Four Conversations

As with all countries, Singapore needs to prepare for a future that is getting ever more uncertain with rapid changes in all spheres of life. How can we prepare for the ‘new world' that is yet unknown? What are some of the skills and traits that we need to continue to nurture in order to develop ‘new thinking' that can help us navigate this world?

Join us at the inaugural Four Conversations where the National Library brings together four local and international thought-leaders who will share their real-world insights for the future over a weekend on 3 and 4 June.

This event is suitable for anyone keen on seeking new knowledge – whether parents, working adults or tertiary students – to future-proof themselves. Get inspiration from thought-leaders, connect with potential collaborators and understand the trends affecting the future.

The event details are as follows


Venue: Level 16, The Pod, National Library Building

Saturday, 3 June 2017
10.30am – 12.00pm Creativity as an essential skill for future-readiness: What it is, why it is important and how to nurture it?

Presentation by Professor Robert Root-Bernstein
Professor of Physiology, Michigan State University
3.00pm – 4.30pm Journey into the mind of a top scientist: Nurturing curiosity and breakthrough thinking.

Presentation by Professor Sir David Lane
Chief Scientist, Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Sunday, 4 June 2017
10.30am – 12.00pm Navigating a complex world: Insights for the future.

Presentation by Dr Ismail Serageldin
Founding Director, Bibliotheca Alexandrina
3.00pm – 4.30pm Future-readiness: What does Singapore need to stop doing, start doing, and do more of?

Presentation by Ms Lydia Lim
Associate Opinion Editor, The Straits Times

Admission is free. Please register at library eKiosks or (search for "Four Conversations").

To ensure that this event can accommodate as many participants as possible, we would like to encourage you to select a maximum of two (2) sessions to attend.



Bob Root-Bernstein is a scientist, historian, and artist at Michigan State University. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Princeton University, followed by post-doctoral studies at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he became a MacArthur Fellow.

He is currently a Professor of Physiology at Michigan State University where he also studies the creative process in sciences and arts. He is widely known for his research concerning the benefits of integrating arts into science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and practices what he preaches by exhibiting his own artwork and by collaborating with the transmedia artist Adam W. Brown (

Bob has written four books, including Discovering (1990 L. A. Times Best Book of the Year nominee) and, with Michele Root-Bernstein, Sparks of Genius (Korean Book of the Year in 2009). He is at work on a new book about artists, musicians and performers as scientists and inventors.


Sir David Lane is one of the scientists credited with the landmark discovery of cancer gene p53 in 1979. p53, called the "Guardian of the genome," is the most frequently mutated gene in human cancer as more than half of human tumours contain such alterations.

He was previously the Director of the Cancer Research UK Cell Transformation Research Group and Professor of Oncology at the University of Dundee in Scotland. He had also held the position of Chief Scientist with Cancer Research UK and was the Scientific Director of the Ludwig Institute.

Sir David is currently Chief Scientist of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research and Chairman of Chugai Pharmbody Research Pte Ltd which he helped to attract to Singapore. CPR represents a $400 million 10-year investment by Chugai in research located in the Synapse building at the Biopolis, Singapore. The company currently employs over 90 highly qualified researchers developing new antibody therapeutics.

For his efforts in cancer research, Sir David was knighted in 2000. He also received the Cancer Research UK Lifetime Achievement Award – a prize that recognises his pioneering research that led to the discovery of p53.


Ismail Serageldin is the Founding Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), the new Library of Alexandria in Egypt. He serves on many boards and advisory committees for various international institutions. A graduate of Cairo and Harvard (Phd), he has held many important international positions, including Vice President of the World Bank (1992-2000), and professor at the Collège de France, Paris (2010-2011).

He is a member of many academies, including the US National Academy of Sciences. He lectures widely, and has delivered the Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg (2011). Serageldin has published over 100 books and monographs and over 500 papers on a wide range of topics, and has received over 30 honorary doctorates.

He has been decorated by Chile, Japan, Azerbaijan and other countries and has received the Legion d'Honneur from France and is a Commander of the order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic.


Lydia is a career journalist who started out as a television producer of current affairs programmes before moving to print journalism. She has worked at Singapore's largest newspaper, The Straits Times, since 1999.

For most of her career, she has specialised in covering Singapore politics and policies, journalism beats that have taken her around the island and the world, including to international courts in Hamburg and the Hague for two historic cases in which Singapore went up against Malaysia over reclamation and Pedra Branca.

In her current job, she edits the paper's Opinion pages. She also writes a column in the Sunday edition of the paper.

Over the first weekend of June 2017 (3 – 4 June), participants from all walks of life attended the inaugural "Four Conversations" event. Organised by the National Library, four international and local speakers shared valuable insights based on the theme "New Thinking for a New World".

While the topics were varied, they all centred on the need for us to take personal responsibility and ownership to shape the future we want for ourselves and our community. Click here to view the presentations with Professor Robert Root-Bernstein, Professor Sir David Lane, Dr Ismail Serageldin and Ms Lydia Lim.

Learn more with our recommended resources.