The National Future Forum: what can we expect from the future?

Experts share their visions of the world to come

Vehicles such as Joby Aviation's conceptual S2 vehicles may become one of many in our urban skies. Courtesy: Joby Aviation

Flying houses, roads that repair themselves and bathroom mirrors that can diagnose your ailments were some of the visions of the world to come shared by speakers at The National Future Forum.

A succession of experts in their field shared predictions to an audience at the Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi.

For Harrison Wolf, an expert on autonomous flying machines, the future was drones that can deliver vital medical supplies to remote communities in the developing world and destroy the breeding grounds of deadly malarial mosquitos.

Passenger aircraft were perhaps the safest method of travel ever created, he said. But since around 20 per cent of accidents were caused by pilot error, greater autonomy could bring ever greater safety.

This included new systems of advanced air traffic control, which would also bring greater efficiencies for airlines.

The "future of flying machines is autonomous", Mr Wolf said, adding society must “address these technologies while mitigating the risks for society."

In urban areas, he predicted people would choose the method of transportation that suited their needs at any particular time. To speed seriously ill people to hospital, fleets of autonomous flying ambulances could be deployed.

Greg Curtin, chief executive of Civic Resource Group International, examined the future of cities from the perspective of his work with technology and data in the public sector.


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Both people and the city’s infrastructure would become increasingly interconnected, he said, transforming our engagement with the urban environment.

"People will be experiencing cities, and cities will be experiencing people," he said.

"Think of our future cities as smart, dynamic - and really alive," he added. In the future it would be possible for dynamic cities to sense when roads needed repairs and carry out the work automatically.

Futurist architect James Law said he was designing apartments with innovations that included bathroom mirrors that would also monitor your health. Technology incorporated into the walls of even the smallest dwelling would expand the living spaces though virtual reality.

His “technosphere ”, a huge dome designed for Dubai could house 40,000 people under a single roof, surrounded by parks and common areas.

"The very fabric of our architecture and how we build it is going to need to change, because it's not sustainable.”

He had recently been given a small area of land in Hong Kong for a token $1 to create tiny homes in the most overcrowded city districts. His 'Opod' tubular homes - industrial concrete pipes stacked on top of one other - could be built for just $12,000, said Mr Law.

For those living in more hostile environments, architects could build homes similar to giant drones that would fly away from hazards like floods or wildfires.

Ronit Avni, addressed the problem of the brain-drain, an growing issue in an age when more than 230 million people have migrated – the largest movement in human history.

Her Localise web project is designed to connect expatriates who want to give back with young people in their country of origin.

Remittances worldwide total US$600 billion, she said. “Just imagine if we harnessed knowledge remittance on that scale.”