Many challenges await governments, societies and businesses in the coming years because of the spread of a "now-ism virus", the Dubai Future Forum has been told.
Dozens of futurists – experts who explore predictions about the future – have gathered at the Museum of the Future for the two-day forum to discuss what society, government and businesses will look like in the years to come.
Amy Webb, chief executive of the Future Today Institute and keynote speaker on the first day of the event on Tuesday, said people should think about the future while making decisions.
“From my point of view, governments, businesses and society – they’re now-ists. They’re not thinking like futurists. They’re preoccupied with the present,” Ms Webb said.
“And that makes sense. Living through the amount of change we’re all grappling with right now is extremely challenging and the stakes are unimaginably high.
“Now-ism is a virus. It’s incubated in uncertainty and fear and this virus is spreading. Corporations and governments are infected.
“At this point, more people are infected with the now-ism virus than Covid.”
She said society would face many challenges unless the world entered the "action era".
One of the biggest challenges for society is a sense of apathy towards public service, she said.
“We have fewer young people willing to commit to public service in some kind of way because it doesn't feel like they're obligated to do so,” she said.
Problems could arise for governments in the future because they are currently creating risk-focused scenarios, she said.
She said some governments were too focused on creating white papers, reports and policy recommendations.
Dubai stands out as an exception because of the progress it has made in such a short time.
"It's interesting that we're in Dubai, thinking about all of this, because this is a rare exception to that rule," she said.
"But if I look at a lot of other governments and a lot of countries around the world, this is not what's happening.
"We have to figure out a way to make foresight positioned so that government leaders can fulfil their own jobs."
Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, said in the opening speech that the UAE was a "great example" of a country that always planned for the future.
He said Emirates airline and districts such as Dubai Internet City were dedicated to helping to make the emirate a technology centre.
"In 2000, the internet was seen as a trend or technology with a lot of promise," Mr Al Olama said.
"At that point in time, we were an emerging hub and we weren't known for technology."
He explained that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said "we want to dedicate a city for the internet – the Dubai Internet City".
"We started with a Dh200 million ($54.4m) loan from HSBC. I want you to think about what would make someone take such a bet with such conviction that 'I'm going to risk everything to be part of this trend and technology,'" Mr Al Olama said.