Carving a meaningful path toward synchrony means discrete actions won’t suffice. We have a lot of unlearning to do — and a lot of new structures to create — if we’re truly going to remake the world. We need to ask ourselves some overarching questions: What new frameworks might we create to override dogmatic ways of thinking and doing? What new systems of belief might help us find renewed meaning? How can we rethink structures of belonging to bridge existing fractures and cultivate better, more sustainable relationships?
In the face of our ongoing existential polycrisis, we’re rethinking how to make sense of the world and our roles within it. This means calling into question, well, everything — and exploring new frameworks with which we can navigate these cultural sea changes. Breaking with siloed, short-termist, and predictable ways of thinking means turning to trans-disciplinary and anti-disciplinary philosophies for answers. It means embracing multi-generational, ancestral, and indigenous thinking. It means learning to thrive in uncertainty — because otherwise we risk falling into the same old traps.
Our new frameworks will transform us into more connected beings; they’ll help us build toward anti-fragility; and they’ll cultivate a more hopeful alternative to the anthropocene we need for a better future.
Since its introduction in 1943, Maslow’s Hierarchy has become the dominant model for structuring human need states. Over time, however, it has become clear that its individualistic tenets are limiting, warranting a revisitation of its original source of inspiration — Blackfoot Nation beliefs — in order to course-correct. In the Blackfoot model self-actualization sits at the base, rather than at the top (of what is a tipi, by the way — not a triangle). In this view, individual actualization is the foundation from which higher-order goals, like community and spirituality, can be achieved. At the top lies cultural perpetuity — or ‘the breath of life.’ Cultural perpetuity embodies the understanding that while individuals might be forgotten, they still have a critical role to play in ensuring that important communal teachings live on. The four corners of the tipi account for the remainder of Maslow’s hierarchy through a more holistic framework, giving equal weight to cognitive, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Through a return to the original Blackfoot beliefs, we’re placing individuals in their appropriate, connected context, rather than prioritizing them above all else. That allows us to re-orient ourselves toward interdependence, constantly balancing the personal and collective needs as we go.
From forced isolation to crises of every variety, the past few years have emphasized our relation to one another and to the world around us. As we imagine a future that requires us to act in a collective best interest, the first step is understanding the role we play in a larger context and building a foundation from which we’re able to become the best versions of ourselves.
To unlearn the harmful lessons that have fueled our dyssynchrony we must start by questioning accepted frameworks, and understand how indigenous concepts have been co-opted to benefit individualistic cultures. In reconnecting with these human roots, we can rebuild our relationships, creating new structures to better understand our roles within our communities and the world around us.
The Uncertainty Experts is an immersive three-part documentary backed by neuroscientific research that helps viewers build resilience and reduce anxiety. The three one-hour sessions are bookended by questionnaires designed to help set a baseline on the viewer’s attitudes toward uncertainty, with personalized profiles and practical takeaways that help turn uncertainty into opportunity. Each session is punctuated by scannable QR codes and interactive questions that analyze in real-time how the viewer currently tackles uncertainty — and the fear, fog, and stasis it engenders.
To find our way back to synchrony we must embrace uncertainty — and understand that the goal is not to vanquish it, but to live with it. Building more resilient people and institutions means learning to adapt as waves of uncertainty undermine even our best-laid plans.
We increasingly hear that ‘soft skills’ are the ones we’ll need in the future — and while that’s true, we also find that we lack meaningfully engaging ways to develop them. There’s an untapped opportunity for organizations to build immersive and engaging personal development programs, both in our education systems and our workplaces.
Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term ‘Symbiocene’ to represent a potential future beyond the Anthropocene. In this alternative state, he envisions a world underpinned by people living in symbiosis, mutually supporting each other and the world around us. For Albrecht, this interconnection restores humanity’s role in the community of life, resisting the tendency to view nature as a hostile and competitive war of ‘all against all’.
Albrecht goes on to argue the case for a ‘Symbiocracy:’ a form of self government with an emphasis on respect for all the reciprocal relationships around us, at all scales from local to global. This means electing representatives with meaningful ties to local communities and places, as well as an intimate understanding of ecosystems and the interdependent relationships that support them.
Climate anxiety and environmentally-induced distress have given rise to yet another Albrecht-ism: ‘Solastalgia.’ Solastalgia is a term Albrecht describes as “...the homesickness you have when you’re still at home;” it’s a term that encompasses the unsettling feeling of constant change to our environments. Unsurprisingly, this kind of melancholia can feel like a black hole with strong gravitational pull. Here the Symbiocene offers hope — a concept we can aspire to and work towards, rather than constantly trying to dodge consequences of impending environmental collapse.
Building a new era requires active engagement, energy, and awareness — and a start is helping people understand and envision this new world. This means opportunity for visionary and activist organizations alike, with groups like Symbio(s)cene and Extinction Rebellion setting the standard for engaging more people in the mission for transformative change.
While previous systems of belief have lost our faith, we haven’t lost the innate human desire to connect with something larger than ourselves. Seeking deeper meaning, sources of truth, and a sense of belonging, people are searching out new systems of belief and carving their own spiritual pathways as they pursue a clearer understanding of their place in the world. Whether it’s looking back to look forward, finding new religion in the co-operative, or seeking out bespoke spiritual solutions, the objective is often the same: to gain meaning amidst the madness.
The Nearness taps into younger generations’ desires for a more personal, more open-minded approach to spirituality. It’s an eight-week course where participants gather weekly for 90-minute small group conversations in a community app (hosted in the micro-community platform Geneva). Everyone who participates in the co-operative program receives expert guidance through structured conversation prompts, practices, and support, while monthly workshops offer inspiration and education from poets, activists, and wisdom teachers.
Shifting away from earlier iterations of religion that too often took patriarchal, dogmatic forms, The Nearness creates space to ask questions and seek inspiration. Its participants find meaning outside of traditional institutions, through community with a like-minded group of spiritually-interested but diverse-in-belief participants. By divorcing the benefits historically offered by religious institutions — things like focusing on life’s meaning and beauty; the cultivation of compassion and justice; and a community that supports through celebration and grief — from place-based, denominationally-bound, and philosophically-confining ‘church’, The Nearness and programs like it are creating something fundamentally new and potentially quite fulfilling.
As people continue to seek healthier relationships with themselves, stronger connections with one another, and deeper meaning in something greater, we expect that many more will seek out products and services that help cultivate more authentic, vulnerable, and communal experiences that nurture mind, body, and soul.
Created by Tamika Abaka-Wood, Dial-an-Ancestor is a participatory, long-term, and public service leveraging ancestors’ voices to illuminate one’s past, present and future. In hopes that the hotline will be maintained and evolved for a minimum of 100 years, Tamika listens and curates 15-minute soundscapes which are updated "when it feels right." The project aims to archive and share knowledge, wisdom and stories; cultivate deeper time humility; create kinfolk across space and time; and contribute to world-building — while also creating pleasure and surprise through the simple acts of sharing, listening, and talking.
Understanding more about where we’ve come from means we are better able to connect with our place in history. With its fun, simple format, Dial-an-Ancestor makes thinking about the past more approachable, releasing ancestral calls in a creative and vulnerable way. As the digital world makes our history both more accessible and more disposable (e.g. reliance on technologies and platforms that may quickly become outdated), this is a brilliantly low-tech way of making information, emotion, and rich storytelling accessible for years to come.
As people continue to re-evaluate their relationships with social media — fundamentally a kind of ‘archive’ for present life — they’re increasingly considering the kinds of stories they’re preserving for future generations. Look for this more considered approach to become the norm when it comes to the fragments we want to leave behind and pass on.
Human Design is a Goop-y, new-age practice that’s — according to practitioner Erin Claire Jones — “essentially a mix of Kabbalah, I'Ching, Myers-Briggs, astrology, biochemistry, genetics, and the chakra system all in one.” Focused on dividing personalities into five ‘energy types’ that reveal a person’s ‘genetic design,’ Human Design breaks down your gifts and unpacks how you’re wired to work in a variety of contexts to help make decisions in the most aligned way possible. Proponents say that by understanding their human design chart they’re able to live more in sync with themselves and their unique power.
Human design takes the best of what hooks us about both astrology and MBTI, focusing on a person’s individual traits. Elements like time and location of birth contribute to a sense of how individuals can lean into their strengths, without predicting their behavior in the ways a horoscope might.
As people seek to better understand themselves and align with their passions and values, Human Design proposes an alternative route for introspection and a new toolkit for acting upon new learnings. We expect to see more from the spiritual-meets-analytical self-help space as this trend continues to find its way into the mainstream.
The shifts created by the pandemic have been — to put it lightly — drastic. Accelerating a trend of political aggro-individualism while imploring us to spend even more time online, COVID-19’s impacts managed to further crack open already growing fissures in society. The deep community connections, and even the casual, neighborly friendships that previous generations enjoyed are harder to find today. And that’s a problem: because belonging is a boon to wellbeing both individually and collectively. Research shows that a sense of belonging protects against depression. While many of our previous structures of belonging were built for a different era and are no longer a fit, the benefits they created are still desperately needed. Many may blame technology for our growing disconnection — but from finding solidarity in micro-communities, to rethinking public goods and public space, to re-imagining neighborhood dynamics for a new era, it’s also technology that can help us find our way out.
Monologue Art Museum in Qinhuangdao, China, is a cultural space that promotes individual recharging through a meditative, nature-focused layout. Featuring a gallery, courtyard, dance studio, yoga studio, and theater, the multifunctional space was built to foster fluid interactions among visitors while also ensuring that, as architect Yu Ting put it, “one can be alone in an artistic way.” At Monologue, ‘we’ takes a backseat to ‘me’ in a place purpose-built for the solitude and respite of those who need to recharge creatively.
Fostering interaction and cultivating relationships has always been a key element of public space — even more so recently, with people flocking to parks, paths, and other commons after COVID lockdowns were lifted. But having a good relationship with, and even finding ways to belong to ourselves, is just as important as the connections we create with others.
There’s a big difference between solitude and loneliness, and both understanding and appreciating that difference is critical to our ability to self-synchronize. As the benefits of spending time alone — things like introspection, imagination, and contemplation — and a growing recognition of accommodating neurodivergent needs in design become more present in culture, we expect to see more spaces designed for the self pop up globally.
Proto-ZOÖP Zeeburg is a residential development in Amsterdam that has prioritized the needs of other forms of life. With habitats built for several other species thoughtfully included in the environmentally-conscious plans, the development is self-described as “green, biodiverse, (and) with plenty of room for flora and fauna.” Located on an island in a river near the city-center, the site is in the process of being transformed into a sustainable, car-free neighborhood. The new complex uses a unique “Zoöp'' (derived from “zoë”, the Greek word for “life”) model that requires decision making boards to include a voice representing non-human interests.
Researchers have found that people who spend two hours a day in green spaces are substantially more likely to report good health and mental well-being than those who don't. Through its nature-inclusive design Proto-ZOÖP Zeeburg quietly extends the number of minutes a person spends in nature, creating a deeper sense of connection to the environments around us. Many quasi-utopian developments are looking to radically reimagine how we live (see: Neom’s The Line, Marc Lore’s Telosa), and are creating new cities in largely inhospitable desert environments. This kind of innovation — along with the likes of CabinDAO and CityDAO — is critical to improving the places we call home, often in imperceptible but significant ways.
As societies shift to a more holistic mindset, developments like this might become more common. In the same way that many install solar panels, the future may see businesses evolve to help design more inviting homes and hospitable environments that benefit other species in our more-than-human world.
Motherland Village is an online program for rural mothers, enabling people to form meaningful connections and friendships in the comfort of a small, personalized group. Membership includes a six-week facilitated program encompassing three live evening Zoom sessions, weekly activities that delve into motherhood, parenting and self-reflection, and access to private messaging boards that encourage ongoing support and communication.
We’re told it takes a village to raise a child. It’s an idiom most accept as true — but with many modern parents feeling deeply isolated and alone, we often find that the village simply doesn’t exist. Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in rural communities. Solutions that address the crippling isolation faced by many new moms in rural and urban spaces alike — especially those that bring communal principles back to parenthood — should be encouraged and supported.
We know full well that moms need this kind of support. Dads do, too. As fathers find their way through changing household politics and responsibilities, there’s an opportunity to encourage, educate and enrich them on their parenthood journeys with similar spaces that allow for connection, community and supportive relationships. While Kevin Maguire’s New Fatherhood substack community comes to mind, it seems to us that this space is ripe for a whole lot more.
Projects like this create spaces for people to consider alternate perspectives and generate a sense of social cohesion, highlighting our commonalities over our differences. We expect to see more of these types of projects leveraging technology to overcome divides of space and time, and would love to see art used to foster reconciliation and understanding between regions experiencing tension.
As an art installation, it creates a sense of possibility — particularly among those unable to travel, missing out on the moments of serendipity and cultural expansion that come with spending time elsewhere. According to its creators, the portal and iterations to come are meant to serve as a kind of digital bridge, meant to encourage people to “rethink the meaning of unity.” While it might sound cheesy, that’s exactly the kind of message we can get behind right now.
The Portal Unity Network is a project erecting live, two-way video feeds connecting cities around the world, which allow participants to interact with others in a paired location 24 hours a day. The initial pilot — which looks like something straight out of Stargate — took place in 2021 between Vilnius, in Lithuania, and Lublin, Poland. Expect to see more of this: A team of product design students in Bristol, U.K. have won a competition to design the next iteration.