The Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities (LKYCIC) presented a double seminar on 18 April, 2024 as part of the Ministry of Education’s inaugural Ideas Festival, organised to showcase the latest insights and contributions from humanities and social science researchers in Singapore.  

The session was started off by Mr Poon King Wang, Director of LKYCIC and Chief Strategy Officer at SUTD, and Dr Thijs Willems, Research Fellow at LKYCIC, who brought us through various ways to craft the future of work with AI. Following that, Dr Harvey Neo, Professorial Research Fellow, Dr Samuel Chng, Senior Research Fellow and Dr Sarah Chan, Research Fellow at LKYCIC unveiled interesting insights on Singaporeans’ perceptions of the future.  

AI x Workers: 10 Designs to Craft an Inclusive Future of Work 

Shedding light on a highly pertinent topic of our time, Mr Poon King Wang and Dr Thijs Willems explored how to craft meaningful careers, transitions, collaborations, options, and trust in each other and Al. They began by addressing the prevalent uncertainties and public fear about AI’s impact on employment, highlighting OpenAI’s prediction that high-wage jobs might be most at risk.  

They went on to call for a paradigm change from mere skills acquisition to innovative creation, emphasizing that resilience today depends less on accumulated skills and more on the ability to innovate as well as the interactions of domain knowledge with people and AI.  

Ten strategic designs aimed at breaking existing conventions and rethinking the nature of work across the individual, organizational, and future levels were then shared.  

At the individual level, they showcased designs that moved away from the misassumption that skills development strengthens resilience, focusing instead on building resilience via creating new tasks, creating new interactions and protecting domain knowledge of workers. At the organisation level, they presented designs that mapped out the diverse tasks of human workers, illustrating that true mastery of work lies in distributed mastery.  

They concluded their seminar with designs that pushed for a shift in our outlook on the future of work – from a fixation on “learning to do” to the recognition on the importance of “learning to create”.  

Learn more of their research into the Future of Work here.


Making Sense of the Future: An Eye to the Future or Back to the Future? 

The second seminar, focusing on how we make sense of the future, started off with Dr Harvey Neo illustrating how the definition and understanding of ‘future’ differs between individuals.  Drawing on insights from a survey of Singaporeans’ perceptions of the future conducted as part of the Future-Ready Society programme, he highlighted the division between short-term and long-term perspectives on the time horizon of the future among Singaporeans. This exemplifies the complex and multifaceted nature of future and future thinking. 

These findings and its implications on our daily lives were shared by Dr Sarah Chan by drawing psychological theories on how cognitive biases and time discounting affect our future outlooks. These insights underscored the dynamic interplay between our perceptions of present actions and future outcomes, urging a more nuanced understanding of temporal dimensions when developing programmes, interventions and policies. 

Dr Samuel Chng further illustrated practical applications of these insights in LKYCIC’s research projects investigating climate inaction and inertia towards upskilling and reskilling. Notably, he also introduced the Future-Ready Society programme, a first-of-its-kind programme in Singapore that focuses on bridging research and practice through a 3P+ collaborative model (People-Public-Private + Academia). Through these engagements, LKYCIC continues to advance interdisciplinary, action-driven research and evidence-based solutioning.  

The speakers concluded the seminar with reflections on the future – while our visions for the future may differ, these divergences are not a cause for worry as long as we are enabled to achieve our authentic desired futures. 

Learn more of their research looking at Future-Ready Society and Climate Resilient Citizenry .