New Total Defence exhibition features future dystopian Singapore

A military ride show called Operation Lightning Crush, launched in September last year, will be free during the Total Defence weekend from Feb 15 to 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE -Visitors entering the latest exhibition at the Singapore Discovery Centre will be greeted with a vision of what a fictional dystopian Singapore in 2032 could look like.

The display includes an abandoned MRT station, the last specimen of the country's national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim, and a brand-new unsold smartphone priced at $100,000 - a sign of a rapid increase in the price of goods due to an economic crisis.

The special exhibition to mark Total Defence Day this year is titled Will You Do You?, which plays on the millennial slang "you do you", meaning "do what you believe in".

The centre's assistant executive director, Mr Melvern Ong, told reporters at the launch of the exhibition on Tuesday (Jan 21) that it seeks to draw attention to geopolitical issues that affect Singapore's future and encourages Singaporeans to put Total Defence into action.

The exhibition is among the activities that the Singapore Discovery Centre has lined up for the Total Defence campaign this year. Total Defence Day is commemorated on Feb 15 every year - the day Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942.

Other activities include film screenings, vehicle displays by the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force, and a mixed-media drama show that tells the story of a national serviceman who discovers his sense of duty to his country.

There is also a military ride show called Operation Lightning Crush, launched in September last year, that will be free during the Total Defence weekend from Feb 15 to 16. It usually costs $10 per person.

The exhibition, which lasts till March 22 and is free for all Singaporeans and permanent residents, features three themes - climate change, trade wars and digital threats such as loan scams and disinformation campaigns.

It focuses on three of the six pillars of the Total Defence framework, namely psychological, digital and economic defence. The other pillars are social, civil, and military defence.

Smaller-scale versions of the exhibition, including past years' special Total Defence exhibitions, will be set up at various educational institutions in February.

Mr Ong said the content was designed after consulting partners such as the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and the National Environment Agency.

"The exhibition has been several months in the making. This time round, we tried to have a gamification approach as we wanted to have content that resonates with the young."

"We also wanted to provoke people into contemplating the dystopian future - what do they stand to lose if they do not take adequate action. That was the angle we started with," he added.

Gamification refers to the use of gaming elements in non-game scenarios. Visitors are asked to look for clues among the exhibits to solve puzzles and figure out a password to leave the exhibition.

Ms Brenda Tan, a part-time adjunct lecturer with ITE College Central in her 30s, said the exhibition allowed students to be aware of potential challenges facing the country and not be complacent.

ITE students were among the first visitors to the exhibition on Tuesday.

Among them was Ahmad Al-Thaqif Zafarudin, 16, who said he had a better understanding of how wider trends could have a major impact on Singapore's future after viewing the exhibition.

Asked about the gaming elements, he said: "It makes the experience more exciting, and makes me want to work well with my classmates to accomplish the goal."

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