Saturday 17 October 2015, ArtScience Museum
Attended by over 300 people, and taking place at ArtScience Museum, the sold-out FutureEverything Singapore conference looked at how life, work and play are fundamentally transformed by technology. The conference opened a fresh dialogue between grassroots creative communities with government bodies, with participants remarking on its significant influence on national conversation in Singapore on the place of smart technology in society and culture.
Singapore is building the world’s first Smart Nation, and FutureEverything Singapore explored this vision for the future of Singapore through the lens of art, design and digital culture. The conference looked at how Singapore reached this new horizon, asked what’s next, and crossed boundaries of technology, culture and society.
What is a Smart Nation, and what does it mean to be a smart citizen? Where are artists, designers, futurists and civic innovators playing with the technology that is weaving itself into the fabric of our cities, economies and infrastructure?
Opened by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who gave a wide ranging talk on the big challenges ahead and how people can shape the future, the first session looked at what it could mean to live in a society where technology intervenes at every point. Futurist Scott Smith talked on ‘Thingclash’, which highlights the problem of conflicting technological and cultural systems. Technology critic Sara Watson used speculative fiction to explore how technology can sometimes miss the emotional implications when dealing with humans, and Andrea Nanetti looked at the role of maps in understanding how people move through cities.
IDA’s Managing Director Jacqueline Poh opened the second session of the day, talking on the Singapore government’s ambition to use technology to make the city work better for citizens, Arup’s Dan Hill spoke on how urban robots fit into our social and economic needs, and Nick R. Smith from Yale NUS talked on the importance of talking to ethnographers when developing cities with technology in mind.
Ayesha Khanna from The Keys Academy spoke on her initiative to create ‘externships’ as a means of helping people contribute further to their communities, Designswarm’s Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino argued that not everything has to be ‘smart’, and that new technologies need more human considerations, and Umbrellium’s Usman Haque delved into the world of participatory art as a means of allowing safe exploration of difficult technological concepts.
The final session looked at the human values that lay at the heart of the Smart Nation and what it could, and should, look like. Ben Barker and Sam Hill from Pan Studios opened with the results of a report that shed light on Singaporean’s aspirations for the future, collected from conversations with Hello Lamp Post’s street furniture. The report was conducted by Pan Studios, Drew Hemment and National University of Singapore’s Institute of System Sciences team.
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s Cheryl Chung asked us to consider how we talk about, and to, the technology around us in order to anticipate how it will work for us. Tong Yee, of the Thought Collective, looked at how fear and misunderstanding of technology can alienate, and how important it is to think about the permissions we give ourselves and others in the future. Aaron Maniam, Director of the Industry Division at Ministry of Trade and Industry, spoke on the history and stories leading up to the development of where Singapore is today, and the importance of learning from the past to sculpt new, human-centred futures.