Future Dualities: Community & Independence

We find strength in connection and vulnerability in dependence. This is part two of our Future Dualities series. New around here? See the introduction before reading on.

Eden Dotan
Lasse Underbjerg

Thinking ahead is messy. In futurism, it’s a widely accepted fact that we cannot predict one true future. There is not one direction forward, but many different –sometimes contradictory– directions happening at once.

Paradoxically, we humans still love a simple story; Good and bad. Us and them. But more than ever, we need to shift away from simplified, binary thinking. If we want to design futures that are truly sustainable for planet, people, and profit, we need to stop oversimplifying our choices. Explore the continuum, present and beyond. But it’s not an easy feat.

To start, we interviewed thinkers and creators from across the world, and across competencies, to get a deeper and wider perspective on the possibilities and pitfalls ahead. Our conversations led us to five overarching dualities through which we can view, explore, discuss and begin shaping strategies for potential futures.

In this article, we will dive into the first of these five dualities: Community & Independence.

Community: Self-organized communities rise above traditional institutions

An erosion of trust in traditional institutions and big tech, rising social discontent, and increasing connectivity are leading to the rise of self-organized and value-based communities. They support one another and create change together — oftentimes more effectively than governments or longstanding institutions.

'There are just as many people handing out sandwiches to the protestors as there are protesters — this is community. This is the new leadership.' — Sybil Ottenstein, psychotherapist

Some communities are local and intimate: The supportive network of neighbors, the local group of runners, the coalition of mom and pop shops. Others cross borders and spark global conversations — from Black Lives Matter to global platforms like Dinner Confidential, to the hyperactive communities of Tik Tok.

'Organizations will need to understand the value of catering to smaller communities — this may have greater value than the large scale.' — Alice Grandoit, Founder of Deem and Room for Magic

On the one hand, community provides us with connection, meaning, and agency in an increasingly chaotic world. On the other, it risks quieting the voices of those who don’t belong.

'The ambitions for our public spaces are growing. There is a need to create environments that integrate communities, and welcome everyone.' — Jason Bruges, architect and artist

Consider the implications for your organization. In a future characterized by communities, you need to understand the collective and your place within it.

  • Which communities are relevant to your business, and what role do you play within them?
  • What do these communities value, and what do you offer them?
  • How can you help foster inclusive communities?

Independence: Isolation provides stability

With increasing dependence comes increasing fragility. As we’ve all witnessed in the face of crumbling global supply chains: remove one link, and things fall apart.

'Not everything is global anymore. We are considering how we can develop the muscles to help ourselves at times of trouble, rather than relying on global partners.' — Professor Oded Maimon, Tel Aviv University, Data Mining and AI

As the vulnerability inherent in depending on other people, nations and organizations becomes clear, the desire for independence and self-sustenance is growing — driving demand for everything from local production to homeschool curriculums (and resulting in bizarre new experiences, like baby chicken shortages).

'The citizen of the world disappears when people are in crisis, and worrying for themselves. We’re going back to me, my family, my tribe, my country.' — Shlomo Dovrat, Co-Founder, Viola Ventures

Independence can heighten our personal security, strength, and resilience. But as we shut others out of our self-sustained circles, we risk enhancing polarized, protectionist discourse. And in an era of misinformation and mistrust, this can be a dangerous path to walk down.

'We are literally calling our social circles ‘bubbles’. We have gotten guidance from the state that a bubble should have no more than 12 people. How do you create room for difference and diverse opinions?' — Etienne Fang, Principal Researcher, Amazon

Consider the implications for your organization. In a future of heightened independence, you face increasing selectivity from people and partners.

  • How can you serve as a source of value, security, and independence for your consumers?
  • How do you feed into polarized feedback loops? How can you break them?
  • What are the dependencies you rely on as an organisation?

Of course, there is a vast range between all things community and absolute independence. Homeschoolers may have retreated from classic learning institutions, but many build new, intimate communities in which their children learn together. People are increasingly growing their own produce, with the support of thousands of Facebooking plant aficionados.

Possible futures lie on each end of this spectrum, and at any of the tension points in between. Each of these futures carries implications on diverse industries and markets. And we can begin to understand and explore these implications when we turn imagined possibilities into tangible artifacts.

We use dualities to inspire tangible future scenarios that ignite thoughts, feelings, discussion — and initial hypotheses and decision-making for the future.

Take aging.

As the world’s population ages, how will we experience healthcare, social interaction, and self-fulfillment? What could these look like in a future of empowered communities? In a future of lone wolves? In the murky in between?

Take a look at the possible future scenarios below. What implications could they have for businesses that cater to aging populations? What responsibilities and opportunities could arise for your own organization?

Age together, at a community garden near you.

No need to leave home when data is your doctor.

Stay tuned! Next up in our Dualities series is Fast & Slow, Convenience & Consideration, and Automation & Serendipity. How are we seeing this duality play out today? How could it shape a particular industry in the future? And what questions should you be asking about your organization moving forward?

Interested in giving the futures of your business some more thought? We’d love to have the conversation. Get in touch.