When we talk about robot servants, flying cars, and other futuristic things- The Jetsons- one of the most popular 90’s cartoon shows- comes to our mind. Isn’t it? On the same lines, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia- Mohammed bin Salman- dreamt and planned a project- Neom- where robots will surpass humans and hologram teachers will teach genetically-enhanced students. If this piece of information has piqued your interest to know more about this futuristic city, scroll down and read SURFACES REPORTER (SR)’s below post:
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Neom is a planned cross-border city in the Tabuk Province of north-western Saudi Arabia. Photo Courtesy: Neom
Saudi Arabia- the Middle-Eastern country- is as barren as moon with abundance of only sunlight, oil and saltwater. However, the country's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman did not look at it in this ways and with the help of U.S. consultants reimagined a megacity in this barren part of his kingdom.
Mohammed bin Salman, Crown prince of Saudi Arabia | Photo Courtesy: Foreign Policy
As per the report of the Wall Street Journal, the prince dreams of this futuristic city involving robotic maids, flying taxis, a fake moon, artificial rain, cloud seeding and holographic teachers which exactly sound like a Jetsons-style world of automation? The leaked blueprints of the plans are equally stunning and a mix of dystopian fiction.
The Jetsons- Cartoon Show | Photo Courtesy: The Verge
The name of the prince’s flagship Vision 2030 project- Neom- is derived from the combination of the Greek word neos, meaning "new “and the Arabic word-mustaqbal means “future”.
The ambitious plan will need Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund of at least $500 billion and may get millions in foreign investment.
Project Neom- 33 Times bigger then New York
The project will cover 10,230 square miles and is assumed to revolutionize the country by reducing its reliance on oil and make it a technological hub.
Once completed, the project is said to be 33 times the size of New York. Dubbed as "The Line", the project is estimated to create close to 3,80,000 jobs and contribute around 180 billion riyals to the kindom's GDP by 2030.
Saudi Arabia took advice from three of the world's largest consultancy firms-McKinsey & Co, Oliver Wyman, and Boston Consulting for the building this project. Here's what they came up with.
Cloud Seeding- The project is supposed to draw on cloud seeding technology that allows making fake clouds to produce more rains in the desert area.
Robotic Dinosaurs- Another idea is to have robotic dinosaurs to make the place like a ‘Jurassic Park’.
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Dystopian surveillance: In this futuristic city, drones, cameras, and facial recognition will be everywhere. Of course, the goal is the citizens' safety and security.
Giant Artificial Moon- There will be a massive fake moon that will brighten up the city at night.
Leading Education System on the Planet- The Neom project will have holographic teachers to educate students.
Holographic Teachers | Photo Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal
Genetic-engineering: There are hints of a genetic-modification project that will be hosted by Neom. The WSJ quoted the Japanese tech giant Softbank to design “a new way of life from birth to death reaching genetic mutations to increase human strength and IQ.”
Flying Taxis- Saudi officials say that in Neom, people will see flying cars or taxis. The Neom team is working on the notion that, in the future, the cars will be for just enjoyment only and no longer a method of transportation. It means that the people might drive a Ferrari to the coast just for fun, but will not drive themselves to work.
Flying Cars | Photo Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal
Carbon-positive ecosystem- The officials also said that the city will sustain 95% of the natural environment around the site, emphasizing humans' connection with nature. Entire energy in the city will be 100% renewable – from the sun, wind, and hydrogen-based power generation – ensuring a zero carbon emission. Also, the eco-city will be able to accomodate 1 million citizens in "carbon-positive urban developments by 2030".
The powerhouse of water production- The city will be a regional powerhouse in the production and storage of water. It will also include the desalination of water.
Transformation in the Red Sea Coastline- The glow-in-the-dark sand will be added to the beaches of the Red Sea coastline.
Michelin-starred restaurants- The inhabitants of the city would be able to select from more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than in any other city, as per the plan.
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The glow-in-the-dark sand in the Red Sea Coastline | Photo Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal
Progress So far
Neom Bay- The construction work of phase one of the mega-city- Neom Bay in Sharma was already started in 2019 and was supposed to be finished by 2020. In the marketing materials of Neom, one can see Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, which suggests they will probably take cues from the South Asian City. As per Saudi Press Agency, “Neom Bay is due to become a residential area with "white beaches, a mild climate, and an attractive investment environment."
Neom Pay Runway | Photo Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal
Neom Bay Airport- As per Saudi Gazette, the construction work of Neom Airport is almost finished, and it has already been registered as an official international airport. The inaugural flight will land at the airport in June. The airport is registered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the code 'NUM'.
Future of The Futuristic City- Challenges
Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg in October 2018 that the project will be finished in 2025, and phase one is nearing completion.
While the construction is going ahead despite the challenges of the pandemic, everything is not going according to the plan. The historic plummet in oil prices has exacerbated the situation. For the construction of such mamoth project, a constant source of massive funding is required. Also, the Wester investors are not as forthcoming as expected due to the murder of Saudi-US journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
After his death, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman reportedly said, “No one will invest for years."
Neom chief executive Nadhmi Al Nasr said, “The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the progress of the project has been minimal, but the biggest challenge remained acquiring more global and national partnerships.”
Neom chief executive Nadhmi Al Nasr | Photo Courtesy: Arab News
So, while the prince hopes to finish the construction work of the project by 2025, it seems not everyone would like to be a part of Saudi Arabia’s futuristic city.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
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