Today’s the last day you can go see the Future of Us exhibition. If you haven’t seen it. Don’t worry. You aren’t missing out much.
What’s this Future of Us exhibition? According to the website, it “is an immersive and multi-sensory experience that offers a glimpse into the possibilities of how Singaporeans can live, work, play, care and learn in the future.”
I went some time last week. And was utterly disappointed. It felt more like a supped up version of national education than providing a glimpse into the future.
Whatever “visions” of the future were, I found, completely unimaginative. For instance, one of the “shows” in the exhibition showed lives of different people in 2030. One of the characters was in a wheelchair. I would have imagined that by 2030, developments in bionics and wearable exoskeletons would have made wheelchairs obsolete. Too far fetched? The technology, in some limited forms, are already available today. As seen in the Ted talks here and here.
The “futuristic” technologies shown were driverless cars, trains running in vacuum tubes, vertical farming in our HDB flats. None of these are imaginative.
What would have been a more imaginative and bold envisioning of the future of us?
Perhaps greater application of brain-machine interfaces? Is it not possible that we have devices that allow us to operate machines with just our thoughts? Too far fetched? Watch this.
Or the way we get power. Not just from solar or other renewable resources. But perhaps nuclear. Perhaps Singapore would have be one of the first nations to have a liquid fluoride thorium reactor. And perhaps it could be built underwater.
But even all these aren’t imaginative. Because the technology is already available. Just that they still have some limitations and thus aren’t widespread. If the people behind the Future of Us had really wanted to present a bold envisioning of Singapore’s future, they should have spoken to futurists and great science fiction writers. Or at least watch more Ted talks.
What was also disappointing was that there was not even a hint of a discussion of how technology would fundamentally change the structure of our society as well as the way we live. With the advent of the first industrial revolution, we had rapid urbanisation. Many societies were fundamentally changed. What sort of fundamental change to society’s structure and the way we live would the fourth or fifth industrial revolution bring?
Would we see a world without work? Or a world without work as we know it? Would the future be a world where we don’t need to work to produce the basic goods we need and generate the income required to purchase those basic goods, but where we work because our work somehow lends meaning or purpose to our lives? Would technology finally result in such an overflowing abundance that we can ensure the basic welfare of every individual thus eradicating abject poverty?
There was only one thing that I found quite cool in the whole exhibition. It was the holographic projector. They actually had one at the exhibition. But it was very poorly utilised. It was used to show what the future of our war capabilities would look like. I would have thought that that should have been featured in more areas. We could have been shown how such a holographic projector would change the way we work, and play.
So. If you have missed the “Future of Us” exhibition, don’t worry. You really didn’t miss much.