Expo 2020 Dubai is a series of mind-blowing experiences bundled at one location with an intent to capture human achievements and their aspirations. It is a moment in humanity’s efforts to articulate the challenges of the time in a manner that is intelligible to a large number of common people. It is a place where the past and present coalesce to imagine a better and safer tomorrow.
The Expo that is currently in progress in the most happening city of the world seeks to capture the most pressing issue of our time —saving the earth from certain perdition that awaits it if humans continue to plunder it the way they are doing.
My two-day foray into the treasures of the Expo only yielded so much. However much you may try, you may not be able to see all that you want to. It requires multiple visits and several hours of non-stop engagement with a large number of experiences that are lined up at most of the large pavilions. Humungous amount of multi-media content stares at you as you navigate through the pathways of the pavilions. One needs to allocate some quality time to make best use of it. Some of it may be commonplace knowledge but it bears repetition in order to engage and sensitise younger and junior members of the visitors.
On day 1 of the trip, my initial knee-jerk reaction was dismissive — it is just a Global Village 2.0. But that was not to be. As I browsed through various pavilions, I realised there is more to it than meets the eye. There is a singular vision that animates all the activity at what is justly called the world’s greatest show. Sustainability — regeneration of precious, limited resources of the mother earth — is the one big idea that shines through it all. It is an altruistic non-profit enterprise. There are no business deals happening on the ground — be it B to C or B to B. There will be no definitive numbers of the business done and deals struck at the end of it. It is a humanity’s collective effort to fix its moral compass so that future does not go astray, and the world stays safe from impending dangers.
Despite the inherently apolitical nature of the Expo, there are some who tried to rake up politics. Some wire agency journalists visited the pavilions of some politically-troubled countries and tried to see the signs of the unrest that had been rocking their nations. This, I believe, is a futile exercise at political muck raking. There has hardly been any dispute on the need to save planet earth from ecological disaster irrespective of the nature of regimes ruling various nations. Though there is a section of right-wing politicians in the Western world who are sceptical of climate change disaster, it is still considered a fringe group. Though it at one time boasted of support from populist politicians such as former US president Donald Trump, it continues to be a pariah in the enlightened Western world. Apart from a tiny section of climate deniers, there is a consensus across global political spectrum on the need to arrest global warming by cutting down on carbon emissions.
Another great idea that is making waves at the Expo is artificial intelligence. How AI can automate things in a way that was not seen before and can enhance human capacities by several times is the leitmotif of several exhibits. Huge digital displays in all kinds of shapes beam immersive learning experiences on themes linked to climate and artificial intelligence.
All the pulsating activity at pavilions big and small has intimations of dawn of a new era — a period of zero emissions powered by renewable energy and artificial intelligence. It may take a while to realise this dream but Expo 2020 Dubai will certainly go down as a seminal event in this important epoch-making journey.
We all now know that the Expo site will transition into District 2020 after March 2022 with a variety of commercial, residential, and socio-cultural developments. Despite what has been decided which is unlikely to be reviewed, I for one suggest the new district be a permanent host of sorts for the once-in-four-years event. This, I am afraid, is not allowed under the constitution of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the custodian of the event, which is envisaged as a touring tableaux of human achievements, aspirations and cultures. Is it bizarre, outlandish to suggest that there should be a permanent host for this great event? Dubai is ideally positioned at the crossroads of East and West and modernity and tradition. It is a hub of international aviation with connections to all parts of the world and has the stellar record of hosting global events. It is just a thought and let’s leave it at that for now.
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