Saudi Arabia’s plan for a $500 billion city is as bizarre as you’d expect

Posted: August 4, 2019 by oldbrew in innovation, News
Tags: , ,

They call it ‘the world’s most ambitious project‘. Mind-boggling expenditure if it ever gets built. The solar city aspect of the plan gets panned here.

The riches of Silicon Valley have enabled some extravagant and quixotic projects, but they’ve got nothing on what oil money can do, says MNNOFA News.

A new report from The Wall Street Journal shares some of the proposals for Saudi Arabia’s biggest megaproject yet: a city built in the desert named Neom, where robots will outnumber humans and hologram teachers will educate genetically-enhanced students.

The details are stunning. It’s a mixture of dystopian fiction (AI surveillance cameras everywhere!) and childish imaginings (let’s build a robot dinosaur park!). Taken together, the plans remind of you what a dedicated nine-year-old can achieve in Minecraft. Yes, the scale and ambition are impressive, but it’s not like you could do this in real life, right?

Cloud seeding? Robot servants? A fake moon!? Sure, why not.

These are only proposals, of course, dreamt up by American consulting firms like McKinsey and Boston Consulting who have no incentive to bring Saudi leaders down to Earth. But all the same, they give you a flavor of what trillions of dollars of oil wealth will do to your sense of proportion.

Here are some highlights from the WSJ’s report:

— Cloud seeding: The planned site for Neom sits on the coast and is surrounded by desert. In order to create a temperature climate, cloud seeding could be used to make it rain.

— Dystopian surveillance: In the city of the future, cameras, drones, and facial recognition will be ubiquitous. The aim is only to keep citizens safe, of course!

— Genetic-engineering: Neom would host a genetic-modification project of some sorts. The WSJ quotes plans from Japanese tech giant Softbank to create “a new way of life from birth to death reaching genetic mutations to increase human strength and IQ.”

— Robots everywhere: Robot “maids” would do your chores for you; robot cage fights would be staged for your amusement; and an amusement park full of robot dinosaurs would make for a fun day out at the weekend.

— Flying taxis: “I don’t want any roads or pavements. We are going to have flying cars in 2030!” said Prince Fahd bin Sultan, the region’s governor, in a planning meeting. Another planning document reportedly read: “Driving is just for fun, no longer for transportation.”

— Fake moon: Details are unclear in what is already an incredibly hazy report, but apparently there have been proposals for a fake moon, which could perhaps be created by a fleet of drones or involve live-streaming images from space. Sure!

The whole Neom project is undeniably fascinating. It was first announced in 2017, with Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying he wants the city to attract the “world’s greatest minds and best talents.” According to planning documents reported by the WSJ, bin Salman “envisions Neom the largest city globally by GDP, and wanted to understand what he can get with up to 500 billion USD investment.”

The project is the flagpole of Saudi Arabia’s plans to diversify the country’s economy away from oil. MBS and other Saudi leaders know this source of revenue can’t last forever, and they’re keen to develop cities like Neom as new commercial hubs. (Similarly ambitious projects, like the King Abdullah Economic City, have already failed.)

As currently planned, Neom will occupy a region the size of Massachusetts.

Full article here.

  1. ivan says:

    For my sins I worked on a project in Saudi that ended in August 1990, we built a military city and I spent more time explaining just why the various things TPB wanted wouldn’t work. I pity the project engineering people that get pulled into this because of the ‘pie in the sky’ and totally non workable requirements.

    Give a man a big ego and a lot of money and this is what you end up with.

  2. JB says:

    “world’s greatest minds, and best talents”

    What is that exactly, besides hubris?

    Sounds a bit like post Weimar Germany.

  3. hunterson7 says:

    A strong sign of the coming demise of the House of Days Saud.

  4. hunterson7 says:

    #!&@!! auto spell check….
    House of Saud…..

  5. oldbrew says:

    Saudi Prince Plans City With Human Gene Editing, Artificial Rain

    The in-development Saudi Arabian city-state will have robot maids, flying taxis, and glow-in-the-dark sand, according to confidential planning documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. An artificial moon will light up the sky every night, and a Jurassic Park-style island will let visitors mingle with robot dinosaurs.

    But also buried in the 2,300 pages of planning documents obtained by the WSJ are plans for the forcible relocation of local tribes, the creation of human gene-editing clinics, and 24/7 government surveillance — meaning this futuristic city may be more like dystopian sci-fi than the fun Jetsons kind.

    Disneyland meets Orwell’s 1984.

  6. oldbrew says:

    Bad news for the Saudis – solar panels don’t like excessive heat…

    Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows

    The results have implications for the current practice of constructing large solar arrays in deserts, Higgins said.

    “Solar panels are finicky,” he said. “Their efficiency drops the hotter the panels get. That barren land is hotter. Their productivity is less than what it could be per acre.”
    – – –
    Then again if the budget is unlimited who cares about efficiency?

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