RI200 Preview: Festival of Ideas

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By Raphael Niu (23A01A) 

For a while in 2022, it felt like the world had no good news to offer.

Over 8 million refugees fled west as Russian shells pummelled Ukrainian cities. Devastating monsoon floods in Pakistan wiped out 900,000 homes. Back in Singapore, relentless inflation squeezed the incomes of families already hit by pandemic lay-offs and pay cuts. With headlines dominated by doom and gloom, it is easy to be desensitised and to tune out from current discourse.

At first glance, the Festival of Ideas, organised as part of RI’s bicentennial celebrations, might appear to be just another symposium about the world’s problems. However, I was struck by the Festival’s commitment to exploring intersections: between issues, between sectors, and between forms.

Instead of focusing on social inequality, climate change, or technological innovation alone, the Festival of Ideas examines all three issues, providing unique peeks into the connections that tie these topics together. How might climate change disproportionately affect the global south and exacerbate historical inequalities? How might new innovations mitigate the climate crisis? How might we make STEM accessible to disprivileged communities? In this manner, the Festival promises to shed light on the interconnected nature of the world we inhabit.

The Festival features speakers who have worked in a diverse range of sectors, from offender rehabilitation and housing resettlement to wildlife conservation and software engineering. Additionally, it invites these speakers to share their experiences through a variety of forms, including literary writing, musical performances and a debate. Hence, the Festival’s value lies in its potential to showcase an amalgamation of efforts: to highlight how different people, in their respective fields and respective ways, can work together to take on the challenges we face.

That is, perhaps, the central insight for youths attending the Festival. In a world with so many problems to fix, we—as individuals—will not be able to fix everything. Yet the Festival is less about how many problems we need to fix and more about how many ways we could possibly fix them: each speaker is a living example of someone making a difference in their own way.

Therefore, I hope every participant will be inspired by the Festival, be it by a quote, an issue or a sharing. And regardless of what form this inspiration may take, I hope participants will be united by a common determination to—in their own unique, humble ways—be the hope of a better age and make the world a better place.

As tickets for the Festival are selling fast, you may wish to get yours at: https://reg.eventnook.com/event/festivalofideas/home. For more information on the Festival of Ideas, please visit foi.ri.edu.sg.

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