When The National was launched in 2008, Twitter was two years old, Netflix had been around for a year and Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and the iPad – products that have disrupted and irreversibly transformed the ways in which millions create and consume information – had not yet been born. Technological revolution has spawned new consumer habits, which, in turn, have accelerated innovation. The pace of this change has created a race for relevance. In this race, once illustrious and revered traditional media outlets face increasing competition as they fight to stay ahead of the curve. Yet their services have never been needed more – both to separate fact from fiction, to educate and inform and to hold up a looking-glass to explain what such seismic changes mean.
As The National's columnist Tom Fletcher said in these pages, technology is, in creating new opportunities and transforming the world in innumerable ways, "destabilising" traditional journalism. We are in a state of permanent transition and how we respond to the challenges thrown up by this phenomenon is crucial in shaping the future.
It is not just traditional media outlets but every industry – from travel, engineering and investment to the managers of big data and the infrastructure of our cities – that will have to evolve and adapt. The National passed its first decade this year and to mark the anniversary, this newspaper is launching The National Future Forum, a year-long initiative that will bring some of the most renowned thinkers and innovators in the world to Abu Dhabi to enhance our understanding of the changes and challenges society as a whole faces.
The summit will open with a keynote address tomorrow by Sarah Al Amiri, the UAE's Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, highlighting the role the UAE's leadership plays in mapping and actualising the future. It will be followed by panel discussions and talks by distinguished speakers, who will share their insights on the probable future of numerous aspects of life. How do we design cities when travel time shrinks? How will investment function in an economy where no one needs to work in the traditional sense? These are just some of the questions that will come up as we contemplate what the future might look like. The National, like the country in which it has its home, plans to take a key role in shaping, rather than being shaped by, the future.