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Industry leaders at Dubai Future Forum urge massive shift in finance, tech to ‘transform humanity’

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Leading industry experts in finance, telecommunications, technology, and demographic research called for a radical shift in their sectors to transform “ineffective” frameworks guiding nations, communities, and individuals.

At the Dubai Future Forum 2023, the world’s largest gathering of futurists, participants in a panel titled ‘System Reset: How Will We Come to Define Currency?’, looked at the evolution of currency in the context of emerging technologies.

Yaser AbuShaban from Silver Peak Capital Advisors said: “The foundations of our system are under revision. The entire financial and economic system is becoming more democratic and is moving away from the traditional centres of economic power, becoming less centralised.”

Sarah Bird from TimeBanking UK discussed Time Banking, a model operational in 32 countries. This model uses time as an alternative currency in a community-centric, equitable system. Bird commented: “The beauty of time banking is that it allows us to help people regardless of their age, ability, or background; it is totally inclusive and person-centred.”

Stefan Rust from Truflation added: “Experiments, such as valuing time as currency and creating and monitoring currencies based on commodities, represent foundational shifts. We can tokenise these commodities, linking tokens to oil, nickel, palladium, or other essential materials for the future.”

Another panel held under the ‘Transforming Humanity’ theme explored the impact of new technologies on value and wealth creation.

Michael Clark from Mastercard said: “We are focused on technology being the enabler, but sometimes we can get lost in the technology and forget that it is a tool. What really powers technology is data. This data originates from people – their memories, stories, identities; all of these elements constitute data.”

Highlighting the need to re-examine economic systems and models of value creation in light of new technologies and assets like data, Martin Calnan from ‘Ecole des Ponts Business School’ said: “I think a crucial question we need to explore is, with our systems and new solutions, whether it’s data, blockchain, or AI integration, are we merely replicating the same extractive models, or are we trying to impose narrow interpretations on a new asset?”

Marwan Alzarouni from the Dubai Blockchain Centre, continuing the debate on evolving value systems and economic models, highlighted the balance between incentives and broader societal benefits: “Economy is what drives us, and there we have to find this middle ground for things that are useful for human beings and generally for our progress as humanity.”

In a session examining demographic trends and their implications for economies, societies and policies, James Pomeroy from HSBC commented: “For years, policymakers have behaved like ostriches in response to demographic changes. We continue to ignore this slow-moving but substantial force in the global economy, and we resist implementing the necessary significant changes.”

Narue Shiki from the UNDP observed: “The narratives surrounding demographic shifts are often polarising. They typically focus on concerns like the need for a younger population to remain, the destabilisation caused by an ageing population, or the perceived threats of migration.” She noted that these narratives “fail to prepare societies for future challenges”.

Prof. Alex Ezeh from Drexel University suggested population declines should be “reframed” to account for regional difference.

During the ‘Builders and Keepers: Who are the Guardians of the Internet?’ panel session, Abdul Rahman Al Marzouqi from the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) shed light on the UAE’s approach to new technologies: “In the UAE, we have the capability to explore every possibility, and it’s essential to remain technology neutral. This means allowing each technology to be tested to understand its potential and creating an environment where investors in these technologies can see a return on their investments.”

Kenechi Okeleke from GSMA Intelligence said: “There’s a whole new ecosystem developing around area networks. We need to bring this to school systems and create extensive network coverage everywhere – not just in urban areas, but also in rural regions, and even in space.”

Lotfi Elati from Meta discussed the impact of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) mega-constellations on the telecommunications industry, stating: “I believe that satellite communication was previously limited by several factors, leading to high costs and perceived underperformance issues. However, with the recent developments and the launch of LEO mega-constellations, these barriers are being significantly reduced. We are now witnessing a paradigm shift in the field.”