I put a short post up a few days ago in an online group I’m in, with the above image and this brief description:
superhero school. center for disruptive innovation. continuous learning zone. collective intelligence. live/work startup incubator. community center. hackerspace. makerlab. autonomous zone. permaculture and sustainable food production. cooperatively owned communications infrastructure. resilience. r&d lab. a place for creative troublemakers. hudson valley. i want this to exist.
It blew up to over 100 comments in less than 48 hours, with many people sharing their own thoughts and plans and existing initiatives to create similar things in their areas. I was inspired! Is this an idea whose time has come?
If you take a look around the world right now, you will see that this is already happening. Everywhere. You can see it in the themes of the ‘sharing economy’ ‘collaborative consumption,’ and the maker movement; in physical locations like hackerspaces, fab labs, and co-creation spaces. We see it in chaordinated events, in barcamps, innovation camps, unconferences, workshops, and maker faires.
It is happening in a new blendings of continuous learning/education/entrepreneurship – check out the KaosPilots in Denmark, the Unreasonable Institute in Colorado, Maison Notman in Montreal, Blackbox in Silicon Valley, General Assembly in New York City, the Knowmads in the Netherlands, West Lexham in London, Team Academy in Finland, and the Hubs across 5 continents and 26 cities.
For strategies in environmental sustainability, local resilience, and self-reliant living, look to the Mycelium School, Friends of Gaviotas in South America, Gaia University, the Center for Alternative Technology in Wales, the Eden Project in Cornwall, and Schumacher College in South Devon.
For full-on experiments in intentional living, look to Damanhur in Italy, Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, Twin Oaks in Virginia, Tamera in Portugal, the kibbutzim in Isreal, or live/work artists’ spaces like AS220 in Rhode Island. Current ideas to launch such initiatives are floating in the noosphere as well – look to Lion Kimbro’s “The Plan,” or the “House of Rethinking” by Until We See New Land.
All of these examples inspire me to believe that we are reaching the tipping point, where we’ll accelerate the construction and deployment of these epicenters for disruptive innovation, creativity, imagination, healing, and Becoming. Gathering together and creating the world we want to live in. Getting linked. Now.
The particular location pictured above which has captured my imagination is right here in Beacon, NY, an estate vacant for 12 years now, sitting on 63 lovely acres of property. It is less than an hour and a half train ride from NYC, and surrounded by nature, the Hudson Highlands, the Hudson River. It’s not isolated out in the desert somewhere, not a rejection of civilization, but embedded within it.
It brought into focus for me all the conversations and theories I’ve been having in the clouds of the future, and grounded them down into something that could be a reality.
And this is simply a location near me… but couldn’t it be in any number of places? There are a nearly limitless amount of charming, historic buildings everywhere.. sitting vacant and aching to be retrofitted for something useful.
And there seems to be no shortage of passionate people eager to roll up their sleeves and implement these ideas on the ground, share their successes and failure, and spend time being human together.
Could aspects of the above initiatives be rolled into a bold experiment in social evolution?
A live/work campus with elements of a university, Plato’s Academy, an ashram and a monastery. A place to feed your mind, body and soul.
Where people express what their humanity means to them through art, technology, music, experiential learning, sustainable practices, aesthetics, and togetherness.
An action-orientation of prototyping, experimenting, risk-taking, rapidly iterating, and propagating what works. Incubating startups and projects. A collaboratory to bootstrap local and regional solutions to our most pressing ‘wicked problems.’
I can see something magical forming just over the horizon, and it makes me ask:
What will happen when these types of locations begin to integrate into a global network?
What happens when we have real trust networks that transcend boundaries, and share the information and resources to aid us all in a higher function civilization?
How will these globally networked creative economies interoperate and build wealth together?
Can we open source the models so they can spread and morph as quickly as possible?
What is the role of complementary and local currencies within these networks?
What does it look like when we engage in commons-based peer production and build towards shared infrastructures?
What does a balanced model look like where both individual and group interests are being served?
How will this improve the quality of our lives and our communities?
The world is only becoming more tumultuous and complex, and there is no one to “save us.”
We need to cultivate superheroes and create the world we want!
Can we build it now?