We spoke with Indy Johar, Founder of Dark Matter Labs, a recent P4NE Grantee.
What’s the work that P4NE is funding at Dark Matter Labs (DML)?
P4NE has funded our work on Radicle Civics. Radicle Civics is a thesis that we are no longer living in the privilege of the private or public economy. What we are living in is an entangled economy, where value is fully entangled and can’t be separated, and it’s this separation of public and private that is part of the problem. We think this economic theory changes everything around us. This consequence of entangled value, is what we are building system demonstrators around.
The system demonstrators aim to explore alternative approaches for organising our future economies and society. The initial six system demonstrators are FoodForest 2.0, FreeHouse+FreeLand, Permissioning City, Self-owning Surveillance Cameras, Durable Shops, and Civic Newsrooms/Civic News City. These demonstrators will look to build new economic models, physical experiences, and open-source designing mechanisms for system-level innovations. They aim to stimulate greater public discourse to help shift the Overton window and demonstrate a more regenerative economy. You can read more about them at https://www.radiclecivics.cc/ and https://www.civic.capital/.
Often it is only through making these ideas, as real, tangible prototypes that we can discover what other barriers need removing or what needs inventing anew in order to make something a reality.
What is DML’s theory of progress for that work? How do you imagine it contributing to new economic thinking/practice?
All of our work is about demonstrating a more hopeful and alternative future and we believe that the practices required for building demonstrators are a critical way for discovering vital new knowledge and understanding. Often it is only through making these ideas, as real, tangible prototypes that we can discover what other barriers need removing or what needs inventing anew in order to make something a reality.
I’m talking about how building a demonstrator gives you better insights into materials, into regulations, into existing policies, into things that have not yet been revealed as being needed. We hope our type of practice will contribute new thinking and practical applications to the new economy field.
Many people no longer believe that another world to capitalism is possible. This project aims to rebuild the public’s sense of possibility for social change by creating the very institutional foundations and deep code innovations that embody civic alternatives to the dominant forms of social organisation.
Our system demonstrators are what Erik Olin Wright calls “real utopias”: not distant fantasies but concrete proposals for reinventing our civic institutions and reclaiming and re-expanding civic agency. Nurturing these well-defined yet open-ended visions for alternative futures is a critical part of creating the political will—and hope—for transformative social change.
In terms of the economic shifts we are seeking to bring about, these include:
- From extractive economy to civic economy: We are living in an economy where businesses have to find something that was once natural and make it into goods, or was once a gift relationship and make it into a service, then sell it back to the people. What if we could build infrastructures (such as food, forests, and houses) as part of a commoning process for the civic economy?
- From market price to systemic values: Our environment, ancestry, memories, and relationships are all deeply valuable, live at the heart of our existence, and shape our daily decisions. Yet our mechanisms of understanding and operationalising such value are extremely reductive. We need a theory of value that recognises entanglement and multiple values beyond GDP growth and the abstraction of price.
- From destructive money to regenerative money: Centralised currency production further compounds narrow value calculations. In Switzerland, 95% of new money is generated through private banks; individuals and organisations with close proximity to this capital creation are hugely privileged, both in terms of decision-making power and in reaping its extractive rewards. More widely, actors across countries in the global north exert their proximity to power when assigning value to supply chains to generate financial profits and growth, often causing ecological and societal damage. What if we democratically create and back money with more of the things we want to see in the world?
Where are the gaps and opportunities in the new economy field (however you want to define that)?
I think the gaps are the reinvention of the real-world economy. We are about to see (or are already in) a massive transformation of the real-world economy in a way we’re not fathoming or engaging in. Our industrial economy – both in terms of its energy, material, bio-based needs and its demographic underpinnings – is all being transformed. I don’t think the language of public luxury and private sufficiency is even enough. More and more we might need to think about intangible luxuries and material sufficiencies.
This real-world transformation requires us to entirely re-imagine many aspects of life: ownership, property rights, and how monetary production works. There will be a deep unwinding of all that we know. This is where I would love to see more innovation – that is working at this level of understanding.
This real-world transformation requires us to entirely re-imagine many aspects of life: ownership, property rights, and how monetary production works. There will be a deep unwinding of all that we know.
What more could we be doing as a field, together?
We need to be talking about this deep code shift together. We have to make these paradoxes more visible and the pathways for potential transitions more visible. There’s a huge orchestration effort needed as well – to link up the kinds of demonstrator work we’re doing at DML with other actors who are influencing on different time horizons and at different levels of complexity.
There’s a huge orchestration effort needed as well – to link up the kinds of demonstrator work we’re doing at DML with other actors who are influencing on different time horizons and at different levels of complexity.
How can people support the work of DML?
There is a need for new knowledge and there’s so much that DML doesn’t know, so we’d love to have people to collaborate with. If you’re interested in our work, get in touch.Back to Stories