Foresight Conference 2017, organised by the Centre for Strategic Futures (CSF) in Singapore, centres on the topic of “The Future of Identities and Aspirations”, and will be held on the 20th and 21st of July 2017. This is CSF’s fourth iteration of this event, which brings together thinkers from different backgrounds and disciplines to explore emerging issues of global significance.

 

In previous conferences, we have looked at the future of Asia, the future of growth, governance, and power, and the future of global cities. Like the previous conferences, the 2017 conference hopes to explore its topic not through the lens of any particular discipline, but by navigating with a set of tools drawn from diverse sources, from poets to philosophers to policy-makers. Where the various specialised ways of understanding the world come together, we hope for richness and fecundity available to no single discipline. 

ABOUT

Foresight Conference 2017, organised by the Centre for Strategic Futures (CSF) in Singapore, centres on the topic of “Identities and Aspirations”. This is CSF’s fourth iteration of this event, which brings together thinkers from different backgrounds and disciplines to explore emerging issues of global significance. In previous conferences, we have looked at the future of Asia, the future of growth, governance, and power, and the future of global cities. Like the previous conferences, the 2017 conference hopes to explore its topic not through the lens of any particular discipline, but by navigating with a set of tools drawn from diverse sources, from poets to philosophers to policy-makers. Where the various specialised ways of understanding the world come together, we hope for richness and fecundity available to no single discipline. 

 

The Future of Identities and Aspirations

 

In Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez writes of a conviction that “human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers gave birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Much recent work in the social sciences, the humanities, and in art and literature echoes this sentiment, that who we are is determined not just by our starting points but by what we do, whether of our own volition or in response to circumstances we find ourselves in. And that is what is of interest – identities not just as mental structures “in the head”, but as constituted by our physical behaviour “in the world”. Our identities, whether as a woman or Chinese or a policeman, affects what we buy, who we care for, and who we would die for. But what affects which identity we form, which we maintain, and which we strive for?

 

It is an especially good time to be exploring the future of identities. Even as urbanisation homogenises many different village identities into nigh-monolithic city identities, new tribes form in city neighbourhoods, zealously guarding membership into their ranks. Even as inequalities drive people apart and lure the disenfranchised into radicalisation, online game worlds allow people to play together across traditional lines of ethnicity and class. Even as demagogues around the world prey on the anxieties of the vulnerable, that their ways of life are at risk, historically disempowered groups, from women in the Middle East to LGBT people in African states, find that being themselves is finally a real possibility. Social, economic, political, and technological forces are converging, and change is accelerating. How will identities and aspirations change in the future?

 

Four Lines of Inquiry

 

We hope to pursue questions about this change along four lines of inquiry.

 

First, how will beliefs and values, from institutions to the associated beliefs and rituals, affect how we see ourselves and how others categorise us, and vice versa? What are the different senses of the self which are advocated by different religions, and how will these interact as various elements of global religions strengthen and decline? What happens when religious and political identities intersect with national or ethnic identities, and how might this change in the future?

 

Second, how will our work and our class affect how we see ourselves and how others categorise us, and vice versa? How do our professions and our social statuses constrain our behaviour, blind us to certain facts about ourselves and the world, and make it difficult for others to ascribe certain kinds of agency to us? What happens to our understanding of ourselves if and when most jobs are replaced by AI and robots?

 

Third, how will technology, from hyper-connectivity to human augmentation, affect how we see ourselves and how others categorise us, and vice versa? Could online worlds be not just escapist fantasies, but tools for identity management? What moral and legal rights should people have over technologies in their minds and in their bodies, when these technologies become a part of their selves? How do we live in a world where communities in the cloud are more important determinants of how I see myself than my local geography?

 

Finally, how will tribal distinctions, such as our nationalities and our ethnicities, affect how we see ourselves and how others categorise us, and vice versa? What will a world look like where state-sponsored identity construction retreats and multi-national corporations gain more power to shape our views of ourselves? What happens when national and ethnic identities line up too cleanly with work and class identities? 

ABOUT

TO CONTACT US: 

Centre for Strategic Futures

100 High Street #03-01

The Treasury

Singapore 179434

pmo_csf@pmo.gov.sg

© 2017 by Centre for Strategic Futures.

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