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Changing conception of cities, economies and universities

Linking knowledge creation, intellectual endeavors, economy

Singapore | Posted on October 23rd, 2008

Describing a robot as "intelligent as a cockroach," world-renown futurist Michio Kaku, Ph.D., reassured attendees at the Futuropolis 2058 conference that sophisticated machines would not render the human race unemployable in the cities of the future.

"Robots cannot do two things," said Kaku, the Henry Semat Chair in Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York. Because they are incapable of pattern recognition, robots "don't understand what they are seeing." They also lack common sense, which he said will be essential for employment in the "fully wired world" of the urban environment of the future.

Kaku was among the 20 world experts in the fields of science, engineering, technology and business who spoke at the two-day conference, which concluded on 22 Oct.

Jointly organised by Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR) and the Fulbright Academy of Science & Technology (FAST), the conference was part of a week-long celebration of the opening of Fusionopolis, Singapore's second major R&D hub in five years. Fusionopolis, where the conference was held, was officially launched by the nation's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 17 Oct. 2008.

Reflecting Fusionopolis' objectives to bring together international experts in various disciplines to create innovative solutions to worldwide global, technological and lifestyle challenges, Futuropolis 2058 brought together a total of 255 delegates and over 20 experts from around the world to discuss a wide range of topics relevant to creating sustainable urban environments for the next 50 years. They included internationally-renowned visionaries, urban leaders, scientists, technical experts and Fortune 500 company entrepreneurs.

Unlike most of the conferences on urban planning for the future, Futuropolis 2058 touched on social networking : on people as the heart and soul of every city. Thus, the speakers called for long-term city planning with greater emphasis on social and intellectual capital and emphasised the importance of integrating work, live and play elements when building liveable cities with ample social spaces that would enhance interaction and connection among people.

In addition, the speakers discussed models for lessening the pollution produced by building construction and transportation. The pressing issue of climate change was also tackled with many speakers recognising it as a complex global problem whose solutions - such as alternative energy sources, ways to improve energy efficiency, technologies that would help to reduce carbon emissions - depended on an integrated approach.

Emphasizing the need for a concerted effort by experts in various disciplines, A*STAR Chairman Lim Chuan Poh said that Futuropolis 2058 was held at a time "when A*STAR is working a lot closer with the urban planners and other public sector agencies and businesses to ensure that we do the right thing today for a better tomorrow or at least to avoid a bleak future."

Added Eric S. Howard, Executive Director of the Fulbright Academy, "Futuropolis 2058 has been a unique platform to collectively tap some of the brightest minds in the world to create innovative ideas for solutions to control urban sprawl, pollution and resource usage. Moving forward, the Fulbright Academy hopes to expand this collaborative engagement with A*STAR to increase awareness about the urgent need to come up with sustainable solutions."

Selected comments of several Futuropolis 2058 speakers:

"The future is moving away from commodity capital to intellectual capital, being led by developments in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and biotechnology." "Jobs which survive will be those which involve common sense and pattern recognition, which artificial intelligence cannot yet solve." --Michio Kaku, Ph.D., City University of New York

"The success of Singapore has led to a recognition that planned communities based on knowledge creation and translation of knowledge into products can drive major economies. Linking knowledge creation with intellectual endeavours and the economic impact of focused, critical minds is changing our conception of cities, economies and universities."

"Successful cities of the future must have both a well-educated work force (and thus the mechanisms for educating) as well as the ability to attract those who convert knowledge to wealth." -- Charles Zukoski, Ph,D. Chairman, Science and Engineering Research Council, A*STAR

"[In the future, there] won't be any more CDs. I like to call it dematerialisation - storing your whole life on a hard drive to get rid of clutter and to supplement human memory."

"Everything 'cyberisable' will be in cyber space and I can be anywhere at anytime as all the data is in the cloud." -- Gordon Bell, principal researcher at Microsoft Research

Speakers at the conference also included:

Ellen Brennan-Galvin, Professor Public Policy, Yale University (Former Chief Population Policy, United Nations)

Mike Douglass, Director of the Globalization Research Center, University of Hawaii

Patrick Chanezon, API Evangelist, GOOGLE

Jyri Salomaa, Head of Service Experiences, Systems Research Office of the CTO, Nokia

Richard Register, President, Ecocity Builders

Greg Foliente, Leader High Performance Built Environment CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems

Javier Trevino, Senior Vice President - Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, CEMEX

Huston Eubank, Former Executive Director, World Green Building Council

Futuropolis 2058

The conference was designed as a catalyst to influence how the urban environments of the future are studied, planned and managed through areas such as urban infrastructure, city management, housing, sustainable energy, social networking technologies and transportation systems. For more information, please visit


Fusionopolis is Singapore's science and technology hub that brings together scientists, research engineers and technology experts from a variety of science and engineering disciplines, to find innovative solutions for technological and lifestyle problems facing society and jumpstart future industries.

Fusionopolis will have more than 1,500 researchers from the public labs under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), with a broad spectrum of capabilities ranging from high performance computing to infocomm research, data storage, materials research and engineering, microelectronics, and manufacturing technology. The public labs work alongside corporate labs like those of Vestas, Thales and Seiko Instruments to accelerate the development of technologies and new products, and bring them to market.

Fusionopolis is located in close proximity to A*STAR's biomedical sciences research institutes at Biopolis, which will open up opportunities for the fusion of capabilities across diverse scientific domains, thus paving the way for multi-disciplinary research.

A whole-of-Singapore approach has been taken at Fusionopolis to enable it to jumpstart future industries. Fusionopolis will also be home to Singapore's various industry-development public agencies such as the Media Development Authority, the Economic Development Board and SPRING Singapore.


For more information, please click here

Cathy Yarbrough


Tan Hock Lee
DID: (65) 68266291
HP: (65) 9108 7017

Lee Swee Heng
DID: (65) 6793 8368
HP: (65) 9620 3902

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