Juggling the positive and negative impacts of technology is one of the biggest challenges of the next generation, school students from across the UAE concluded during an in-depth conversation at Expo 2020 Dubai’s second Next Gen World Majlis. The session, titled ‘Technology with heart and mind’, featured 21 students aged 13 to 17, who discussed how humanity can embrace technology as a tool to drive positive change without impacting on the current quality of life.
Held at the Expo 2020 Visitor Centre, students from schools in the UAE were asked to consider whether humanity is at risk of becoming overly dependent on technology, and how we can embrace the benefits of innovation without compromising personal creativity or intelligence.
Expo 2020’s World Majlis series is designed to address 21st century challenges through the long-established Emirati and Arab tradition of the majlis – a highly valued meeting space where people gather to gain different perspectives and share informed opinions that help shape decisions on subjects that matter to their communities.
The Next Gen World Majlis series is part of Expo 2020’s commitment to put youth at the heart of the next World Expo. Iman Alomrani, Deputy Chief Technology Officer – Innovation and Future Technology, Expo 2020 Dubai, who hosted the Next Gen World Majlis, said it was crucial to engage young people in discussions about the effects of technology to ensure future advancements were carefully guided.
Iman Alomrani said, “Young people have an advantageous view of how technology has affected humanity in the past and, therefore, they can better understand what needs to be done to ensure it has a positive influence on our creativity, connections and mindfulness in the future.
“This Next Gen World Majlis conversation enabled students to share their views, ideas, hopes and concerns about technology in an open, safe and inclusive environment. There were many views discussed but it was clear to me that our youth are well prepared to use technology effectively to create a better future for humanity.”
Ameera Ismail Sharif, a student from Sharjah American International School’s Dubai campus, and a participant in the Next Gen World Majlis, said: “We can either control technology or let it control us. In my opinion, technology has resulted in some of the biggest challenges we are facing today. However, it can also be used to connect minds and create the future, which is the theme of Expo 2020 and a priority for humanity as a whole.”
As well as discussing opportunities and challenges related to future technological advancements, the Next Gen World Majlis participants also acknowledged the impact that existing innovations have had on their lives. Suffian Ahmed, a student from Pristine Private School in Dubai, said: “Our generation is unique in the sense that technology has accelerated fastest during our lifetimes. While we may struggle to adapt to the rate of change, we have to learn to live with these advancements as they become indispensable parts of our lives.
“It sometimes feels as though there is a culture of outrage against technologies such as social media, but what is seen as a negative by one person could be viewed as a convenience by someone else.”
Part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s World Majlis initiative, the Next Gen World Majlis series aims to spark meaningful conversations between young people on themes that impact their future. The ideas, questions and solutions that arise during these discussions will inform future World Majlis sessions.
In line with Expo 2020’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, and underpinned by its three key subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, the World Majlis series brings together current and future thought leaders from a range of backgrounds for conversations that matter. The initiative aims to generate new perspectives and forge connections between people and ideas, which may not have otherwise occurred.
Expo 2020 Dubai has committed to hosting 50 World Majlis sessions in the lead-up to and during the event, including six that will be youth-led. The next World Majlis conversation will be held in Kigali, Rwanda on 27 March, 2019.