The World as They See It: How Today’s Youths Envision the Way We Live, Work and Play in the Future

The future is uncertain, but the issues we face today can give rise to a range of possible future outcomes.

Different factors such as the economy, environment, politics and technologies affect global energy use and demand, and can vastly change how we live, work and play in the future. Exploring and anticipating alternative futures will determine if we are able to successfully navigate the world of tomorrow.

Shell, a pioneer in the use of scenario with 50 years of experience, taps into this skill to enable youths to stretch their thinking and imagination to address our energy challenges. By imagining plausible alternative views of the future, these scenarios allow youths to explore the future and the potential challenges of living in it.

Since 2016, Shell has been inviting university students to reimagine a future of more and cleaner energy in Asian and Middle Eastern cities, and how that can change daily living.

This year, university students from Singapore, Egypt and Thailand participated in the third edition of the Imagine the Future Scenarios Competition based on the theme, ‘More and Cleaner Energy in an Asia Pacific or Middle Eastern city in 2050 – How will residents live, work, and play?’.

With the national finals held in the respective countries earlier this year, the winning national teams from Singapore, Egypt and Thailand competed in the regional finals on August 11, 2020, held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Team Singapore from Nanyang Technological University
Team Singapore from Nanyang Technological University

Koshi vs Banbo by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

With technology adoption as the main variable, the Singapore team explored two distinct storylines that could play out in Tokyo, Japan. The selection of Tokyo mirrors the modern universal issues that the developed world is currently facing, such as an ageing society, increasing land constraints, and income inequality.

The first, “Koshi” (広至), which translates to a vast expanse in Japanese, paints the picture of an integrated world where a globalised and extremely liberal outlook towards technology has resulted in its widespread dominance. For example, fully automated self-driving cars, floating cities, plant-based diets, genetic editing, and weather control are the technological advances that impact residents’ lifestyles in the “Koshi” world.

The second, “Banbo” (万保), which means greater security, presents an opposite world where nationalistic and conservative mindsets have led people to be guarded against external forces. The adoption of technology takes on a different direction here. People use predictive simulations such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to balance out energy needs and global climate needs to ensure the safe use and optimsation of technology, prior to its implementation.

Team Thailand from Thammasat University
Team Thailand from Thammasat University

Honeybee vs Lazy Sloth, by Thammasat University, Thailand

Keeping the environment in mind and how natural disasters could drastically impact society, human behaviour and technology, the Thailand team put forth scenarios, set in their home city of Bangkok, that revolve around these factors.

In “Honeybee”, natural disasters become commonplace and this turbulence unites people as they recognise the importance of conservation to protect societal health and wellbeing. While some industries such as insurance will grow in response, other such as infrastructure will need to be redesigned.

On the other hand, in the “Lazy Sloth” scenario where natural disasters are a rarity, people tend to be individualistic. The economy is also able to focus on the growth of the economy and technology as it paves the way for more efficient production of goods and services.

Team Egypt from the University of Science and Technology in Zewail City
Team Egypt from the University of Science and Technology in Zewail City

A Diamond in the Rough vs For Mother Africa! by the University of Science and Technology at Zewail City, Egypt

The Egypt team focused on African regional cooperation and socio-political in coming up with their scenarios.

In “A Diamond in the Rough”, the Egyptian city of Aswan is marked by minimal regional cooperation and conservative socio-political ideology. At the same time, it shifts the city towards self-sufficiency and to explore sustainable and even controversial agricultural methods such as hydroponic agriculture, insect farming, and genetic modification.

On the contrary, Aswan in the “For Mother Africa!” scenario is characterised by optimal regional cooperation and progressive socio-political ideology that promotes mutual relationships on economic and cultural fronts. In this scenario, Aswan emerges as a multi-cultural trade centre that serves as a gateway to the continent and an assembly point that connects the region.

Previous editions

Imagine the Future Competition 2016/2017

Scenarios provide plausible alternative views of the future. Building and using scenarios can help us explore what the future might look like and the likely changes of living in it. Since 2016, Shell has been inviting university students to imagine the future of more and cleaner energy in Asian cities and how it will change the way we live, work and play.