“A ‘conscious city’ is going to happen because that’s where technology is leading us. But technology has a way of guiding human behaviour to bad habits”

Frustration drives some people to anger, some to despair, and some to write manifestos. It is into this last bracket that the British-Israeli architect, researcher, writer, speaker and idealist Itai Palti falls. The Conscious Cities Manifesto he co-authored with neuroscience professor Moshe Bar in 2015 was born of frustration, he says – though he usually prefers to put a more optimistic spin on it.

“I think the manifesto came out of this realization that we have so much more potential to put humans at the centre of the design process, and that it’s not being actualized. As a profession, architecture can have a lot of positive social impact but in practice there’s sometimes a laziness and an arrogance about it. I guess I can say that because I’m speaking from within.”

For all Palti’s readiness to criticize his peers, his ideas seem to have struck a chord. Over the last four years, he has rallied many of them to his cause of science-informed, human-centred design, alongside a diverse group of scientists, researchers and technologists. Palti was not the first to spot the synergies between neuroscience and architecture – San Diego’s Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) was founded in 2003 – but in marrying it to the opportunities of smart cities, he’s tapped into the zeitgeist. The Conscious Cities movement resonates with an array of current concerns, from wellbeing and mental health to techno-optimism and our darker fears about the unseen agendas we are hardcoding into an AI-driven world …

Read the rest of my interview with Itai Palti in issue 05 of The Possible.

World in motion

Harvard professor Bill Kerr argues that global talent migration is a ‘gift’ that helps societies to flourish. But cities need to get over the idea of being the next Silicon Valley and make the system work for everyone. I interviewed him for issue 05 of The Possible, and made a vain attempt to condense his entire book into a single infographic… Most startling statistic: One in every 11 US patents is granted to a Chinese or Indian inventor living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Possible issue 05

It’s here: issue 05 of The Possible, the thought leadership magazine that my company Wordmule produces for WSP.

In this issue: solutions for tackling urban air pollution, experiencing the future of entertainment, making space for nature in cities, and plugging the smartphone brain drain.