Dubai of the UAE and its push for science, space, and technology

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Link here. The article provides some context for the various stories I have posted recently about the UAE’s ambitions in both space and other hi-tech projects.

They are without doubt thinking big, and the article gives their effort a strong positive spin. However, this quote seemed significant to me:

If Dubai’s future is as a knowledge hub, it will have to fulfill the dreams of more than just the Emiratis. With rare exceptions, only they are allowed to be citizens, and since visas are based on employment, deportation isn’t so much an extreme consequence as an everyday worry. That may have mattered less to the Emiratis when labor was expendable. But to compete for global talent, Dubai needs to transform from a transitory polyglot society to a permanently cosmopolitan one—an ambition that has become a talking point of Sheikh Mohammed. “The uniqueness of Dubai is the fact that it is a melting pot of the world’s cultures, ethnicities, and minds in one city,” he said in a statement.

Al Gergawi acknowledges the challenge of that transition in his own vague way. “I’m saying we’re not perfect,” he says. “We are young kids on the block, if you look at the block as the world. Every day we say: ‘How can we improve? How can we move to the next step in every single aspect?’”

Maybe it is necessary to grade Dubai on a curve. By the standards of a liberal democracy, Dubai remains retrograde. There is no democratic representation, poor freedom of the press, and homosexuality remains illegal. But compared with the rest of the Arab world, Dubai is a beacon of openness and modernity. Thirty percent of the cabinet members are female (compared with 0 percent in Saudi Arabia and 6 percent in Jordan), as is 66 percent of the government workforce.

Then there was this quote, by Sarah Amiri, the 30-year-old science lead for the UAE’s Mars mission, dubbed Hope.

“We get told by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed that the most important part is the scientists and engineers who are going to come out of this,” she explains. Accordingly, the mission staff skews young. Everyone is under 35, the average age is 27, and 30 percent are female. Amiri speaks passionately about inspiring the youth of the Arab world. “We need to give them monumental challenges to solve.” [emphasis mine]

“Get told.” This is still a top-down society. Sheikh Mohammad might have wonderful dreams, but such dreams cannot easily be imposed on a society by one man. I remain skeptical, though I readily admit that they have done remarkably well in a very short period of time.

At the same time, I cannot help wondering if they would welcome any Israeli scientists or engineers. Somehow I doubt it, no matter how much they claim that they are a melting pot.


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  • LocalFluff

    A good dictator (king) is better than bad democratically elected politicians. The big problem is that the next dictator might be really bad. Dictatorship is what the Middle east has to deal with, and the UAE obviously has a good dictator. They have a great free economy and is a valuable hub for international trade. Adding a space program to that is fantastic. And talking officially about integration with foreign cultures is unheard of in the muslim world, which insists on retaining its intolerant stone age life style of slavery and backwardness. I wish Trump showed support for the UAE rather than Turkey.

    UAE being stuck between a collapsing Saudi Arabia and an Iran that surely will take advantage of that coming chaos, is in a hard spot, though. We’ll see if their money can save them from returning to the stone age. Their air force seems to at least match that of Iran. This is how one has to think about the ME, what will the next war look like? Because it is just a matter of time.

  • ken anthony

    I was going to say the same thing, LocalFluff. The main thing wrong with a monarchy is good rulers die. We’ve long known the dangers of democracy. All forms of govt. are, to a greater or lessor extent, tyrannies. Even anarchy is tyranny (just with more petty tyrants.)

    The problem is we aren’t getting better. It used to be a given that children would do better than their parents.

  • Garry

    Robert Zimmerman wrote,

    “At the same time, I cannot help wondering if they would welcome any Israeli scientists or engineers. Somehow I doubt it, no matter how much they claim that they are a melting pot.”

    I concur. One thing that suggests this is the aftermath of the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai in 2010, suspected to be the work of Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency).

    There were 26 suspects, believed to be Israelis who stole identities of people, and who arrived in Dubai from different countries and dispersed to different countries after the assassination.

    In reaction, the UAE government announced that

    “the police of the UAE will develop the skills to identify persons who are Israelis. So the police will deny the entry of any person as a suspected Israeli.”

    In other words, if you carry an American (or British, or French, etc.) passport and have the proper visa, don’t have a Jewish name, and have nothing else that identifies you as Jewish, so long as the police think you might be Jewish, you can be denied entry to UAE.

    I’m curious whether this has actually been put into practice, but even if it hasn’t, it’s hard to come up with a more arbitrarily racist policy than this one.

  • wayne

    A melting pot, eh?

    It’s a made-up country, with made-up ‘citizens,’ and 100% imported labor, and they didn’t exist before 1971.

    You can put Gold leaf on a pig, but you still have a pig.

    They will NOT import anything that was manufactured in, or went through, Israel. (And as far as financial products, such as insurance, they will not buy anything that has any connection to Israel whatsoever.)
    Tariff’s exist for almost all imported goods/services, ranging from 5-75%.

  • Cotour

    Everything in this UAE plan ultimately hinges on rejecting or reforming Islam. Let that set in for a moment.

    The UAE, although very advanced in many areas is still based on a patriarchal society model. This society model is stunted and becomes a dark place. What else could it ultimately become other than dark? How can we know this? Look at the foundation on which this society stands.

  • wayne

    It’s a religious-dictatorship, no matter how they try to contort themselves and square the circle.

  • Cotour

    A friend sent me a series of political posters the other day and one in particular stuck out to me. It read:



    I think this applies here, this is something that can never be realized in the UAE or pretty much anywhere in the region, really not a part of their fundamental thought process.

  • wodun

    Good monarchs and dictators don’t always perform well throughout their life. This is another benefit to changing leadership democratically.

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