- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Saudi Arabia, at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, announced the construction of a new city called Neom that will probably be populated more by robots than humans.

Welcome to the 21st century. Urban planning, 2017 style.

“We will build the city from scratch, it will be drone-friendly and a center for the development of robotics,” said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Arab News reported. “We want to create something different. Neom is a place for dreamers who want to create something new in the world, something extraordinary.”

The city, infused with $500 billion in investments, will be located on the border with Jordan and Egypt and powered by solar and wind.

It’s being billed as a business zone, a 26,500-square-kilometer mecca for the tech-minded. And it’s reportedly aimed at decreasing Saudi’s reliance on oil.

“Robots,” said Marc Raibert, the CEO of Boston Dynamics, to the conference crowd, “could perform a variety of functions, covering areas such as security, logistics, home deliveries and even looking after the elderly and infirm.”

The city already has its own webpage — DiscoverNeom.com — complete with descriptions that sound like it’s trying to be the modern-day version of mystical Atlantis.

“NEOM is positioned to become an aspirational society that heralds the future of human civilization by offering its inhabitants an idyllic lifestyle set against a backdrop of a community founded on modern architecture, lush green spaces, quality of life, safety and technology in service of humanity paired with excellent economic opportunities,” the site stated.

And this: “NEOM will be the place to be … [and] redefine what urban entertainment means.”

More to follow — but the ads are already playing on U.S. television. Just one question to address: Will Neom be run by sharia? ‘Cause if it is — if it’s more of the Saudi same in terms of religion first, freedom second, women’s rights somewhere in the vicinity of 100 — then the city definitely won’t be the “place to be” for all.

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