Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) hosted the first-ever Dubai Future Forum at the Museum of the Future in October to study and foresee the future and its potential problems. The two-day gathering of decision-makers, futurists, innovators, and experts brought together over 400 experts, 70 speakers, 1,000 attendees and 45 global organisations to explore topics like space travel, climate change, digital inclusion, ethical artificial intelligence and preparing for the future.

In over 30 sessions, the delegates deliberated on four primary themes: the future of our world, mitigating existential risk with foresight, value, and humanity, and hedging our bets through foresight. Also, the business event examined several important issues for governments, economies, and societies. And improved the interchange of ideas and helped define global trends that will redefine the key industries for a brighter future for humanity.

My first takeaway  Foresight doesn’t have the impact it should. We must enter an era of actionable foresight. Speaker Amy Webb, CEO of the Future Today Institute, told the forum that if we take future thinking more serious, we wouldn’t be experiencing the climate emergency as we do now, for example. In her opening keynote, Amy Webb set out a vision for the fourth era of foresight, which is more practical, measurable, and tangible – ultimately more actionable. To achieve this foresight, we must answer two questions: How do we make this preferred future real? What are the mechanics of getting it done?

Takeaway number two  We must act like citizens of the future. In a panel discussion Joshua Polchar, Strategic Foresight Lead for the OECD, asked: Will borders be relevant in the future? “Next time you meet someone new, skip ‘where are you from?’ That’s the past. Instead, try ‘where is home?’, ‘what languages do you speak?’, or ‘what are your hopes here?’ That’s the future,” said Joshua Polchar.

The idea of belonging to one nation is being replaced with diverse forms of citizenship, and we need to think of ourselves more as future citizens with shared values. Citizenship is then about the responsibility we feel for a place or a group of people, both in the present and beyond, creating a more inclusive and equitable society for future generations rather than an attachment to a particular geography.

Finally, my third takeaway  We must act together. We can achieve great outcomes through interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, public, and private sector collaboration. Leadership is pivotal in driving the cultural change needed within businesses, governments and broader society to encourage cooperation. In his lightning talk on risk mitigation, Josef Hargrave, Arup’s Head of Foresight, said it was vital that informed leadership had regular conversations around the idea of “unknown unknowns.”

Next year, the second edition of The Dubai Future Forum will take place on 27–28 November at The Museum of the Future.