1. A living water factory in Dubai
Dubai has a reputation as a futuristic city, with superscrapers like the Burj Khalifa and plans for a hyperloop rail system where passengers will travel in a vacuum tube faster than an aeroplane. At the same time, the city’s wealth has been built on an old-fashioned fossil-fuel economy that takes virtually no account of its long-term impacts on future generations.
With 300 years of oil still in the ground, Dubai and other cities in the United Arab Emirates are unlikely to kick their reliance on fossil fuels any time soon. But they are certainly looking at innovative ways to develop more sustainable economies – an effort led by the UAE’s Minister for the Future.
One of these is a vision for the world’s first biodesalination plant to guarantee Dubai’s freshwater needs over coming decades. Featured in the city’s Museum of the Future, which is set to open its doors in 2021, this living factory combines the latest in bioengineering with artificial intelligence.
Imagine a gigantic mile-wide jellyfish-like organism floating off the coast of the city, in which the genes of mangrove trees (whose roots are one of nature’s best desalinators) have been combined with jellyfish DNA (known for their capacity to absorb liquid), a biological creation that sucks both salt and pollutants out of the water. Drinking a glass of water will never be the same again.