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Surely that's a hexagon?

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You don't need a train that stops 85 times. You need log2(n) tracks and and at most log2(n) transfers.

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Aug 1, 2022·edited Aug 1, 2022

The fundamental idea of NEOM is fine. Basically they picked a bay near the Suez canal (a very busy waterway!) that's close to the population centers of Israel and Egypt (and to a lesser extent Iraq). And because of the Suez it's close to Europe too. The basic idea was to build a port and a startup city with various kinds of connectivity to these other places. And because the land was uninhabited (or at least it was after the expulsions) the religious scholars and legal apparatus of Saudi Arabia had no existing infrastructure and could be a sort of direct and absolute region MBS could set the rules for at whim. Besides, it's so far removed from Saudi Arabia's main population centers that people could just ignore it if they wanted to. So he could bring in foreigners or whatever. Even the ski resort idea isn't insane: Saudi Arabia's mountains get very cold. Lure people in with first class amenities, aristocratic luxuries like servants, regulatory/cultural freedom, and fat Saudi salaries/funding. Convince them to ignore that they're working for a murderous dictator. And there you go. It's basically a variation of the Chinese model which worked pretty well: designate a province as a special economic zone and dump money in and shoot anyone who dissents.

A lot of the initial decision making makes sense as a reaction to the previous model city project they had. It was set in a much more dense area and interlinked with Saudi transport to bus in workers. Not a bad idea but this meant it just kind of became another Saudi city, albeit a well planned one.

The thing is the Chinese didn't build giant Communist palaces. They built factories. Lots of factories. And boring Communist apartment blocks that are ugly and not great to live in. But they do at least house people. Meanwhile the first thing to be worked on in NEOM was the palace followed by workers quarters (of varying quality depending on if you're a western expert or a poor worker). The entire thing now appears to be a monument to MBS. And not even one that's been built yet.

If they actually wanted this to work they should be building a port and airport, industrial/office parks, wiring the entire thing for fiber, and building normal upscale apartments with retail and all that. Money could do the rest. And then if they want to they could build a solid gold statue in the center of MBS or something. Instead they're making plans to build a marina for yachts before a major industrial port.

You know, I'm beginning to think absolute monarchy might have some flaws as a form of government.

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I was surprised by the article about Latin American drone ventures. When they started by talking about the expensive “middle mile” I at first thought they were using a recombinant buzzword generator. But then I realized this could be exactly the comparative advantage of an aerial system in an urban area. Have a few big users put a little bit of investment into a few hubs for their sites, and suddenly it’s easy to get stuff from hub to hub, and the big user can have their own personalized last mile solution on-site. This is for a very different sort of application than mass transit, which is specifically about creating infrastructure in a dense city for getting through some linear network that is moderately close to many points in the city - but then still has trouble getting you the last mile if you are mobility impaired or carrying a package. This “middle mile” aerial shipment doesn’t solve the problem of urban transportation, and doesn’t expand anyones world the way that twenty minute access to the city does (or three hour access to all the major cities of the continent). But if you can’t retrofit your city with good uncontested travel, your institution might still be able to set up multiple sites where small packages are sent around efficiently (whether for light manufacturing or pharmaceutical delivery to hospitals or whatever the need is).

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You think there is a less than 25% chance that the NEOM venture completely disappears in a couple years?

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Aug 1, 2022·edited Aug 1, 2022

Lots of us cringe at the word 'crypto' - some are no-coiners, but others are bitcoin maximalists who are every reservation you have about the "cryptocurrency industry" but believe bitcoin is different for a number of reasons.

If we want you to do a deep dive on bitcoin maximalism, what format can we put on prediction markets? Any advice there?

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So now I'm curious: what is the optimal configuration for public transit? Let's say you want a city of comparable volume (500 x 200 x 170000 = 17 billion cu m). You've got access to all of MBS's money, and as much Saudi desert as you want. The goal is to be able to get from any point A to any point B as quickly as possible.

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Your description of Neom, as scathing as it is, still does not capture the sheer stupidity of this project. My former company landed a contract with the Saudis to contribute tech to Neom, and while I can’t reveal much due to NDAs, that project remains the most memorable clusterf*ck of nonsense I have ever experienced. The average 9-year-old addicted to Minecraft could probably craft a better city than the fools running the show at Neom.

So much arrogance. So much stupidity. SO MUCH MONEY.

The Saudis had absolutely asinine requests that they refused to compromise on, despite us telling them it would never work. Our project team kept helplessly cracking up every time we did our internal review of design docs. Usually this review was quite a serious matter, but we’d just all be helplessly laughing at how stupid and impossible our proposed builds had become.

You may be wondering why my former company was willing to create design docs for impossible builds… It was because we all knew Neom would NEVER reach the point where they could actually try to implement the build. The project would crumble far before then, and the CEO was quite confident his company could then say, “Aw, shucks, too bad we never got the chance to actually build this for you! Thanks for the millions you gave us for the design plans.”

The most bizarre aspect of the whole thing was that all the Saudis seemed deadly serious about the whole thing, and excitedly ate up every single preposterous deliverable we gave them.

I never managed to tell how many of them were just too terrified to point out the absurdity, and how many truly believed in the project in all its ridiculous glory. I got the feeling that a few key leaders were true believers, while everyone else was just keeping their mouths shut.

One thing that’s worth pointing out is that the Saudis have a major issue with unemployment, so many Saudis may be fine with the stupidity and waste, as long as it’s making massive amounts of jobs. And it currently is, soooo, goal accomplished? But this is obviously a very poor bandaid on their employment problem that will definitely come back to bite them in the butt.

Years later, I still don’t know how to wrap my head around that project. It all just feels like a fever dream. But I will greatly enjoy watching it go down in flames, especially after their horrific treatment of locals at the build site.

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I know the US spends lots of money, sure, but who's going to keep them in check, now if the Saudis are going to throw $1T down the drain like that, at what point does it become ethical to intervene? I'm pretty sure if they started believing that oil came from the devil and started digging all their oil and burning it a lot of people would be in favor of intervention. This is not that much farther.

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Scott really angling to get Kashoggi'd, here

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I’d definitely visit Neon, when built.

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…why is it a line??

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Speaking of SimCity, when is someone going to build an optimal SimCity city in real life? Now that is a utopian project that I would love to see and that may have more than a snowball's chance in hell of working out.

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I love understated British humor: according to the listing, Bull Sand Fort's property type is "detached."

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OK, let's do the math. 1WTC has a 56x56 meter footprint. If NEOM is 200 x 170,000 meters, that's a about 10,800 1WTC towers. 1WTC cost $3.9 billion, so NEOM should come in at $42 trillion. OK, let's credit them with a learning curve at an exponent of 85%. It would still cost $4.8 trillion, approximately seven years of Saudi GDP.

And some things don't have learning curves. 10,800 1WTC towers means 486 million tons of structural steel, and 2.16 billion tons of concrete. At current prices of $1220/ton for steel and $80/ton for concrete, that's $765 billion for the most basic raw materials alone. And really, purchases at that scale will distort the market so that they're spending a terabuck by the time the project is just a mountain of I-beams and bagged cement on the shores of Aqaba.

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My favourite thing about NEOM is how much more sensible it would be if it you simply made it 200m high and 500m wide instead of 500m tall and 200m wide. It would be vastly less expensive to build, and vastly easier for people to get around.

Don't get me wrong, it's still an insanely stupid idea even when it's on its side. But that's what I like about it; it's an insanely stupid idea made even more insanely stupid by the simple stupid decision to make it taller than it is wide.

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Aug 2, 2022·edited Aug 2, 2022

While we're talking about Neom, Egypt is relocating its capital to a new city (named the New Administrative Capitol) being built in the desert, designed <to make sure the government listens to the demands of the military instead of the demands of the street> to relieve congestion in the capital. It's going to include widely separated single-use neighborhoods, a new 22 mile long river, sporting facilities for an Olympics that may or may not come there, the largest military headquarters in the world, and a 1 km tall obelisk. While it's not as absurd as Noem, I find it more objectionable because Egypt isn't rolling in cash like Saudi Arabia.


There is some precedent for doing futuristic things by using Native Americans' special legal status to avoid regulations. An ocean fertilization project off the Pacific northwest was done in collaboration with the Haida nation, before international political backlash stopped the project.


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Greg Cochran instead recommends the Saudis instead use their money to make bets with potentially huge payoffs:


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On the one hand, isn't this Neom thing just a really inefficient arcology ? Arcologies have been proposed in the past, and sadly, the way things are going, they're probably the future.

On the other hand, insane projects such as these are usually just vehicles designed explicitly for embezzlement. Actually building anything out in the real world would be extremely counterproductive for that purpose. You want to embezzle the money, not sink it into parts and labor !

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Something I wonder from time to time is why no one tries to make a charter city in America.

80 percent of the regulatory burdens that block places like eg, San Francisco from becoming denser or building more trains are city and state level political issues that you could avoid by not being in California or SF.

If you put a brand new city in the middle of Nebraska or something on cheap land, you wouldn't be able to get out of federal taxes or federal drug laws, but you could still compete in a lot of ways with US cities, and you get a huge natural bonus of cheap and legal immigration from the entire United States, free trade with US, etc. etc.

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Come on giant asteroid

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Maybe Neom will be like Trantor, with strips of moving walkways of different speeds you can step between. #fictionalEvidence.

Also, what about earthquakes and the Arabian plate continental drift? Won't the thing crack?

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I am starting to get a bit annoyed at all the moralizing coming from the West re: the Neom project. Yeah, it’s a crazy and impractical idea. So what? Perhaps that’s what the world needs right now.

It’s especially grating to read these complaints about the cost of its creation, especially when the West has spent an order of magnitude more money destroying things in the region.

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Saudi Arabia doesn't have a great reputation for human rights. But those shiny pictures look great. How plausible is it that they can actually build the line?:

The construction cost of WTC1 was $3.9 billion. It is 64 meters on each side and 360m tall not counting the antenna. That comes to $2644/m^3 including all the regulatory costs and high labor costs that the US has and Saudi Arabia doesn't have.

Saudi is proposing to construct 200m * 500m * 170km for $1 trillion. That comes to $58/m^3. I thought the combination of economies of scale, lower labor costs, and lower regulation could plausibly save them 1 OOM, but 2 OOMs is hard to believe.

I don't totally hate the line geometry. So long as it's wide enough and dense enough you can probably get most of what you need without even using transit. In the rural US linear strings of towns naturally develop along highways. The air temperature 500m above ground where it's exposed will be much lower than the surface temperature, and there will be indoor corridors too, so the walkability is totally plausible. Line geometry puts everyone within walking distance of wide open nature.

I think they got that 20 minute transit time number by just dividing 170km by the speed of the shanghai maglev and rounding down. In reality it's probably at least twice that. Perhaps a high speed train which only stops once every 40km, and lower speed trains to fill in the gaps.

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Favorite read on Substack this week. Thank you ($250K is actually pretty cheap for a pad in Maldives. If the whole getting there and what happens in rough weather gets worked out might be worth going in for island 2, if island one survives that is).

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I predict that the Catawba Digital Economic Zone will do well unless crypto collapses completely.

I'm reminded of the bit in Heinlein about how it wasn't the gold miners who got rich, it was the people who sold things to gold miners.

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'You can do slightly better than this with a combination of express and local trains, but you’re never going to compensate for the fact that laying your city out in a line is shooting yourself in the foot'

I would be interested to see the math behind this statement.

Back of the envelope guesstimate: If the total journey time between one end of the city and the other is 40mins for 170 KM with no stops and making the assumption that each stop adds 2 minutes and every train leaves every 5 mins then:

If there is a main stop every 42.5 Km and trains that run between main stops stop every 10 and a bit KM, and local trains that run between these sub-mains stops stop every 2 km then even the longest journey would take a max of:

46 mins + 5 mins wait (one end of the line to the other plus 3 stops)

14 mins + 5 mins wait (2 sub-stations back)

10 mins + 5 mins wait (4 local stops)

15 mins for 1 KM walk time

I'm sure this could be optimized but even the longest trip using these simplistic assumptions would have a maximum journey time of less than 90mins which as a Los Angeles resident is not to be sneezed at.

Plus the build costs of straight railway lines parallel to the city would make a huge costs savings.

Don't like the Saudis but to my simple mind the idea isn't so crazy.

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The Line is what happens when you give Le Corbusier an unlimited budget and a potato sack full of meth.

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Given some of the images and concepts, it seems more likely that Saudi-Arabia has developed Matrix compact living.

For evidence, note that the very name contains NEO. Update your priors.

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There is really no chance at all of Neom, and especially The Line, ever being built. I do not now the exact mechanichs behind oil sheikhs and their megalomania but it seems in their world saying something (especially accompanied by nice pictures made by Western consulting firms) is almost as good as actually doing something.

A relevant parallel here is Masdar City (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masdar_City) in UAE. Declared in 2006 (with nice pictures made by Western consulting firms) it was supposed to be the next generation self-sustainable eco-friendly future city in the middle of the desert. In fact it was eerily similar to Neom. It was supposed to be finished in 2016. Needless to say, today there is nothing but some dusty concrete low-rises where the maps say that Masdar City is located.

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I find the overt sneering towards Neom specifically and Saudi Arabia in general, both here specifically, and from contemporary UMC American culture in general, somewhere between culturally insensitive (if I’m being generous) and extremely racist (if I’m not).

Once upon a time, what is now St Petersburg was a marshy swamp, Russia was a strange Asiatic country to the East of Europe. Peter the Great dragged Russia out of that state by devoting resources that might have gone somewhere else (conceivably to the Russian people, more likely to the hedonistic pleasure of himself, or possibly to pay off powerful individuals to further entrench his rule) into turning that marshy swamp into real estate that is as valuable today as any in Russia.

It was an inspired bit of statecraft.

Was Peter the Great a flawless guy, umm no, he wasn’t, so what, we have St Petersburg now.

As mentioned, the clock is ticking on oil wealth, Saudi Arabia probably has something on the order of 30-60 years to figure out how to sustain itself post oil.

How should it plan for that future?

Let’s be real, conceivably Saudi Arabia oil wealth could be spent on its people, but for most of the past 100 years or whatever it’s been directly towards hedonism and entrenching the royal family’s rule.

That’s the actual trade off.

If MBS has directed the Neom budget towards a fleet of super yachts for all his buddies, no one here would be mocking him for it, Bloomberg wouldn’t be writing snide articles about it. And the country MBS is responsible for would be that much closer towards their post oil abyss.

Is MBS a flawless guy, ha ha ha ha, it’s obviously dumb to even put it in those terms, when Peter the Great was less than a flawless guy that was just par for the course.

But for all his flaws, between yachts for all, and creating a new St Petersburg, Neom is an inspired attempt at statecraft, it’s putting real resources behind a vision for the future in a way we’ve proven beyond incapable of.

It’s become obvious that the Western response to this is to sneer down their nose, plenty of people would have sneered at the development of Dubai, or the development of any number of Chinese cities, let’s check back in 100 years.

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This recent SMBC cartoon reminded me of the Model City Mondays series generally, and the Catawba Digital Economic Zone is even more relevant to it than most: https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/enginomics

As for Neom, if it's actually going to be a *building* 500m x 200 m x 170 km, then they can solve the "too hot to walk everywhere" problem with air conditioning.

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Aug 2, 2022·edited Aug 2, 2022

So the whole Line thing sounds completely absurd... but.

Coastal cities are sometimes spread along a shoreline. If you run a subway, or an above-ground train line coursing every few minutes - some of them do - you create perhaps the only form of public transport that doesn't suck and can reliably service a large portion of the population. I live in a city with this kind of solution, and proximity to the train line is a huge deal when it comes to logistics of getting places, the viability of commuting, etc.

On the other hand linemaxxing into a 170km monstrosity is pointless - crossing the whole thing in 20 minutes means you have two terminals of high-speed rail and the train doesn't stop between them at all. So if you want to go from 10% to 90% that'll require combining low speed rail + high speed rail + low speed rail, effectively over an hour of travel time at best.

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Aug 2, 2022·edited Aug 2, 2022

Neom, the Line city seems reasonable.

1) I don't like life in cities, I prefer countryside but most people prefer cities because they provide more connections to other people, therefore big cities is the way to go.

2) Neom doesn't make sense as a project to protect the nature when there is very little nature around. I know that the deserts can have their own ecosystem but it really is insignificant compared to luscious Amazon rainforests.

3) It makes sense to make a city like a big building for economic reasons. Less air conditioning costs, less road infrastructure, economics of scale works quite well etc.

4) I don't understand how they plan to build a train in the city if the width is only 200 meters. But probably they mean to build it adjacent to the city. The transportation can easily work. You make, let's say 5 stops (each 2 minutes) on the way, that would make the total trip (the worst case scenario) 30 minutes long (20 min + 10 min). On the other side build a local train line with stops every 2 km (14 additional stops, each stop 1 minute stopping time, travel time between stops 2 minutes, on average 20 minutes travel). On average you would spend 35 min to travel where you need. Comparable to travel times in other big cities, probably even less considering constant trafic jams in many places, like San Francisco.

5) The long building is preferable to square or round one because it allows more sunlight.

6) The project will most likely fail because 500 billion is nowhere near the amount that would be needed for such a grandiose project. They should have started with something smaller, to show that it can be done and create more investor interest.

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The more money Saudis waste on vain garbage like this, the less money they'll have available to promote Wahhabism . It's a good thing they're squandering their future.

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Aug 2, 2022·edited Aug 2, 2022

> Saudi Arabia builds a structure at least 100m x 100m x 1000m before 2040 or the Singularity, whichever comes first: <1%

Can I bet against this somehow? I think that for example 1:300 odds would be a good bet that I would take.

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This has been my favourite Model City Monday post so far.

Maldives Floating City: ah, now we know what FFXIV's next housing expansion will look like, neat! (I know developer plan pictures always have a fictive slant to them, but those photos look particularly...video-gamey.)

>This kind of smart, walkable, mixed-used urbanism is illegal to build in most American cities.

Could we possibly solve land use forever by just setting up a bunch of pseudo-Neoms everywhere, hiring any potential resident as a "construction worker", but there'd be no actual Neom to build. (Like whenever local governments decide to waste money on a sportsball convention center. Those are American Neoms.) Or maybe the Negative Externality Oppositional Mandate (NEOM) Act would authorize such "temporary development" (auto-renewed with no sunset clause) for a permanent series of ongoing infrastructure projects that never quite seem to turn into Ecclesiastes vanity cities. It'd even create government jobs too, under the reinstated Works In Progress Administration.

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Apart from the public transit nightmare, the line city also seems like a security nightmare.

A line section in the middle in the desert is probably dependent on water being pumped in from the sides.

So you have a single big pipeline which provides water to millions of people. Our section in the middle is just two terrorist attacks away from being without a water supply.

Of course, this can be worked around. So have ten cubic meters of local water storage plus a year of emergency rations for each citizen. Have every section have its own sat uplink in case someone cuts the fiber cables.

Or perhaps this dependence is a feature? If the citizens in the line city ever get ideas above their station, their wise king can just turn off their water supply and interweb tubes?

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There are benefits and downsides to both the Norwegian state model and the Saudi state model. You're just not happy with details of the Saudi model. Not every state can save and save and save. At some point you have to implement something. Norway has lost it's ship building industry to Singapore because they utilized capital. Saudi is building. Some of it work, some of it will most certainly fail -- that is called risk -- and investors can deal with risk.

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"'The city that delivers new wonders for the world'." James Bond looked up from the screen. "What delivery are we expecting, exactly?"

"A linear particle accelerator. The investors were told it was a high-speed rail line."

"Got a higher speed than they bargained for, eh?" Bond sipped his martini. "I think I'd prefer to walk."

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I see some comments here really trying to spread the “good news” about the creation of Neom, as it were. I guess you’d call that Neom Genesis Evangelion.

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I’m a bit disappointed they aren’t trying to build a proper arcology. I’ve always been curious whether they’d actually work.

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So, I live in Dubai and work in logistics technology. Neom is supposed to be a port city and so I was recently contacted by a recruiter for Neom and I declined to do an interview. There is no way my wife will move to Saudi, especially not to an empty city. Plus it all sounds like nonsense.

I wish I had done the interview so I could give more insight here - sorry guys!

This is the only other thing I experienced related to Neom: During the Dubai Expo, Saudi Arabia was spending massively on advertising along the main highway here, initially for Neom, and then that was scrapped after a few months and replaced with Saudi tourism. Now all of it is gone. I remember seeing that massive billboard every day that didn't even explain it was a city or that it was in Saudi, and then looking up the website and thinking it looked like a crypto scam.

These days we just have regular crypto scams advertised all along that highway.

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Three Gorges Dam, was the world’s largest ever construction project. It took 10 years to build and used 16 million tonnes of concrete.

A single wall that is 1 meter thick, 500 meters tall and 170km long, would require 204 million tonnes of concrete.

So just a single wall that is the height and length of Neom would require 12-13 times more concrete than the Three Gorges Dam project.

The plan isn’t really possible. I doubt it will ever be more than a port.

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Neom IS a billionaire passion project. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, meaning it literally belongs to the monarch, meaning it's a glorified piece of private property with an UN seat.

If your intuition is that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is squandering resources that should be going to the Saudi people, then the same intuition should apply to any resources squandered by any billionaire. If your intuition is that is that a billionaire's wealth is his to spend, then this intuition should extend to the wealth of the Saud family.

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what *should* the Saudis build?

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RE: Neom's dimensions - "500 meters tall, 200 meters wide, and (wait for it) 170 km long"

This reminds me of the scene in "This is Spinal Tap" where the Stonehenge prop was 18 inches high rather than the 18 feet height that Nigel had intended - because he labelled it with a double quote rather than a single quote. Is there any reason not to believe that a similar mistake has been made here? Perhaps the translator (from Arabic to English) misunderstood or isn't fully competent in English? That's all I've got.

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>> But in fact, this is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, squandering public money.

On some level I agree, but on a different level this is a very strange take. Saudi Arabia has more than enough money. It also has more than enough problems. In a very real sense, Saudi Arabia - and the Middle East - would be better off if Saudi Arabia had less money. The Saudi prince MBS seems to be setting it onto a course of having less money. It will thereby have less money to do thing like bomb Yemen. As an additional upside, it will certainly build something cool in the process. As silly as this project is, I can't help but have a soft spot for it.

>But the problem isn’t just that Neom is too big. Everything about it is doomed. There are reasons most cities aren’t designed as 200 meter wide, 170 km long lines; this maximizes the distance between any two points!

You're neglecting one dimension. What this design does, essentially, is trade a horizontal dimension for the vertical one. At 500m high, even if a single level is 10m high this gives you 50 levels to work with. So the cross-section of this "city" is 50 levels by 200m = 10 level*km, which is comparable to the cross-section of a 2 km city of 5 levels.

Note that the Saudis are currently also building the world's tallest tower : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeddah_Tower . Unlike the west, the Saudis are able to build things relatively quickly, I'd put the odds of a 100m x 100m x 1000m structure by 2040 at around 90% conditional on MBS staying in power for the next 10 years.

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That Neom concept sort of reminds me of the continent spanning cities of David Wingrove's Chung Kuo sci-fi novels. Only thinner.

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"The Line" seems like High Modernism as the farce to the 20th century version's tragedy.

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Lol I’m an ML engineer in Tesla Autopilot and trust me he means it when he says FSD next year. In his timeline we’re already 5 years late. He sure knows how to bring some energy into the team to put it mildly

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Saudi Arabia is just a big Nauru. These incompetent societies can't retain wealth, they always find a way to blow it on some stupid shit.

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The reflections fron the mirrorred walls will be blinding hot.

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With all the focus on travel time, I see the video claims a 5 minute walk to key amenities in a modular type of mixed zone configuration. Presumably there would be larger commercial sectors that might require a train but not from one end to the other of course

This sounds like a high probability white elephant but I'm not sure it's conceptually impossible. I imagine the novel construction challenge will be the key problem. I have to wonder what the comparable expected cost of the same city built as a core/suburb layout would be. No potholes!

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Any doubts that Neom's design involved no real engineers should be dispelled by the picture of a giant dam that /slopes outwards/.

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Re. "Neom Neom Neom":

Oh, now I get it.

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If you have the unlimited resources and budget something like the line would require, you could try something like this for transportation: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=p9Ig19gYP9o

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OMG! I want ALL these places to be real. I'm sure you're right and it's mostly BS, but this is the sci-fi future we were promised. I WANT IT!! WAAAAAH!!!

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Re: Neom

1. I'm not even certain why extremely rich people would want to live there. They like avoiding inconveniences as much as the next person. Given the choice of all the places to live in the world, I have a hard time seeing how Saudi Arabia managed to compete.

2. I'm not certain it is fair to refer to it as "public money" being spent. Saudi Arabia isn't a constitutional monarchy with parliamentary supremacy. It's a personal fiefdom with the external trappings of a government.

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Maybe the Neom people are playing the video game Endless Legend? It has some quirky rules that make it advantageous to build your city as a line.

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A long thin city isn't a bad idea, provided that you use it as a spine and then grow thicker along it. So you might start off with a city 100km x 500m and then widen it in stages to 100kmx10km.

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Counterpoint - we're trying to get back to villages which were already open-air arcology 'projects'.

They were self-sustaining in terms of work, energy, food, water, and waste processing. Any homestead was a micro version of that. Simply surrounding the whole thing in concrete and electrical wires and plumbing is...a trivial difference which people seem oddly obsessed with.

This is like that Mexican fisherman story, where he relaxes a lot and plays guitar on the beach and some westerner gets him to start a fishing boat operation which over decades grows to a huge size, and this makes him wealthy enough through an eventual IPO so he can...spend time doing some pole fishing and playing guitar on the beach. Which he already had.

The obsession with cities and how to turn them into connected villages is something we already had and lost. We are trying to engineer our way back towards them in a seemingly blind way. In the end the 'amenities' of cities are just stupid crap for rich people which no/very few commoners need or really want. Just about anywhere people want to work close to where they live, go to a local grocery store, etc. and not have to ride a train or hyperloop or drive or walk or ride a horse very far to get there. I not only see the appeal, I'm already much happier not going more than 5km from where I live 99% of the time.

The city I'm in does next to nothing for the vast majority of people living in it, other than make everything harder and take longer. With remote working almost everything cities offer in terms of density benefits can be done remotely. Not to mention...most of the 'benefits' are just bigger profits for the already wealthy to be even wealthier and have no impact or meaning for the average person.

I think the trend will be to decentralise populations into many smaller towns and villages where life is more pleasant. It is already what most people choose to do when they have a choice - cities are a place of last resort as people fled dying small towns where big businesses rolled through with illegal and aggressive land grabs, like what we are seeing in Denmark and Sri Lanka right now under the false guise of 'organic ag' with purposefully impossible sudden death bans on nitrogen fertilisers.

There is simply no way or reason to find a way to make some megacity feel homey and small and human scale. If we want smaller, then build smaller. Going over 100,000 or 200,000 population where you can support a small university and many high schools and primary schools and such is pointless for the average person. This isn't some Buckminster Fuller fantasy, it was simply the reality for the vast majority of human history and it turns out we want to go back to that way of living, but with a few goodies from industrialisation.

After all we've done, the answers were what we already had, except we went on a journey to make it all workable with technology.

A few automated farming operations and delivery services, vertical or not, and a series of interconnected villages and towns with greenbelts around them will work much better. Despite the weird and idiotically fervent push by many employers to go 'back to work' even though everyone was already working from home just fine, with technology and just a little bit more automation than we have today, we could really improve quality of life for the vast majority of people and the answer is not going to be cities of any kind.

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Apart from every other "livability" aspect to Neom, I call bullshit on the energy aspects.

There's going to be a LOT of energy generated in that dense line – how is it supposed to be removed? Simply drawing a picture with "cool air arrows" flowing into it (the famously cool desert air of Saudi Arabia?) is not a solution.

You couldn't make this scheme work with standard US energy per capita levels (and, BTW, there's no way local solar has the required energy density), and yet nowhere do you see chillers, massive AC blowers, and nuclear power stations...

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>>The minimum safe interval between two vehicles is the reaction time for the emergency brake to be applied from an incident involving the vehicle above, plus the time required for that brake to bring the vehicle to a full stop.<<

Let's focus on my imagined "train" of pods.

I instinctively arranged the pods in a train because it greatly increases the space to the next train.

Pod Dimensions:

5 rows of 4 abreast seats with seat belts.

20 passengers max.

One row per meter. No aisle.

Seats load from the side.

All rows are accessible simultaneously.

Pod is 5 meters long plus rubber bumper bag.

Linear motor?

Minimal weight.

I imagined a train of ten pods which is approximately 50 meters long. The pods in the train are touching each other with a rubber bumper at the front of esch pod. One foot thick?

There is a space of 450 meters before the next train at peak capacity.

The reaction time is essentially zero. All of the pods in the train are controlled simultaneously.

For example, CentCom commands all trains to stop. Each pod has an onboard computer. The ten computers in the train communicate to bring the train to a stop.

Example: One of the pods asks CentCom for permission to exit the train and stop at a station. CentCom commands the ten computers to perform the exit maneuver.


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I suspect the true purpose of Neom is to transfer money out of the national treasury, or the royal coffers, and into the hands of select people, in a way that's more-legal or less-offensive than direct payments.

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Why should public transportation be safer than driving?

Of course I'm not opposed to making the public system as safe as possible. Say 2X safer than driving.

Driving: 1000 deaths per year

Public: 500 deaths per year

So you would not implement the public system? And continue to have 1000 deaths per year?

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Actually every pod has three on-board computers. They execute in parallel and compare results: if one cpu disagrees, it is ignored, the malfunction signal is sent, and that pod is taken out of service ASAP.

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We can do .5G. Originally I was thinking that 400 kph must be reached before the next station is reached, but with a continuous A/D lane, that is not necessary.

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There are actually three lanes:

Cruising lane

A/D lane

Airlock lane

Pods move to the short airlock lane before reaching a station. There can be more than one pod waiting to enter the airlock.

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To Erusian:

Did you ever take a look? The design is getting better.


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>>I think you're going to have too many conflicts between accelerating and decelerating pods; the better option would be to have separate acceleration and deceleration lanes either side of the fast lane, a grade-separated bypass route for pods that can't reach full speed (that probably means an exit on the opposite side that goes to an overpass that delivers the pod to the deceleration lane).<<

Peter's latest brilliant idea: A/D lane switches between accelerating and decelerating every 15 seconds. 12 seconds to clear the lane.

>>CentCom is just your signalling operations centre, right?<<

CentCom directly controls the entire system. Well, it tells the onboard computers what to do.

>>Your calculations of the numbers of trips per hours assume that the service is not peaky; typical public transport is peaky enough that they get 50% of their weekly trips in two 90-minute peak periods on just the five weekdays, one before work and one after. Obviously, in NEOM or something, you could maybe manipulate work hours to be more evenly spread out, but people will still prefer to all have their leisure at the same time, so there will be some peakiness whatever you do. <<

I'm working on peakiness.

>>"The stopping pod sidles to the right into the A/D lane and decelerates." Annoyingly, this has never actually been demonstrated on any maglev system; normally, maglev vehicles are maintained in the centre of their piste by the magnetic fields being shaped to do so, rather than by controls in the vehicles themselves. Points are achieved by dynamically reshaping the fields, or by mechanically moving a swinging section of piste. Neither of which would really work for what you are trying to do. <<

From the internet:

>>The hyperloop itself is completely levitated, stabilised and propelled by magnetic forces, so there is no physical contact with the infrastructure; therefore the operation expenses are extremely low, as the loop is near to maintenance free. The lane switch technology is also based on magnetic fields – without any mechanical context or moving components we can chose to go left or right just by controlling the magnetic field of the vehicle. It is very convenient to have vehicles that can switch lanes at a very high frequency. It is the combination of frictionless movement and magnetic propulsion that allows it to be very fast.<<


It's a lot of fun to imagine something and then go find it!

>>I like the buttons system (like a lift), but you probably want to add on a mobile phone app so passengers don't have to queue to push the button. <<

I abandoned the button idea because I want to know the identity of riders. (So they can be called to the platform by name, so we know health requirements, so we know typical destinations, etc.) Mobile app -- definitely.

>>You'd need to do a simulation to make sure you actually have enough acceleration/deceleration space, there are going to be big speed differentials on that A/D lane.<<

I'm thinking about making the airlock lane continuous.

Fast Lane: 300 kph

A/D Lane: 100-300 kph

Slow Lane: 0-100 kph (airlock lane)

The slow lane is actually 100 lanes of a kilometer each separated by an airlock.

CentCom would have a rule: only two moving pods in a slow segment at a time. It has about a minute to get a pod out of an airlock segment after acceleration begins. That gives CentCom some flexibility as to when a pod enters the A/D lane.

Note that a departing pod can sit outside of the airlock indefinitely. CentCom can easily wait 15 seconds for the accel phase before accelerating the pod.

It takes less than 12 secs to accelerate from 100 kph to 300 kph at .5 G. Same time for deceleration at .5G. Note that the less time a pod spends in the A/D lane the better.

Average speed in the A/D lane is 200 kph. At that speed pods are moving 55 m per second. In 12 seconds they will move 660 meters. If every pod has 660 meters for itself, there will be no collisions. There could be 150 pods in the 100 km A/D lane.

The maximum rate of turnover at a station is one pod every two minutes. 100 pods arriving and 100 departing every 2 minutes. Pods pass through the A/D lane in 12 seconds. Imagine that every 15 seconds the A/D lane switches from accelerating to decelerating.

100 pods accelerate: 15 seconds

100 pods decelerate: 15 seconds

90 seconds: no pods in A/D lane.

More realistically pods leave and arrive at random times. So 200 pods distributed randomly over 120 seconds (according to the Poisson distribution I believe)

Wild-ass guess for typical max per 15 second interval: 40 pods. Note the max figure is not actually random, but is under the control of CentCom.

So we have 40 pods in the A/D lane rather than 150. PLUS they are ALL accelerating or ALL decelerating. That's bound to help.

>>If it doesn't work, then you can still solve most of the issues with a more conventional approach: three lines, one ("slow" or "local") that stops at all 100 stations, one ("semi-fast" or "local express") that stops at 20-25 stations, and one ("fast" or "express") that stops at 4-5 stations. The fast line would likely need to be maglev, the semi-fast and slow are probably better done as regular trains (you don't need airlocks then); you arrange for cross-platform transfers (ie you step off one train and the same platform has the other line on the other side). I expect that most passengers would stay on the slow until they reached the fast station rather than switching to the semi-fast, even though they would actually save them time (people hate transferring)<<

No pod swutching!

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"But in fact, this is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, squandering public money."

Not really. Saudi Arabia does not have a public thing, a res publica. It is not a republic. It is something much more medieval.

This does not mean that he is going to get away with. It is not his money. his father is still alive and is still the King. If it's anybody's money it is the King's. Or, it is the family's money. The family being the descendants of MBS's grandfather Abdulaziz ibn Saud, who number in the thousands.

And here is MBS's real problem. He needs the approval of the family to be crowned as his father's successor. In Europe kingship is inherited by very specific rules of legitimate inheritance. We know the names and faces of the next three kings of England. Islamic lands never adopted those types of rules.

It is the same problem that the Roman's had. If you want a model of the bad possibilities read Shakespeare's plays about the War of the Roses.

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Hello Scott,

Just discovered your Model City Monday posts - refreshing, thanks so much. I find the NEOM project to be not very sustainable but I am glad interest in model cities is growing and I hope to see more in North America.

Have you discovered any model communities focused on sustainabiilty and smart communities in the U.S.? Given the housing shortages on the West Coast and growing interest in sustainability, net zero and ecocommunities, there is likely almost unlimited demand if a network can build the right communities.

I ask because this is a topic of great personal interest and because we fabricate wooden buildings in our factory in Oregon and we are very interested as acting as suppliers and partners to develop these kinds of communities. We see scaling sustainable building systems by developing communiites as opposed to only custom buildings as the best way forward. We have experience on over 1,000 buildings already and are investing in a new factory, CNC machines and industrial robots and are creating a housing innovation cluster in Oregon. Here are some examples of our buildings


Let me know. We are connected to many other innovators working in the building industry that share our interest - here are a 37 innovators on my Youtube channel as an example of people working at the literal cutting edge of timber, technology, robotics, digital fabrication and helping software eat construction https://www.youtube.com/c/MassTimberCity/videos

and we would like to connect to a larger community like the one you have created.

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