Popup Villages Are Society-Incubation Technology
The best way to incubate the future is not to tinker with humanity at a civilization scale. It’s in a village designed explicitly to be a lab of experimentation for new tools, rituals, + ways of being
Life, to me, is a tapestry of present moments, each a unique experience.
These moments, these micro-experiences, stitch together the feeling of being alive.
But it's heartbreaking to realize that not everyone gets to experience the beauty and inspiration life has to offer.
Our environments, the people we surround ourselves with, our past traumas, and how we use our gadgets can profoundly impact our experience of life.
What troubles me is the notion that life could be so much more fulfilling for many, yet it isn't.
While it’s obvious we can build a better future, it's not always clear how to create a future society where the average person's experience is substantially better than it is today.
I believe in being humble about our efforts to change the world.
We've seen so many [supposedly] well-intentioned policies and global interventions aimed at helping people sometimes create more problems than they solve.
So, how do we learn from these mistakes in attempting to change society and apply this humility in practice?
I think the answer lies in incubating the future of society at its minimum viable scale: a village.
There's something beautiful about the village size of, say, 150-300 people. If an idea works for one village, maybe it might work for another village with different people (and is thus worth testing in more villages), and it might also work at a larger scale. On that same note, if an idea doesn't work in a village, it is all the more difficult to imagine how it would scale to the city or national level.
Experiments at the village level seem like a good idea. But here's the tricky part: experimentation at the village level still means real people live with the consequences for a long time. So, how do we lower the stakes?
Enter: popup villages, temporary but impactful communities that serve as what I call “society incubators”.
Popup villages are spaces where we can experiment with the fundamentals of our modern lives - what we eat, how we learn, how we co-create new tools and businesses, how we stay fit, how we govern shared resources, and how we enjoy life. In these villages, we have the freedom to explore new ideas without the long-term consequences if something doesn't pan out.
I explored the idea of popup villages and shared my experience participating in and coproducing villages in 2023 in an earlier post here.
The beauty of a popup village is in its temporality. These are gatherings that are long enough to be meaningful but not permanent—fostering a unique test bed for experimentation.
If an emergent idea—whether a new type of small group workout, ticketing system, governance system, or crowdfunding mechanism—doesn't quite work, it's not a big deal; the village was temporary anyway.
And the people who join these experiments are those who thrive in evolving, experimental environments. So they have the right expectations from the start and actually love the experiments, and see “failures” as successes since they support learning. (The question is, how do you make sure that the people who come to popup villages aren’t just comprising of wealthy people who have the luxury to be mobile, or just people who don’t have an intention to contribute long term to the local area. Accessibility should not be overlooked!)
The best popup villages help us more quickly discover better ways to work, learn, play, and live.
They are the perfect setting to test new ideas that could one day shape our society.
As I dive deeper into the world of popup village architecture and creation in 2024, I'll be sharing what I learn along the way in this Substack.
If popup villages excite you, and you're passionate about shaping the future of our society, subscribe if you haven’t already. Let's explore how we can bring more of these popup society incubators to life.
Let’s incubate a future that’s not just good but a true testament to the miracle that is life.
America 2.0 (by Gary Sheng) is a reader-supported publication exploring how we can accelerate humanity to a Golden Age, faster. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.