, we’ll see more and more innovation in this space. We’re already seeing it with wearables and apps in the fitness space; consider how similar thinking might apply to important events, co-working schedules, and even new-normal approaches to things like daylight savings time.
The numerous and varied impacts of the circadian rhythm, along with other natural cycles, are only now starting to be understood. As we look to create more symbiotic relationships with the world around us, we will need to consider everything from how we structure our days to how we live through the seasons. From seed-syncing to ride the waves of menstruation to time-shifting school schedules to accommodate growing brains, there are countless innovations that come from embracing natural cycles in all their forms.
Instead of fighting the alarm, pushing through our periods, and fake laughing through the winter blues, healers of all kinds are becoming increasingly adamant about the virtues of embracing natural cycles; the seasonality of life brings us greater ease, balance, and synchrony. And it’s not limited to people: Chronoculture, for instance, looks at how the circadian clock of crops can be exploited to improve agricultural yield. Similar studies are finding circadian effects in medicine, shaping future use with greater effectiveness.
The pendulum has officially swung back in favor of leveraging psychedelics as a mode of healing; even the Biden administration is preparing for legal psychedelics within the next two years. What indigenous healers have known for centuries is re-entering the mainstream with a renewed embrace of mind-opening plants (and chemicals) by everyone from parents to pop culture. After decades of vilification, we’re even seeing innovation in the space, as we consider the psychedelic effects of technology, too.
Our patterns of behavior are often misaligned with our conscious will — and working with meditation or therapy alone can be insufficient for true subconscious relief. By opening our therapeutic aperture to transcendent experiences, we might just be onto a mass healing breakthrough.
We expect the legalization of psilocybin in places like Colorado, Canada, and progressive care homes to trigger a wave of normalization globally. It’s a shift you can already discern in Instagram-friendly services like Mindbloom and downloadable digitally-induced ‘trips’. Whether it takes the natural or technological form, we’re likely to see people (and even animals) encouraged to add expanded-consciousness practices to their wellbeing regimens.
Performance Space New York has announced Healing Series, a year-long reflection launching in Fall 2022 which focuses on the political potency of healing and the transformative role performance and embodiment take within it. Per the initial press release, “contemporary science confirms what healers and bodyworkers have known for a long time — trauma is stored within the body and we cannot talk or think ourselves out of it. We have to move through it to process it.”
Art as a form of healing has powerful potential, particularly given its ability to synchronize the collective. In the words of PSNY’s Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka, “Performance, dance, and embodied art forms can play a vital role in how we might transcend isolated and individualist notions of healing toward thinking about it collectively, breaking open our perceptions of the boundaries between our wellbeing and others’, between our bodies and minds.”
As often results from periods of difficulty and disruption, the pandemic prompted many to consider what trauma-informed art might emerge from this period. We’re inclined to think that this is the answer: Art that centers practices of care, art that breaks down boundaries so that we can heal together, and art that empowers us to find synchrony with ourselves, each other, and the natural world.
As cars and other complex machines transition away from mechanical hardware to digital software in performing their core functions, wirelessly-connected units are able to run diagnostics and perform ‘healing’ improvements in real-time. Israel’s Aurora Labs has recently patented technology to do just that — a platform that catches issues before they happen, and in the example of vehicle technology, pushes solutions to a car’s software without owners ever having to step foot in a dealership.
Forget downloads and upgrades. By terming their tech ‘self-healing,’ Aurora is tapping into a broader trend of anthropomorphizing the mechanical in a way that reprograms our relationships to and expectations of man-made creations. In keeping with our discussion of repair in ‘from products to artifacts,’ this reframing of what deserves healing — and what that healing looks and feels like — is yet another positive step as we consider solutions for a world that needs restoration more than ever.
As more and more of our devices become digitally-connected, it’s likely we’ll see real-time health monitoring and proactive ‘self-healing’ measures integrated into everything from microwaves and lawnmowers to cellphones and computers. We’re getting big Tamagotchi vibes, but we're always partial to a little retrofuturism as we re-imagine tomorrow.
The recent emphasis on diversity and inclusion in Western workplaces — particularly around gender, race, and ethnicity — has also increased mainstream awareness of other forms of diversity. Now, emotional inclusion is coming to the fore. One example of this is a growing rejection of toxic positivity at work. A form of gaslighting that fails to acknowledge the challenges people face as real and detrimental, toxic positivity dismisses any emotion that doesn’t come with a sunny outlook.
Self-care is acknowledging that we are not always okay. We’ve all cried at work, whether because of a client, a colleague, or something outside the office. It’s all part of being human, and as part of our humanity, we’re embracing the idea that it’s okay to not be okay.
In an increasingly worker-centric world, we’ll see further acknowledgment that healthy employees are happy employees — and that emotional wellbeing is a central piece to that puzzle. Look for workplace policy like bereavement leave that extends beyond deaths of family members (think: other traumatizing and transitional times like divorce or menopause), company perks that shift from skin-deep to beneath-the-surface, and more open and honest conversations between co-workers that do more than break the ice.
You know that visceral feeling when a packed arena belts out the same verse? The buzz you feel after a productive team brainstorm? That special feeling when you walk in-step with a friend down the street? Sociologists call that synchronicity ‘Collective Effervescence.’ It’s something we all missed during the pandemic, and going without it for too long has only reinforced its importance for connection, health, and overall well-being.
The return of clubbing has brought with it a collective realization of the unsung benefits of a good rave. Proponents have long touted rave culture’s promotion of peace, love, unity, and respect — but that perspective has been confined within the subculture. From new research revealing groove music’s impact on wellbeing and sober raving’s reclamation of club culture’s truer power, to the healing power of ‘clean-up raves’ and the cultural guardianship of Berlin’s famous scene, there’s a new conversation brewing in contrast with the narrative of clubbing’s demise…and we think it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Unplugging from the ‘real world’ and submitting to the uplifting, collective energy of the dancefloor can be just as spiritual as religious rituals and psychedelic trips. With ravers reporting transcendence, ascension, and revelatory feelings of connectedness with others, nature, and the universe at large, could raving be the key to our enlightenment? Maybe; maybe not. But at the very least, it’s a good time.
In places like Berlin, the idea of taking a personal day for partying is becoming increasingly normalized. In Finland, we see a Prime Minister acknowledging that she hopes “...in the year 2022, it’s accepted that even decision-makers dance, sing and go to parties.” With the critical importance of collective effervescence top of mind for many, we suspect that raving may continue its rebrand from wasted hedonism to welcome therapy.
Manchester City Football Club has collaborated with IT giant Cisco to create a connected scarf aimed at collecting various data points like temperature, blood flow, and movement of its devoted fans. You might be wondering, Why? But just consider scarves as a stadium, pub, and at-home favorite for the team’s hardest-core fans, and imagine the streams of data coming in on match day: understanding and measuring the ups and downs of football fandom and how the game impacts supporters, not only emotionally, but physically as well. That kind of collective emotional data is unheard of — and to us, very exciting.
Data-based sentiment tracking tools have become ubiquitous, but what about sentiment analysis IRL? The chants, boos, jeers, and cheers can be felt en-masse, but digging deeper into the heartbreak and joy in real-time can provide unique insight into both fandom and a broader experience of collective effervescence. After all, sports may be the ultimate setting: With famous research underpinning ideas like BIRGing and CORFing, the psychology of fandom is both fascinating and illuminating in how people engage in community and culture.
Notwithstanding obvious concerns over the data and privacy of individual fans, the sheer experiential element of a live mood meter feels ripe with opportunity. It can engage audiences in real-time as well as give clubs (and other event organizers) a data-driven foundation to harness participation beyond play. Can’t you just imagine collective mood rings catching the vibe at Coachella? We have to say we’re here for it.
Collective effervescence can be quiet, too. And The Big Quiet, making its post-COVID return in 2022, may be the most potent example of this. Coining itself “a mass meditation movement for modern people,” the organization gathers thousands of individuals for moments of quiet, connection, and music at the most iconic places on earth. But they’re not the only ones taking meditation multiplayer: Interbeing Inc. is a new venture with a goal to improve the mental health and well-being of all through interpersonal meditation practices. With practices done live and out-loud with fellow participants, those who engage can gain a greater sense of embodied presence and human connection to those around them.
At this point, we’ve talked at length about the wellness benefits of multiplayer mode — but we love that this trend takes it a little more literally. Alongside the social clubs for rest and rejuvenation (read: Spaces Social Club, SF Commons) that we mentioned earlier, there’s a clear shift away from the ‘self-care as selfish’ narrative and toward a recognition that recuperating and recharging in concert may just be better for all of us.
As new modes of healing become mainstream, expect to see more forays into multiplayer mode: From collective psychedelic experiences and community breathwork to DAOs like Zaya (aimed at deepening our collective affinity to nature as a pathway toward greater health), we’re already seeing it emerge.
As we feel the mounting weight of our out-of-sync experiences, it’s possible that play may be our single best antidote. Drained, depleted, and deprived of childlike spirit, re-capturing that magic is core to self-syncing. But it doesn’t stop there: Research has shown that play has connective, restorative power outside adolescence, where we often limit it. As playfulness, whimsy, and mischief claim their place on our hierarchy of needs, we’re keeping an eye on the benefits of play as both a behavior and a mindset.
New thinking on childhood development is not only acknowledging play as a means of expanding creativity and problem-solving, but also as a way to enhance feelings of cooperation and belonging. And those benefits don’t stop when we enter adulthood. As cartoonist Lynda Barry noted in a recent interview, “Adults think that kids playing is some nothing thing. But play is a different state of mind, and it can help us do so many things if we just allow ourselves to get back to it.” Whether it’s Cas Holman reconceptualizing childhood play or podcasts like Playground to Purpose and People Who Play that encourage adults to indulge whimsical instincts, we’re seeing the embrace of a playful lifestyle and philosophy that can keep us thriving no matter our age.
When we approach play as a way to think about life, and not just some childish or hedonistic sideshow, we reap its benefits in countless areas — from improved relationships to revitalized mental health. But perhaps most appealingly, play has a resetting quality that frees us up to embrace the future with fresh eyes — much like a child would. As outlined beautifully through a perspective on the classic game Zelda, “[play allows me to] renew my sense of wonder, to reset the way I move through the world, to make the whole place stranger, more fantastical, and make time seem, somehow, more manipulatable, opening up the bright, unlikely possibility of change.”
We see the embrace of play as still in its early days. Millennials are leading this charge, embracing kidult-hood with far less shame than previous generations as they rethink play as a positive in both their own lives and the lives of their growing families. Look for more “play to ____” innovations as we approach the world through this new, curious lens.
We wrote earlier of the need for new office rituals for cohorts of employees that now find themselves thrown woefully out of sync. Play offers another solution, this time in the workplace. From ~serious legos~ to team trivia on Zoom, employers are seeing new potential for workplace engagement and connection by bringing boardgames to the boardroom.
By incorporating play at work, from gamified brainstorms to sportive team outings, workplaces are aiming to increase interpersonal synchrony among coworkers — and hoping both employees and company goals reap the benefits. Research has shown that engaging with others through eye contact and activities cause a group to sync up emotionally and intellectually, leading to higher levels of collective performance.
We’d love to see annual allowance for sick leave, volunteer leave, and holiday expand into mandatory allocations for ‘Play Days.’ So long as employers can keep play from becoming a chore of forced fun, gamifying synchrony may prove beneficial and result in happier, more productive, and more willing-to-stick-around employees.
You’ve probably heard of Goblin Mode — that not-so-tidy capture of our state of affairs beyond burnout. Periods like this come about when circumstances change at a macro level, throwing off everyone’s calibration on the effort/reward equation of life. The result? An epidemic of goblinhood. You know, that Goblin Mode. Call it feral girl summer, call it lying flat, call it nihilism run rampant. You get the gist. What you may not have heard of is its ascendant opposite: Gnome Mode. It isn’t about getting back to normal, but rather, embracing a different set of priorities altogether. A new, more playful, more resilient operating system — one that’s dependent on our embrace of wonder and the childlike spirit, joy, and whimsical mischief it implies. And right now, it’s tempting to conclude this is a shift we’re all experiencing. As Venkatesh Rao told us, “it’s a rare moment of synchronization, like the core century or two of the dark ages.”
Play as a form of resistance against nihilism is a powerful thing, especially when undertaken as a collective. And that’s what we really love about this. Goblin Mode feels isolating, degenerative, and very much stuck inside; Gnome Mode, in contrast, feels co-conspirative, regenerative, and in touch with the great outdoors. As Rao elaborates, “gnome mode is the restoration of a relationship with yourself…. All (your) roles are aligned… and you behave accordingly. Your body and yourself are one, and in harmony with the environment.”
If we carry the play as recovery and resistance thread out, what we’re likely to see is in keeping with fellow futurist Jane McGonigal’s perspective: play as a form of proactive problem solving. After all, if we can recognize the power of play to get us out of the darkness, the next step should be recognizing its power to prevent darkness in the first place.
If you’re trying to read this RADAR report on mobile, don’t. Just don’t.
Grab a water, grab a seat, and cozy up in front of a bigger screen — because you’re in for a wild ride