MANY of us would find the idea of an intellectually stimulating weekend full of inspiring discussions with experts from all walks of life quite appealing. This is exactly what Islamabadis were promised at ‘A World of Tomorrow’ at the Pak-China Friendship Centre on March 11-12, 2017 – but how close did it come to delivering? With the lofty aim of reimagining the future of humanity, did the event turn out to be another occasion to hear the same old people say the same old things or was it able to say something new? While literary festivals abound and continue to draw crowds in Pakistan, many have faced criticism in recent years. Events like ‘A World of Tomorrow’- the 2017 chapter of the School of Tomorrow Events by Beaconhouse – breathe new life into such gatherings even as they retain the format. An ever-increasingly aware public needs the space such forums create in order to question and reflect rather than passively receive. The range of topics up for discussion included something for everyone, without diluting the level of discourse. A few of the sessions that resonated with audience members like me were, “The Exciting World of Innovation” in which the brilliant guest speaker Dr Attaur Rahman shed light on neuroscience, stem cell therapy, memory, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and how innovation aims to transform economies around the world; the discussion on gender and gender identity, inclusion of transgender people in schools and the workplace; and a thought-provoking conversation on “Art Without Boundaries” that highlighted the importance of the arts, theatre, music and dance in the cultural upbringing of citizens. The event not only made way for insightful conversations but also posed challenging questions about fighting the status quo. The latter more so because it provides a platform to people like Kami Sid (trans rights activist), Lina Khalifeh (founder of SheFighter, the first self-defense studio for women in Jordan and the Middle East), Sheema Kermani (classical dancer and founder of Tehrik-e-Niswan), and so many more! In her session, Sheema Kermani aptly pointed out, “Till art remains restricted to halls and auditoriums, it cannot move forward.” Renowned classical singer Tina Sani on the “Music Matters” panel discussion talked about Zia’s regime and its detrimental impact on classical music in the face of misplaced religiosity. The icon definitely struck the right chord with the audience as she affirmed, “Music is just like physics and chemistry; it’s just another discipline. Nothing mystical about it.” With illustrious speakers like Jibran Nasir talking about jingoism, selective nationalism and educational reforms in Pakistan to Pervez Hoodbhoy setting directions for the conference or debaters like Deepak Perwani, Fasi Zaka, Herman Bergsma and Nassir Kasuri, and panellists including Joanna Reid, Ayesha Tammy Haq, Martijn Van Strien, Tapu Javeri, Kamila Shamsie and Jehan Araand many more, the engaging discourse in every session had great learning outcomes. The diverse and seemingly disparate combination of speakers created an extraordinary learning environment that allowed us to reflect upon what the future holds for all of us. ‘A World of Tomorrow’ did not fail to get audiences out of their comfort zones. The beauty of this event lay in its diversity and unwavering commitment to engage the community through topics such as technology, digital media, environment, development and climate change, educational reform, cultural heritage, human rights, nationalism, global media, sports, foreign policy, arts/fashion, parenting, urban planning, security concerns, gender, language and identity. Oriented firmly towards the future, it allowed us to imagine – or re-imagine – what shape we would like the future to take. With 42 sessions and 140 speakers from all around the globe, the two-day event left a lasting impression on everyone who attended. And so, going back to the question of whether it delivered, from me you get a resounding ‘Yes’!