Shell’s Imagine the Future Scenarios Competition 2017/2018 student team winners from Singapore, Egypt and Thailand
Shell’s Imagine the Future Scenarios Competition 2017/2018 student team winners from Singapore, Egypt and Thailand

Imagine the Future: How we live, work, and play in 2050

Reliance on energy is deeply incorporated into modern life. From the lights we turn on the moment we wake up, to the transportation that takes us to the places that we need to get to – energy is present everywhere. With energy playing such an intrinsic role in our daily lives, this brings us to the question about what life could be like in the next few decades and the role energy would play in it. While one cannot fully predict the future, but current trends could give an indication as to what it would be like.

To help envision what our future holds, Shell invited university students in Egypt, Thailand, and Singapore to take part in the second edition of the Imagine the Future Scenarios Competition. The result was a series of contrasting scenarios of future Asian cities in 2050 based on the theme, “More and cleaner energy in urban Asian and Middle Eastern homes in 2050: How we live, work, and play”.

Receiving more than 12 entries from Singapore, Egypt, and Thailand, the national finals were held in the respective countries and the winning national teams competed in the regional finals in Singapore on March 5, 2018. With rich references to history and comprehensive exploration of how technology, politics, society, and individual choices play a role in shaping the future, the Singapore team came out top, with the Egypt and Thailand teams securing 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

Here’s an excerpt of the scenarios plotted by this year’s national teams:

Imagine the Future Scenarios Competition Regional Champion Team Singapore from Yale-NUS College presented their winning vision  of ‘A Binary World vs A Dispersed Planet’
Team Singapore from Yale-NUS College

A Binary World vs A Dispersed Planet by Yale-NUS College, Singapore

Looking at two variables, the degree of centralization and access to private data, the Singapore team from Yale-NUS College formulated two scenarios: (1) The Binary World and (2) A Dispersed Planet. The first scenario depicted a highly centralised world, with governments and big firms having access to private data, making it easy for them to provide convenient and fuss-free services. A veritable utopia, the increased centralisation in this scenario also comes with greater risks and responsibilities to ensure that the system does not collapse. The second scenario showed empowered individuals with the autonomy to make their own choices – and even generate their own energy – free to exercise innovation and creativity and carve niches in society.

Team Egypt from American University in Cairo’
Team Egypt from American University in Cairo

Adam Smith as President vs Elon Musk as President by the American University in Cairo, Egypt

As for the Egypt team, their scenarios explore the role of governments in initiating mass projects versus entrepreneurship as the order of the day, with the government playing a support role in investment policies. In the first scenario, the government leads and regulates agriculture along with other sectors in society. With real time maps to advise farmers on which plants to grow in certain areas to advances in solar water system technology, this society has taken great advances in technology. In the second scenario which focuses on entrepreneurship, the people are provided spaces for research, leading to innovations such as smart fertilizers, use of artificial intelligence to monitor crops, and diversified sources of energy.

Team Thailand from Chiang Mai University
Team Thailand from Chiang Mai University

Idea City vs Economic City by Chiang Mai University, Thailand

With focus given to population density, the Thailand team’s first scenario is a city with low population density and an inspiring atmosphere. The abundance of green spaces lets the creative juices flow, coupled with smart technologies and a laid-back life which allows the city to keep its culture and traditions intact. Meanwhile, the second scenario takes us to a city with high population density. Modern technology combined with a highly advanced educational system enable fast exchanges on data and investments, helping the economy to flourish.

The three teams presented their illustrations of what our future could look like at the Powering Progress Together Forum on March 8, 2018 as part of the Make the Future Festival in Singapore. By stretching one’s way of thinking to understand the opportunities and uncertainties that lie ahead, this initiative by Shell probes on the youth’s minds to see how they envision the future and how they can play a part in addressing future energy challenges.

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