Outright distrust in the ability of governments and large organisations to offer genuine solutions to pressing issues such as climate change, could cause a rejection of previous models of value and the adoption of mass individual action organised around new models of ethical priorities and infrastructures.
How the scenario could unfold
In this context, three main circumstances might align. We see the potential for growing distrust in organisations such as faith institutions, government and large companies. This may lead to the search for new forms of collective where people can find security to follow each other’s lead, without fear of coercion and with the belief that they are doing the right things.
As more companies extend the meaning of their brand values into concise social, environmental and political aspects of life, these companies may also adopt ‘anti-establishment’ positions and align with collectives in new ways to bring advanced infrastructures to their cause.
While people may be distrustful of some organisations, many could continue to become accustomed to sharing data. Therefore, the idea of quantifying the implications of your actions may be acceptable to people if the cause was right or the value to them was high enough.
So, we may encounter a scenario in which people are looking for new pragmatic models of collectivism. Under these models, they can come together in advanced ways to take small actions in their life to resolve the issues they see around them and do the right thing. These new structures may entwine with people’s values and beliefs and form alternative spiritual models.
We consider the significance of this context from the perspective of a future character who we created based on our research with real people.
What might that mean for Edward?
For someone like Edward, whose values and beliefs are not formed by anyone but himself, acting in the world in a way that brings him happiness without being irresponsible is increasingly challenging. We explore how services may support him or bring even more complications.
Atheism doesn’t make me happier, but religion for me would be living a lie. We create meaning for ourselves, it’s people that make the difference.
Religious structures could feel unstable in their ethical foundations as they shift in reaction to threats from the World. It may be difficult to find a community to put your faith into because it could become difficult to distinguish between religious practice and an organisational/commercial service.
Edward loves his job because he’s ambitious and through his work he feels he’s able to contribute to the world. t His non-standard schedule frees him up to spend more nights out, hooking up, seeing friends or playing board games. The future of the planet is a genuine concern for him because he feels there’s little he can do and he sees no-one else doing anything either. He struggles to balance his ideas of stewardship over the planet with how much he loves travelling in his spare time. He wants his life on the planet to have a positive impact, not a negative one.
For people like Edward, happiness is about having control because it allows them to make the decisions that make them happy. They are happiest when their short term and long term goals are aligned, like having a career that gives them control over their lives but also contributes something to the world.
His goal is to always be able to embrace and explore his present and singular life without having a negative impact on the world.
Edward’s struggle rests in the fact that his happiness requires him to pragmatically have a positive impact on the world, but he has no faith in existing structures of power, only in collectives of individuals.
Explorations in ‘Pragmatic collectives’
We explore the future in this scenario by looking for potential points of friction between this scenario of pragmatic collectivism and the needs of someone like Edward. These explorations are outlines of services that act as emerging spaces for solutions or as spaces to explore the problems and provocations elicited by the services.
Greencoin is an ethically earned currency and shared personal rating system that is based on your sustainable footprint. Greencoin monitors the products you buy, transport you use and your energy consumption habits. GreenCoin means you earn on environmentally friendly purchases and actions and lose from your Greencoin wallet for any damaging purchases.
Team: The Lab
A platform where football supporters contribute to their teams success by doing socially positive actions in their community. These actions are quantified, compared and competed over with other fans and other teams.
Team: The Lab
In this set of explorations, we are asked to consider scenarios where new organisations might create guidance and incentives for people to act in accordance with their ethical frameworks and use advanced personal technology to monitor and manage the infrastructure.
We can foresee that the emergence of these services may be met with the very same scepticism that may help to produce them in the first place. Questions re-emerge around who has the authority to prioritise or determine a quantitative value for one ethical action against another and why those organisations would be incorruptible. We may see technologies like blockchain or democratic models like citizen assemblies being adopted to uphold transparency and robustly demonstrate trustworthiness.
Should these issues be overcome, these new structures may give new power to social initiatives and support positive micro-actions by qualifying their value. It may be that these less partisan, more neutral models may even activate a broader church of people and promote local or even global cohesion.
In this potentially emerging space, people may still find it hard to know how to place their trust in ethical leadership. But, should this issue be allayed enough, people may begin to exercise a new level of collective power and pragmatically shape the world in new ways. Caution will still be required as no model will ever be perfect, and incorrectly celebrating behaviour could be equally irresponsible.
Related to ‘Pragmatic collectives’
Decentralised infrastructures may be adopted by ‘smart’ localised communities to provide an escape route for those who feel that larger, more traditional infrastructures always work to entrap the public.
Ethos learns, tracks and guides people’s behaviours to help them live more in line with their values and beliefs.