The Possible issue 06: We need new, better answers

April 2020

Words by Tom Smith

As the COVID-19 pandemic shutters communities and economies around the world, we face a global crisis of a magnitude never before seen. We do not yet know how we will extricate ourselves or what the world will look like when we do, only that it is likely to be a very different place.

Much of the content in the latest issue of The Possible was written before the pandemic. But the issues it tackles remain just as urgent, if not more so. We started the magazine as a space to think about how cities are changing, and to explore solutions to challenges such as population growth, urbanization, ageing demographics and air pollution. All of these have played a part in accelerating the spread of COVID-19 and exacerbating its impact, and they will no doubt be important factors in future epidemics, as will climate change.

Digital technologies will be part of the solution, but they also raise new issues, particularly at the interface with systems that will always be fundamentally human. Robotics and AI will be invaluable in healthcare, for example, but to supplement rather than replace in-person care. Smarter cities offer designers new opportunities to “nudge” people towards healthier choices — but how far should we go? And who should own — and control — exponentially increasing amounts of urban data?

Our focus at WSP has long been on future-ready designs: equipped to respond to the change we know is coming; flexible enough to adapt to what we can’t foresee. We’ll be redoubling our efforts, and we invite our partners and clients to collaborate with us to find new, better answers to the question of how we should live together in this complex, ever-changing world. We need our collective creativity, ingenuity and insight now than ever — let’s keep the conversation going.

Tom Smith is global director, property & buildings at WSP

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