How do students see the world in 2050? [France-Singapore]

March 5, 2021

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?

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 trans-disciplinary 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 the box.

When asked for their opinions on whether the world as we know it would be more humanistic in the year 2050, students from the ESSEC Business School in both Cergy, France and Singapore were left divided. Of the 510 students in France, approximately 45% of them agreed, 40% disagreed, and 15% were on the fence while of the 75 students in Singapore approximately 35% agreed, 60% disagreed, and 5% were undecided

This was one of the questions posed to students during the ESSEC Business School’s annual iMagination Week, in collaboration with OPPi. Now in its tenth instalment, 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.

A rundown of how iMagination Week panned out this year.

Every year, a different theme is pegged to iMagination Week — this year, it was imagining the year 2050 and its big trends.

This year’s iMagination Week was also held in collaboration with OPPi, and as part of this joint effort to engage students, a list of seven seed statements were formulated by the organisers and shared with participants via OPPi’s crowdsourcing platform. Participants were then asked to vote on and share their thoughts on these statements, with some even forming statements of their own. All of these statements tied back to the theme of getting students to imagine the year 2050 and what the world would be like then.

All in all, the statements posed at this year’s iMagination Week left students largely divided, which in turn served as a reflection of the complexities of society — there are many intricate schools of thought in the world that are valid and worthy of discussion.

Of course, it might be difficult to predict what 2050 will be like as there are many variables that have yet to surface. To this statement, over 300 students in ESSEC France agreed, making it one of the statements with the highest percentage of common ground among participants.

This sentiment likely came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lasting effect that it has on the global community and its unpredictably wide spread have left many participants in both campuses with mixed feelings about the future that lies ahead. In the Singapore campus, 35% of participants were of the opinion that in 2050, we’ll be more prepared to handle any pandemic that may arise. However, a handful of them felt that we might just be facing other bigger problems in 2050, such as a digital world war.

This particular worry about large, unknown problems surfacing in the near future is also shared by students in the France campus. Over 52% of participants agree that the world would likely be at the heart of extreme nutritional problems like hunger, malnutrition and obesity in the year 2050, and, unless a highly sustainable agricultural revolution pops up, the situation will only continue to worsen.

The world’s growing population is also a cause for concern to some students, who feel that this could exacerbate existing issues like food security and climate change. Some also feel that the increasing migrations of populations will result in issues with integration among different communities in the near future.

Of course, the future isn’t all that bleak to students. While a number of participants in ESSEC France agree that extreme nutritional problems will take more than 30 years to resolve, they also feel that the journey towards finding a sustainable long-term solution will definitely continue for a long time and will eventually bear fruits. Some also feel that the global development of superfoods and molecular foods could potentially be the solution to malnutrition in the poor countries.

In a similar vein, some participants in ESSEC Singapore share equally positive views with regards to technology. Some are of the opinion that if technology is incorporated into the process of decision making, biases can be controlled. Some also believe that technology can very well be the catalyst in moving the global community towards a more humanistic way of life in 2050.

Whether positive or negative, the differences in opinions and schools of thought shared by participating students of iMagination Week provide excellent fodder for meaningful discussions to take place year after year. Through these sharing sessions, the 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 ESSEC professor and director of the iMagination Centre 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? Join our community group on Facebook and let us know what you think! We'd love to hear from you!

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