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We live in an age where our reliance on digital technologies and services are a growing part of our daily lives. Never have we relied as much as we do now on Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered services, from planning our daily commutes to choosing the movies we watch.

These technologies offer sizable rewards to those who can harness their potential. Farmers are now using AI to be more efficient and plan the best utilisation of resources for growing and protecting crops. AI is also enabling more precise medical care, through enabling faster genomic sequencing which in turn helps predict and prevent potential genetic disease. And these two examples merely scratch the surface of what the future might hold for wider society courtesy of technological advancement.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) saw the potential early on as well as the need to be at the forefront in the adoption and further development of AI. Our leadership believes that the world of tomorrow will be led by those who best utilise and harness the power of these technologies for the good of its people, the nation and ultimately the world.

Consistent with the leadership’s vision, the UAE was one of the first countries to launch a national strategy for AI and, with it, many projects were launched to revamp and improve government services for the public. A few examples of the many initiatives provided by the UAE include launching the AI Lab which hosts one of the strongest supercomputers in the world, and allows public access to this great computational power for development and research purposes. Another example of the UAE’s futuristic application of AI is being one of the few governments around the globe that has open source repositories on GitHub. The efforts of the UAE to become one of the leading nations in AI are truly endless, and perhaps the biggest proof of such efforts is their ability to overcome challenges associated with COVID-19. 

But, alongside the many benefits to be had by adopting these technologies and systems, they also present a raft of ethical issues for consideration and other challenges to wider humanity. One challenge includes the question of whether artificial intelligence will replace the current workforce, putting people out of their jobs.

These new challenges require that the brightest minds around the world, from subject matter experts to regulators, work together to discuss, and plan for, the future.

This volume begins to explore these issues and looks closer at the successes, opportunities, and threats of inspirational digital technologies, what the future might look like, and what we must address to maximise the benefit for humanity. It also highlights the importance of constant restless innovation, unlearning and reinventing to find the next breakthroughs.

‘Conversations about Innovation and our Future’ contains a host of thought-provoking ideas from experts across many different sectors and disciplines. It shines a spotlight on how AI has been helping us to beat the pandemic, how it is revealing things about humanity previously unseen and unknown, and how, especially when we come together to collaborate, these catalytic new technologies are already benefiting the world. 

But our experts from around the globe also offer stark warnings that although digital technologies could lead to further broad-based population-scale improvements in opportunity and the quality of life, they might simply end up enriching a small group unless we plan with care. 

They argue that alongside this rapid and astonishing progress, disruptors must be responsible for the negative consequences they create. They write that there is an urgent need for policy makers and regulators to keep up, implement ethical frameworks to win back control of our personal data and privacy, and protect the vulnerable, especially children. And there is a call to ensure that rapid technological advancements do not become weaponised. 

But all of our authors are united on one thing in particular, that the progress being made in this latest technological revolution must be for good.