The Future of Singapore
Updated: Apr 25, 2019
“The only way to avoid making mistakes is not to do anything. And that…will be the ultimate mistake.”
Goh Keng Swee, founding father of Singapore
What will Singapore in 2065 look and feel like?
It was about a week after Singapore’s jubilee celebrations that I stumbled across this article by Roland Cheo entitled “An Apocalyptic Vision of Singapore.” What a misnomer of a title. It was disappointing. It wasn’t even apocalyptic. Just dystopic and rather unimaginative, with a few echoes from Isaac Asimov’s Robot series. Have a read and tell me what you think.
I wouldn’t want to live in his version of Singapore. Even the fictional citizens in his article don’t want to live in his version of Singapore. In 2065, his Singapore is 70% empty; those who could afford to having migrated to Singapore Inc. colonies in China and India. He talks about soaring temperatures and people living underground, afraid of the surface. The minority who live on the surface read like a strange mix of yuppie and treehugger.
He talks about people isolating themselves and minimising contact with other people for fear of catching a super-virus. People won’t meet each other face-to-face but isolate themselves indoors. As a result, Singapore becomes the leading producer and exporter of entertainment and indoor landscaping technology. And let’s not forget, his Singapore in 2065 runs the world’s largest prison ships!?
Roland isn’t a futurist so let’s set aside his version of Singapore and start on a blank slate. What do you think Singapore will look and feel like in 2065?
These are my thoughts. God willing, I’ll be 83 by then. I may live to see the day so this is what I think (hope) Singapore will be like. Fast forward 50 years.
Singapore is no longer an island city-state but a maritime confederation consisting of Johor Bahru, Melaka, Penang, and other nearby islands. Not a single shot was fired to gain these holdings – we simply bought them. Singapore is still a parliamentary democracy but there are 2 main players jostling for power: the Worker’s Action Party (you heard me right) and the Greens.
The Greens are new to the game but are making strides. Under their direction, Singapore is the leading researcher and exporter of renewable energy. Somewhere in 2035, fossil fuels ran out so we started turning plastics into fuel – Singapore is the largest depository and refinery for gyre-derived recyclable plastics. We clean the seas to fuel our power stations – no more plastic straws stuck in turtle nostrils. The largest constituency is Keppel GRC. It’s a Green ward located underwater between Keppel Bay and Pulau Bukom and houses about 500,000 in coral-concrete domes.
Back on land, HDB flats have green skins made out of super strains of moss, fungus, and ferns that reduce heat and clean the air. Rooftop farms and gardens provide 40% of our nutritional needs. Roads do double duty as solar panels (collecting and storing energy) and chargers (remotely charging street lamps, traffic lights, and driverless buses). Public transport is virtually free. Nobody drives. As an ASEAN naval superpower (think underwater drones), our biggest counterpart is the Chinese pacific fleet. Minor tussles between the broken-up independent states of what used to be known as Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines occasionally flare up but we keep the peace.
In schools, children are taught design thinking and permaculture from an early age. After 6 years of primary school, all children spend a full year at eco-camps to put their learning into practice. After 6 years of secondary school, youths spend another full year trying out different apprenticeships before applying for university. But before university begins, all youths spend another year in National Service in various capacities (army, navy, air-force, construction, agriculture, and nursing). Every 5 years, working adults take sabbaticals to rediscover and reconnect with the meaning of their lives.
Society re-embraces the Socratic method of teaching and learning. People don’t just ask how things can be done but why they should be done in the first place. At the social and personal level, the kampong spirit is making a comeback as the divide between friend and stranger melts away. Smol Tok (now in its 12th revised edition) is available at a swish, anywhere, anytime, to help people reconnect with themselves and each other. A new generation ponders what Singapore will be like in 2115.
A disclaimer. I’m no futurist. The above are not predictions but aspirations.
What about you? What is your vision of the future?