Do it yourself
Engaged citizens and grassroots movements have the initiative and drive the change they want to see from the bottom up. Society was heading for ecological and social collapse in the name of profit and all proposed changes were too little, too late. If something radical was to happen it needed to start from the bottom — and so it did.
Today, the system has been flipped into something much closer and more citizen-driven. All the bureaucracy was redundant: It was too slow and too far removed from the from the people it was supposed to look after. Community and a symbiotic relationship to nature is more important than material riches. Not saying that innovation has halted, it has simply taken on a more open and community based approach focused on creating shared value for societies. But, as the world in some ways becomes smaller, conflicts also moves closer to home.
New initiatives emerge from the bottom-up. Challenges are solved locally. Local communities play a far bigger role in the everyday lives of people.
Local communities have their own powerful political institutions with control over local economy and regulation. Everyone is expected to contribute what they can.
As communities come together around ideas, values, and ideology — strong local contrasts appear.
Faster is not always the answer.
We’ve rediscovered our bodies and our part in the natural eco-system around us.
Digital fabrication makes it easier to be more self-sufficient. Why get someone else to do it when you can do it yourself?
As local communities are largely fending for themselves, natural disasters and changing weather becomes even more challenging.
Beauty arises from between the cracks of what used to be.
We can’t afford to be wasteful.
A fresh breeze brush against your face as you walk across the paved square in front of the senior centre. The shops are not open yet but the small plaza is coming alive.
Last week, they started working on restoring the facade and roofing of the old senior centre. It has been a recurring topic at the town hall meetings for years. The community has been talking about tearing it down and building a new one for ages but it has been delayed over an over. With a new roof it probably won’t be for at least 10-15 years so maybe they’ll have time to discuss some other issues like a coordinated effort to restore the park or upgrade the dated network infrastructure in the western half of the neighbourhood.
The work is being done by a mix of specialised workers who are paid by the community fund and locals using some of their allotted community work days to help with the restoration. Emily, a retired engineer and an active user of the senior centre, helps out by supervising the drones laying out the roof tiles. A couple out walking their dog shakes their heads smiling at the sight: Old Emily wearing a headset, commanding her inorganic, flying, subordinates from the comfort of a wooden garden chair with yellow paint peeling off, wrapped in a checkered wool blanket with a cup of hot tea in her hands.
It’s mostly quiet. All you can hear is the seagulls and the deep rumblings coming from Paul, a mobile automated production unit. A MAPU as it is often called is basically a large trailer with a miniature factory inside. No one but the makers seem to know exactly how it works. Currently Robert is being fed old tiles and is spitting out a batch of fresh ones every other minute. The council decided to invest in building it a few years ago after much debate. So far Robert has been saving the community a lot of money and resources but some still thought the money would’ve been better spent on something else.
Everyone is expected to contribute a bit of time to the community, and tasks are divided according to everyones abilities. Some tasks are preassigned while others are chosen from the various projects posted on the community board. Most people are expected to do about a day’s worth of work every month, but you’re free to join larger projects like the restoration of the senior centre and gain credits for several months at a time. Tasks can be anything from helping out with a festival, shopping for those who can’t do it themselves, or cooking in the community kitchen to helping managing and maintaining public buildings, facilities, or digital infrastructure like the local AIs.
All communities, typically city districts or large neighbourhoods, are organised in powerful community councils and committees that have a great control of local spending and regulation. Council members are randomly selected every two years to encourage everyone to engage with the local democracy while members of the committees are elected in local elections. The power gap is closing but it has brought conflict much closer as well, as individual communities start to develop ideological differences. Over the last few years there have been multiple reports of hate crimes, harassment, and vandalism against minorities and members of the council and people serving on the various committees. So far, everything points to the resurgence of the ethno-nationalist who are calling for a single strong leader to rally the nation — a romantic idea from the past.*
Dominic recently got a new job in manufacturing.
I just started working down at the local lab. We’re working on producing the components for a new promising type of batteries for our local solar panels. A community in Morocco has created this really ingenious solution that is easy enough to replicate although documentation is kind of lacking at this early point. We just have to train the algorithms on our climate and weather. It feels nice to contribute to something bigger. To make stuff together. I’m passionate about this and I think it shows. I like to think it rubs off on some of the young ones. They haven’t witnessed the same transformations of society as some of us walking dinosaurs have. They’re good kids though, some of them help out down at the shop.
We currently have three bots in the workshop. One of the girls has helped me teach the robots how to do the physical installation of the batteries. It has been a game-changer and I couldn’t have done it without her. Now, they go out at night, mount the hardware, and hook it up with the network at night when it doesn’t interfere with anyone’s business. Well, except a few concerned citizens who called us and complained after having seen the robots wandering around at night. I get why they can look spooky but they’re just installing batteries. Many of the local businesses have been asking us to help them increase their energy capacity for years and they’ve been so grateful. The people down at the bakery even baked us a cake shaped like a battery.
Olga works in distribution.
I work at the local community distribution centre. Most people call it the post office — you know like in the old days. It started as a joke when we only had daily deliveries but it stuck, even as our systems got better. We were one of the first businesses to be approved by the community as a community service. It means that people can earn community credits by volunteering with us, so we’re typically a mix of paid and unpaid community contributors.
I’m responsible for our staffing, so I’m the one who introduces newcomers to the various systems and makes sure everyone feels good. I’m also in charge of our recruitment drives whenever a new sign-up date comes close every. It’s fair to say that we’re not topping the charts but we’ve been getting more and more popular over the last couple of years — Especially among some of the geekier teenagers who’ve been having a lot of fun building new delivery bots for us. We switch roles every once in a while but I kind of like this one the most.
Almost all shipments enter or leave the area through us: Whether it is filaments for home production or fresh produce from the rural communities on the outskirt of the city.
We don’t have a lot of international shipments anymore. People tend to by the designs and have them produced locally on demand by one of the local workshops. It means only very advanced parts or basic materials that can be transported more efficiently are shipped around.
Imaani is a risk evaluation specialist working far and wide.
I’m the risk coordinator in our community. I keep an overview of the various risk factors in our neighbourhood. We have a few high-risk operations such as a medical co-op focused on researching pathogens and a workshop producing firearms.
My work revolves focuses on how to protect our infrastructure and supply streams. We try to make everything ourselves but we still depend on some external sources for rare materials and components. A lot of my time is spent on avoiding accidents and what to do in case of a disaster. There are, however, also other aspects that people don’t seem to like to talk about too much. Like security, terrorism, and generally limiting the trouble caused by people who would like to see us fail. It doesn’t fit well with the story we’re telling, however. People in the community prefer to highlight the transformative democratic dialogue as the big peacekeeper but in reality, it’s not so easy.
I guess it might be better to focus on the brighter sides of things but the truth is that there are threats out there that we cannot completely mitigate with dialogue — be it a natural disaster or an act of terror. I mean, there are other communities with vastly different ideologies who wouldn’t mind taking what is ours.
I probably know the layout of our community better than anyone. I spend a lot of time inspecting, driving around the area, talking to people, and ensuring that all the necessary precautions are in place.
I mostly just drive around on my bike unless the weather is bad and I usually loan a car. Our community has a range of different shared vehicles, both personal transportation like trucks, cars, and busses you can borrow but also professional gear. Like a few exo-suites, some big machines for construction, and stuff like that. These investments are a recurring theme at the town hall meetings. Some people think we should stop maintaining the cars as we have a modest fleet of small community busses. They go around the neighborhood and transport people around but it’s just not as convenient as a car for me, personally.
Hitomi lead the production of welfare technology.
I run a local co-op manufacturing welfare technology. We’re the local chapter of a global network producing actuators for everything from intravenous medical treatments to food production. We’re a diverse group with members from 17 to someone well up into their 80’s.
We have people in the community who suffer from disabilities and we want to give them access to the best possible aids and technologies. I took the first steps towards establishing the collective 18 years ago because I saw a lot of talented people all around me working on similar projects without ever utilising the fact they lived in the same neighbourhood of the same city. Being in physical proximity to each other has a unique strength. Today, we take active part in multiple global open source projects while also building up the local community. That means we can pool our resources and expertises and manufacture almost every single part ourselves and supply the entire community. I wanted to create an innovative and welcome environment for learning, researching and manufacturing.
Things have changed a lot and we as a society had to realise that community is important. It’s more important than most other parts of our lives, than economic wealth, or getting ahead at the cost of others. We all want to learn, grow, and experience but we have to do it in a way that is mindful to the needs of others. The needs of the community.
Our co-op is based on a deep link to not only our community but to nature and life around us. The community even owns about 20% of the company. We try to learn from what surrounds us; replicating the processes and mechanics of plants and animals. We want our products to feel natural and part of the world.
I didn’t have much growing up and struggled. But here I am. I want to be a good role model for all the kids. It gives me peace of mind to know that my parents, my kids, and my grandkids are all safe. They’re taken care of by the community. That there’s people around who care. Not just a rigid system. It’s crazy to just look at my parents. Growing up all they did was work, trying to provide for us, fighting against a system that was keeping them locked in place. It makes me so happy to see them today. They live in a co-living arrangement with a few other elderly couples. They have movie nights and plan events for the kids in the neighbourhood — all while drinking more than enough wine.
Henry experiences what the city has to offer.
Sorry for the mess. I normally keep things pretty tidy but I’m a little anxious about the concert tonight. You know, I’ve played bass my entire life but… I’ve really never thought of playing in front of other people.
A couple of weeks ago, T, the organizer who runs the café, was riding by my building on her bike and heard me play through the open window. Being who she is, she immediately got off and made her way through the flower beds, and yelled for me to come by her café that evening… And to bring my instrument. One thing took the other and now I’m in a band!
The Magnolia Festival is a local spring event, celebrating the blossoming of the old magnolia tree down by the river. It’s the highlight of the season, really. In just a week or two all the flowers will be carried downstream, so every year we all get together to appreciate it while we can. Everything is local: Music, food, drinks, poetry. All homegrown. I don’t think the culture of our community has ever been stronger.
Our local sense of self is really powerful but I sometimes miss the days when we had a lot of artists coming through from around the world. It was like… a global cultural exchange? I know, I know, we can still experience music from across the world but no matter the technology, it’s still just a recording. No matter how commercialised pop music was, it still, somehow, brought us closer together. It’s hard to imagine the days when people would be dancing to the same hit song at parties all around the world.
Today, people rarely get a chance to travel abroad. Not very far, anyway. I know why we can’t do that anymore and I get that. It’s just… I remember the days where you could fly across the world and visit all the places we only see in videos these days. You know, that special feeling of arrival. All the unfamiliar impressions. The smells, the food, the language, the sounds. As things are looking right now, my two nieces might never get a chance to experience that.
Karen participates in recreational activities.
I’m just waiting for some of the others. I’m starting to get used to it, I just bring a book and put the kettle on. So, for the last few weeks, we’ve been preparing for our yearly Halloween event. I don’t want to brag but it’s kind of a big deal around here. This year we’re really trying to take it to the next level. The theme: Zombie invasion!
Officially, our little group is called the local experience lab — sounds fancier than it is! But yeah, we’ve been working on designing this special mixed-reality event for Halloween. It’s mostly for the teens but everyone is welcome to participate. And they usually do. Everyone probably expects us to pull another haunted house but this is SO much more. This year we’ll have the entire neighbourhood get taken over by raving zombies. And oh my god, trust me, they look so real!
Some of the other people from around town are in on it and play special roles, you know, complete with over-the-top post-apocalyptic outfits and all. We’ve scripted all these small events that will happen throughout the night, like a crashing helicopter and huge zombie rats coming from the sewers. Most of the scary stuff is virtual but we try really hard to mix it up. The only thing the kids have to worry about is getting through the night. It’s going to be a blast!
I love contributing to the experience lab. I know some of the other community activities are much less time-consuming or pays you in some way — but seeing all the smiles and hearing those screams. Oh, it’s priceless!
Tom dreams of a different society.
I just came back from another meeting down by the old car dealership. I mean, that’s what old people call it, anyway. When car sales dwindled, they used it to convert dirty cars into electric ones but it has been vacant for a few years now. There’s talk about converting it into another protein farm, though. Growing mealworms and such.
Wait, be quiet for a second. I have to check no one is following… Alright, seems like we’re alone.
So, I’m part of this local chapter of the Restate Movement. We’re trying to bring nearby communities closer together. The nation-state is pretty much just an empty shell right now. The old model had a lot of flaws, but we believe we can build it back much better than it was before: Coordinate, exchange ideas, learn, help each other, trade, and protect one another in times of crisis.
There’s some way to go though… We still have to keep our party meetings secret. Some people, particularly older people, are not too fond of us meeting with outsiders. They’ve had their share of bad experiences with the lunatics on the other side of the canal. They are messed up but not all outsiders are. But well, that means discussing ideas like how to integrate communities or ways of strengthening the national government are not all too popular. It can get ugly. I mean, it’s not too bad here, really, but we’ve heard stories of other communities where party members have been punished. Hard. One of my friends was born in this super militant conservative community. He was banished when they found out he’s a party member.
People in the community often talk about ‘Cathedral thinking’ and long-term projects but they seem to forget how big cathedrals are. I wish we can one day have big international projects: Like cross-border infrastructure, deep space exploration, integrated energy grids, all that stuff…
Wojciech deals with the health system.
I’m meeting up with the doc later, she’s coming by here. Normally my son would take me down to the local clinic, the one next to the library, but he was busy today. It’s nothing major, just a routine check-up to see if the old system is doing alright. She always gives me the last appointment of the day and we go out for a drink afterward.
She has always been our family doctor. And well, given I’m still here she must know what she’s doing. We don’t have any flashy facilities around here but the quality of care is decent. We make do with what we have, don’t get me wrong, but it’s frustrating seeing people suffer from something that could potentially be treated. If just we had access to the right drugs.
Because there are loads of good quality drugs being released on open standards all the time. Open research networks put them out there for everyone to make — it’s great. Or — it would be great if we could actually produce the meds. But sometimes we can’t.
My son suffers from a rare lung condition. He’s alright now but we don’t know whether it’ll get worse down the line. There are treatments but they require facilities that we don’t have around here. The only community with the capacity to make the needed drugs nearby are stockpiling all their medicine. They want to get back at our leaders for criticizing their anti-democratic tendencies, damn greedy fascists. I hope we find another way before it’s too late.
Jamal helps people find new jobs. He’s a single dad to a child struggling with anxiety.
I’m a contribution-organiser on the local community platform. We gather all the different jobs and tasks that need to be done in our neighbourhoods and help distribute among community members as well as possible. We list both paid positions at companies and organisations as well as community tasks where people can contribute to their community and earn community credits.
We used to talk about jobs and work a lot. But what is work really? Nowadays, we mostly talk about contributing rather than working. Whether it is contributing to a local business renovating the drainage system on a daily basis for a wage, participating in a global community of bio-hackers researching treatments for mental illnesses, or baking bread for the daycare down the street every other month. All are contributions. Some contributions might earn you some money while others might give you other kinds of value or resources — or really just the joy of doing something meaningful in and of itself.
Not everyone is able to contribute the same and that’s fine. I mean, my kid is struggling with anxiety and our community understands that. They’ve always been very mindful and have tried to help us make our daily lives work like covering for me, helping with cooking, or printing a calming toy.
It’s great to have that kind of support and warmth but it gets more complicated as soon as we need something outside of our community. We have regular check-ins with our specialists — they’re great and they’ve known him since he was little — but we once needed some experimental meds and it took months to figure out how to get them.
Rita lives with her family in a small community and works remotely as a surveyor.
The first apple trees were planted behind the barn by my great grandfather almost a hundred years ago. Every generation since then has planted more — and today we have a decent-sized orchard. I would never be able to leave this place. The orchard is my lifeblood and when spring comes around I try to spend every hour of sunlight caring for the trees. It’s seasonal work of course — during the winter we maintain the gear, the robots, and the old property.
Apart from managing the orchard I also do some work as a surveyor — it’s a nice added income, especially during the winter and I can do it from home. I typically do a mix of routine inspections for the local community and site inspections for businesses interested in building new facilities in the area. The salinity of the waters around here is low enough that it’s still viable to have fish farming without expensive desalination. I’m not sure what I think about the fish farms but they’re crucial for the survival of our little community. Without the money, we wouldn’t be able to construct some of the coastal protection we critically need.
The harvest is a local tradition. People from all over the island chip in and we have a big party when we’re done. For the rest of the year, we have some farmhands that help run things. Most of them come from the city, looking for a getaway. It’s not a lucrative gig but we offer food and lodging as well as some nice peace and quiet.
Portraits by MetaHuman Creator