Dubai: How will the city look in the future?

Few cities are future-ready like Dubai. Let’s imagine what the Emirate will become 50 years from now

The future..
The future..

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 11:26 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 3:30 PM

Remember The Sons of Two Suns, the UAE’s first post-apocalyptic science fiction short film, which was directed by S.A. Zaidi, produced by Ghanem Ghubash and released in April 2013? The first sci-fi film is a stark reminder that Dubai doesn’t belong to that genre. It is a surreal city where towering monoliths are scattered across an arid landscape, luxury cars vroom and a gritty postfuture haze abounds the emirate. Dubai is getting future-ready as the UAE celebrates its golden jubilee today.

On June 29, 2020, despite the raging Covid-19 pandemic His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched Dubai Future Labs, the region’s first applied laboratory in the field of research, testing and applications of future technology. Located in Area 2071 of the Dubai Future district, it serves as a global incubator to test cutting-edge innovation, designing and developing advanced technologies that are being deployed in key sectors.

Accessibility and mobility

Accessibility and mobility will be the game-changers for the emirate in the next 50 years. For instance, Dubai is eyeing a Hyperloop-style transportation system that promises to be faster than a speeding jet. Our ability to predict the future will always fall short because 50 years ago, Dubai did not bear any resemblance to what we see today. By 2071, Dubai will be the place to explore and implement changes to the way we live. It will emerge as the most connected city in the world, where human spirit will triumph because of the visionary leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Human brains can only process linear thinking. However, in this day and age, we are moving on to an exponential front as Dubai Future Labs unpacks. It’s a fountainhead of ease of experimenting with new ideas.

Innovations galore

Unmanned helicopter taxis, virtual contact in government services and a massive boost to machine learning developments are in the works. For instance, it has already tested an 18-rotor drone taxi. The prototype of an electric self-flying taxi took its first test flight in the emirate. No wonder, Dubai Future Labs’ cuttingedge research shows human capital aggregation, technological disruption and regulatory hacking all rolled into one.

Dubai: A corporation

Dubai is evolving like a business, a corporation in a unique amalgamation of diverse cultures. It has become a hub for hyper collaboration and imagination as it powers social change riding high on education, art and intellect. The sectoral lines are getting blurred by the day because of interconnectivity. Dubai Future Labs shows that a future organisation will be algorithmic, and not human-centred. The initiative is acting as an enabler for people to discover a new role that allows them to collaborate, create and convene.

Moonshot projects

Dubai will be one of the first cities in the world that will have autonomous vehicles. Elon Musk’s Tesla is selling electric cars in the Middle East as Model S and Model X have hit the road. It has also set up a global blockchain council. Human longevity, space exploration, algorithmic enterprises and AI-enabled living are here to stay. The emirate also aims to become a city that defines a sharing economy, where ownership may soon become a thing of the past. So, “on demand” and “as needed” could emerge as the subscription model of living in the emirate.

Artificial Intelligence: An opportunity

AI is not a threat as people continuously adapt to change and that change is rapid due to the speed at which machine learning operates. Consider the case of Emirates Mars Mission that started with the intent to drive interest and inspiration in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the UAE. The initiative of Sheikh Mohammed aims to inspire people to dream big.

Rapid transformation

When it comes to renewables, the UAE and Dubai are moving towards solar energy and other sources of energy. By 2050, 75 per cent of the energy in Dubai will be from renewable sources. Dubai is also looking to transform the way buildings are constructed. It is also driving a change in green construction practices. It is investing heavily in creating a post-oil diversified economy, where space and energy programmes and a vibrant startup culture are picture perfect in Dubai’s incredible transformation at a breakneck and breathtaking speed.

Vibrant start-up culture

Start-up culture has struck deep roots in Dubai and the wider Middle East and North Africa region. What has been the trigger? Data shows that an increasingly connected population — the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the highest YouTube usages per capita globally — and an easy access to capital that is willing to seek venture opportunities beyond property are powering the paradigm shift. To top it all, there is no dearth of talent that wants to be an integral part of Dubai’s incredible journey to become another Silicon Valley. In 50 years, the world will celebrate Dubai for its emergence as a centre for creating talented human resources instead of monolithic concrete structures. And like The Sons of Two Suns, Dubai Future Labs is one of the several initiatives that sought to make the emirate future-ready.

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