Foresight Conference 2019 is organised by the Centre for Strategic Futures (CSF) in Singapore. The conference will be held on 25 and 26 July 2019, with the theme “Society 4.0”. This is CSF’s fifth Foresight Conference, which brings thought leaders and practitioners from different backgrounds together to explore emerging issues of global significance. In previous conferences, we have looked at the future of Asia, foresight and public policy, global cities in 2035, and identities and aspirations.
Like previous conferences, the 2019 conference invites participants and speakers from diverse domains, including policymakers, novelists, philosophers, scientists and game designers, to explore its chosen theme. By design, the conversations are not framed by any one particular discipline or approach but draw upon perspectives, concepts and languages from the varied backgrounds of our invitees. Through these interdisciplinary interactions, we hope to spark rich insights and encourage new ways of thinking while uncovering deeper commonalities running across domains, in order to articulate the shape of what is to come—both what we fear and what we hope for.
We loosely use the term “Society 4.0” to mean the society that will be and is already being shaped by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Just as the First Industrial Revolution mechanised production via water and steam power and consequently reshaped economic, political and social structures, the 4IR is likely to have an equal or even more disruptive impact on the texture of society.
For Foresight Conference 2019, we hope to look at four threads making up “Society 4.0”.
How will our conception of self and of individuality change? What aspects will remain the same? Fundamental markers of identity, like ethnicity, gender, genes and ability (whether physical or mental) are already being challenged as definitive anchors of the self. At the same time, carefully curated social media profiles, increasingly complex game avatars, survivorship of various illnesses and traumas, and social credit rankings are manifesting as potentially new measures of selfhood. In “Society 4.0”, what new metrics will we define ourselves by? How will we change, or be perceived to change?
As the very nature of identity changes, how will the interactions between individuals change? What new kinds of relationships will emerge, and which existing ones will become obsolete? What would it mean to be in a thriving and healthy relationship in the future? Relationships are increasingly mediated and affected by technology. Loneliness is a new epidemic afflicting people across age, marital status and class lines. The nuclear family unit is being redefined with the rise of tri-parent families and same-sex parenting. Core social relationships are increasingly formed across ethnic and even national lines. The entrance of artificial social companions that understand us even before we speak and can read our faces and emotions better than our loved ones is also significantly redefining
what relationships are and who they connect. In “Society 4.0”, who and in which new ways will we choose to love?
Individuals and their relationships exist and are built over time. With what new or renewed ways will we be thinking about our past? How will we measure or spend our time on earth? How will we imagine the future? As current markers of time and life-stage such as education, work and retirement break down and bleed into each other, what implications will this have on our sense of existence? When people regularly live beyond 100, would current ways of life-planning still hold? If we live multiple lives online, in virtual reality, at different speeds, and with different trajectories and life goals, how will our real lives be affected? At what speeds will we be navigating through “Society 4.0”?
The future of society rests on the question on value. Traditional notions of value are already being challenged and current measurements (such as productivity and Gross Domestic Product) are increasingly found to be inadequate. Inventions like bitcoin, cryptocurrency and the pervasive attention economy are new expressions of value that may cause us to redefine prior fundamental systems of value. With new ways to experience life and time, what might we find important beyond economic gain and traditional relationships? In many ways, this fourth thread will shape and be shaped by the first three. In “Society 4.0”, what will we value and how will that change us?