By 2071, artificial intelligence (AI) will probably be able to predict our actions and will interfere with shaping behaviours. By then, machines will be able to read our minds and anticipate our every need, while data will be the new currency. Weapons will become smart and can target a single person in a crowd. Robots will take our food orders when we walk into restaurants or assist at a clinic.

This is how the world could function by 2071, according to an extensive report on the future of cybersecurity prepared by KPMG Lower Gulf in collaboration with the UAE Cyber Security Council. The report has taken some plausible scenarios- called ‘Imagine If’- and advised how to build policies around them.

According to Dr Mohammed Al Kuwaiti, Head of the UAE Cybersecurity Council, the country is developing a cybersecurity vision that includes a progressive legal framework underpinned by new laws to improve the country’s ability to deal with advanced forms of deception and criminal activity in the digital space.

“As the UAE looks forward to its centennial in 2071, we had an opportunity to pause, examine how the world might evolve over the coming decades, and how we can leverage technology to optimise outcomes for humanity,” said the official.

According to one of the imaginary scenarios, it would be difficult to differentiate between truth and fiction because developments in immersive virtual reality, deep fake and behavioural manipulation technology will have blurred reality and fiction. There will be privacy concerns as fake personas are created and real ones manipulated.

Another one put forth a situation where people would become lost in the virtual world as companies would develop tailored experiences and heightened stimulation in the virtual world. Fraud, blackmail, extortion and bribery will find new manifestations as law enforcement and legal frameworks fight to keep up with the pace of innovation.

These are the kind of scenarios that the UAE will hopes to tackle with its long-term vision.

Policies of the future

Currently, the UAE has 16 policies in place which address several issues including IoT, information assurance and blockchain. “It is not a restrictive policy and is constantly updated. There are many more policies to come, especially about data privacy, AI and cloud,” said Dr Mohammed.

As per the report, the UAE’s population is predicted to grow to 10.9 million in the next 20 years, with Dubai’s population doubling, following a post-pandemic immigration wave. This will bring additional challenges, especially as technology continues to evolve at a rapid state.

It also highlights megatrends expected to impact life in the upcoming decades, including climate change, and energy consumption. Climate change will impact food security and contribute to population displacement while the global energy consumption is likely to increase by 50% by 2050- thereby making renewable sources very important.

Dr Mohamed explained that these challenges require diligent work to confront and mitigate their effects. He pointed out, at the same time, that despite these risks, technology provides hope for a better future.

Key takeaways

For Tim Wood, Partner and Head of Cyber Security at KPMG LG, one of the key takeaways about the report is that disruptive technologies will have a major impact on cybersecurity and privacy.

“Early engagement is key to deal with these technologies,” he said. “So, we have taken some of the what ifs and barriers to speculate what should be the right policy framework and what should be the right industry engagement models around them. This will make it very clear for the UAE on how it can make the best use of these innovative technologies.”

According to him, the report reflected on the four pillars of the UAE’s Centennial 2071: a future focused government, excellent education, a diversified knowledge economy, and a happy and cohesive society.

It also elaborated that there is a need for a legal framework for a new world of hybrid people, AI and tech. “As technology changes, the whole legal framework around how you protect customer data has to change,” said Wood. “For example, you are in the metaverse and the volume and type of data you have collected is different. So, we will need totally new laws.”

He also stressed that as the landscape of technology evolves, that legal framework will also need to change. “What we are seeing here in the UAE is that a lot of policies are already being put in place for these emerging technologies,” he said. “The idea is to be right at the forefront of that starting to think about security now rather than 10 years later.”

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