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Terrifying or inspiring? Saudi Arabia unveils plan for 170km city

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Saudi Arabia may be known for medieval barbarity and oil, but the kingdom is turning into a futuristic ecotopia.

The latest showcase of this unlikely vision is The Line, a mirrored city 500 meters high, 200 meters wide and 170 km long.

The metropolis is said to have 1.5 million inhabitants by 2045. The project is expected to cost up to $1 trillion.

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Future residents are promised a “civilization revolution” without cars, roads or emissions. Underground trains take them from start to finish in 20 minutes, and all amenities are within a five-minute walk.

The facilities are layered vertically over the 34 square kilometers city. spaces for work, leisure and home are accessible in three dimensions: up, down and across.

Vertically stratified communities will challenge traditional flat, horizontal cities.

The plans may sound ridiculous, but construction is already underway. This week, the Saudi government unveiled new design concepts for the city.

“The designs unveiled today for the city’s vertically stratified communities will challenge traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for wildlife conservation and enhanced human livability,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said in a statement.

You can feast/torture your eyes on the images in our gallery below. Or take a look at a hubris promo video for the project at the top of this page.

The Line is part of the wider Neom development in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

While MBS has promised a “civilization revolution that puts people first,” the project will displace thousands of people already living on the site.

A community tribesman made videos protesting the evictions. He was later shot dead by Saudi security forces.

Privacy activists have raised even more alarms. They fear that collecting data from digital IDs, facial recognition, phones and IoT devices will create a high-tech surveillance state.

Last year, Joseph Bradley, Head of Technology and Digital at Neom, told ZDNet that he wanted to collect 90% of the information from the communities. Current smart cities, he added, use only about 1% of the available data.

From what we know about Saudi Arabia, you know it’s unlikely to be used for good.

Vincent Mosco, the author of “The smart city in a digital world”, told Insider that only full transparency about data collection could allay the concerns.

“We have no clear idea of ​​what will happen,” he said. “From what we know about Saudi Arabia, you know it’s unlikely to be used for good.”

Comments from MBS have further fueled fears. In 2017 he has told Bloomberg News that Neom’s laws would not be necessary to serve the citizens.

“Imagine being the governor of New York with no public demands,” he said. “How much could you create for the business and private sector?”

Some critics argue that his vision could only exist in science fiction.

Observers have made comparisons with: the endless runway of Fast & Furious 6the desert homes of Duneand the 1001 car train in snow piercer.

The latter may be unfair – op snow piercer. At least the train could leave the desert when the Apocalpyse arrives.

The fictional equations will nevertheless persist until the designs become reality. Only then will we find out if The Line is an urban paradise, a fascist fever dream, or just… another mega project grit.

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