Imagining Asia in 2050

Lessons from scenario planning suggest we should be bolder in our imagination while taking into account the inherent complexities that arise from the interplay of various factors.

One of the most compelling virtues of the recent 2219: Futures Imagined exhibit at the ArtScience Museum was that it made a radical scenario - Singapore as a high-rise Venice, with canals, hanging gardens and vertical farming - appear entirely plausible. But 2219 could well be 2119, or even sooner.

I have frequently noticed this paradox in scenario-planning exercises. A decade ago, while advising the US National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030 programme, the team posited a future in which urbanisation, technology and capital accumulation had brought about a landscape in which cities, federal governments, provincial authorities and corporate supply chains compete for influence across various enclaves and legal zones. My response: This is the world of 2013, not 2030.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2020, with the headline 'Imagining Asia in 2050'. Print Edition | Subscribe