How do students see the world in 2050?

Prof. Xavier Pavie, ESSEC Business School Asia-Pacific, polls students from Singapore and France to look the future squarely in the face and see the world in 2050. In this first feature, Singapore.

Professor Xavier Pavie, ESSEC Business School Asia-Pacific, Director of the iMagination Center and philosopher, brings together students from Singapore and France within the framework of iMagination Week to look the future squarely in the face and poll how they see the world in 2050. In this first feature, Singapore.   

By Professor Xavier Pavie

These are several questions that cross our minds when we are prompted to imagine the future. Imagination requires a person to be creative, have a visionary goal, and adopt a transdisciplinary approach when tackling any problem. At the end of the day, the purpose of imagining the future is to build a responsible, innovative world. Putting on this hat allows us to expand our horizons and think outside of the box.

Have you imagined the world in 2050? Will there be a significant difference in our way of life? Will technology be the dominant force that shapes the future? Will we have fixed the problems of today 30 years from now and be able to transform the world into a better tomorrow?

Will our world be more humanistic?

When asked for their opinions on whether the world as we know it would be more humanistic in the year 2050, a batch of 75 students from the ESSEC Business School in Singapore were divided —approximately 35% of them agreed, 60% disagreed, and 5% were undecided. Additionally, a further 26 students were of the opinion that in 2050, we’ll be more prepared to handle any pandemic that may arise.

This was one of the questions posed to students during the ESSEC Business School’s annual iMagination Week. Now in its tenth year, the event is held primarily to expose students to the increasing complexities of the world through conferences, workshops, and seminars by experts across disciplines, from the arts to sciences. Through these activities, the ESSEC Business School hopes to inspire students by stimulating their imaginations and challenging their preconceived notions of the world.

Held in collaboration with OPPi, a Singapore-based stakeholder, crowd sourcing and consensus-building provider, this year, participants were given a list of seven seed statements from the iMagination Week organisers, and were asked to share their thoughts on them. The statement previously mentioned on a more humanistic world was one of these seed statements, while the following one on our ability to handle any pandemic was one of the five emergent statements contributed by participants.

Because of the global response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, some students feel that the world will become overly sterile by the year 2050.

Students in the Singapore campus are relatively united in thought with regards to the future. The statement with the highest percentage of common ground saw approximately 95.5% of participants agreeing that in 2050, more women will be in prominent positions, whether in politics or in the private sector, with only 1.5% disagreeing and 3% undecided.

Apart from this, participants also generally agree that Asia will be the first economic continent in the world, and that China will surpass the USA — to this, about 64 of the 75 participating students agreed.

On technology and data privacy

Despite their commonalities, students were also left divided on certain statements, mostly to do with technology. For instance, when asked if people will be able to control their own data in the year 2050, only 29% of participants said yes, and 59% of them said no, leaving 12% undecided.

With regards to this statement, a number of students shared further thoughts. Some felt that privacy will become a thing of the past as the years go on, and even predict that by the year 2050, we might just be facing a digital world war. Others, however, were a little more optimistic about the future of technology in the world — they think that if technology is incorporated into the process of decision making, biases can be controlled. Some were also of the opinion that technology would be a catalyst in moving us towards a more humanistic way of life in 2050. Either way, both camps of students shared strong, valid opinions that made for intriguing discussions throughout the week.

One interesting opinion shared during the Singapore edition of iMagination Week was that the increasing migrations of populations will result in issues with integration among different communities in the near future.

These differences in opinions and schools of thought shared by participating students of iMagination Week provide excellent food for meaningful discussions to take place year after year. Through these sharing sessions, ESSEC Business School will in turn be able to further improve upon the focus of each following iMagination Week, to better support students in accepting and appreciating the differences and similarities among them, while also enhancing responsible innovation among the next generation.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong opinion one can have about the future, because the future lies in our hands, and this is what ESSEC Business School seeks to teach students through iMagination Week year after year. In Prof. Xavier Pavie’s words, iMagination Week “shows students techniques and methods that permit them to better understand the world, and more importantly, to take charge and build it, rather than to just endure it.”

So how do you see the world in 2050, and what are you going to do to make it a better place? Leave us your comments and join in the debate!

Prof. Xavier Pavie, ESSEC Business School Asia-Pacific, polls students from Singapore and France to look the future squarely in the face and see the world in 2050. In this first feature, Singapore.
Xavier Pavie

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