Speaker Series

Has COVID & AI Accelerated the “Arrival of the Jetsons Family Citizenry”?

From Future Proofing our Evolving Communities & Cities to Autonomous Mobility!

2020 is certainly a year we all want to leave behind, and as we enter 2021, we now start to wonder what a New Normal existence will look like!  Our GENXYZ THRIVES Speakers certainly identified the changes that we will not leave behind – remote work, remote learning and the rise of the almighty vaccine era of COVID19!

 Are we now more accepting to adopt technology that is evolving how we live, work and play? Are we now a step closer to a futuristic society of science fiction?  For those who remember the animated sci-fi of “The Jetsons”, (Jetsons:_The_Movie), it was about the life of a fictional citizens living in future cities in the sky, flying cars and robot housekeepers. So has AI, accelerated by COVID 19, ushered in the “Arrival of the Jetsons Citizenry”?  Many of the GEN X, Y & Z demographic who grew up  as digital natives grew up watching reruns of The Jetsons!

So what will it take to move to the next generation of future proofed future communities, companies and cities – places where humans can thrive at work, play and study?

Image Credit: FutureCite Inc

Our GENXYZ THRIVES Closing Keynote Speaker, Simon O’Byrne, (SVP of Global Community Development at Stantec) takes us through the signals, indicators and trends, and as well key emerging developments that move our world into what they call  a VACU Age. VACU is the name of a tool and methodology originated by the military for use by planners, decision makers and governments to assess Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VACU) of such states or situations.  COVID 19 has shifted the world into such a “situational VACU Age”!

Simon shares with us, his perspectives and insightful knowledge on key elements positioning the world in this VACU Age, and discusses ways we can all play a part to move the dial  – and help us to navigate and proactively build out the future resiliency of our communities and cities.

Image Credit: Stantec

Simon has given us a lot to think and act on, so we decided to post our Video On Demand (VOD) in a 2 part series.   As for our Podcast format, we have posted this entire Keynote in one continuous run (see at the end of this article to download and enjoy!).



Closing Keynote Part 1 (Below)

Image Credit: Stantec
Image Credit: Stantec

Simon explains in easily understood terms, how VACU Age highlighted above and how it affects our everyday living, learning and lifestyle. As a result of COVID, the entire world has shifted from increased trade risks and disruption of supply chains, to increased disparity in the wealth distribution and access to key survival primal needs of food and shelter security.

Image Credti: Stantec
Image Credit: Stantec

Simon also provides perspectives on how being in a VACU Age impacts our Canadian Economy, our monetary and regulatory policies, and he also touches on why we need to do away with obstructive red tape. So what are the elements we need to better understand our challenges and to move forward to act on our priorities?

  • COVID 19
  • Trade Risks, Political Risks
  • Environmental Change, Technological Change
  • Petrostate vs Electrostate
  • Supply Chain Disruptions
  • Economy, Consumer and Government Debt
  • Climate Refugees


Closing Keynote Part 2 (Below)

Image Credit: Stantec
Image Credit: Stantec

In Part 2, Simon provides real life examples of disruptive technology and demographic shifts and the impact on future housing trends and the changing designs of future communities. So what it will take to create truly smart cities? He goes into detail on the former Alphabet “Sidewalk Lab” City development along the shores of Toronto’s lakefront.

Following he provides insights into Alberta’s own autonomous car network project.  Simon then provides in depth answers to questions lobbed at him by our effervescent conference host Brent Jensen, along with questions from viewers including future innovation, and infrastructure progress towards smart cities, the pros and limitations of 5G connectivity, and the upside for Alberta’s economy to building TransPod (high-speed tube transportation) between Calgary and Edmonton.

Think of how you wish to make a difference in your community, city and country? Share your ideas!

  • Demographic Shifts
  • Technology Shifts
  • Housing Affordability,
  • Working from Home
  • Smart Cities, Sidewalk Labs
  • Autonomous Connected Car Networks
  • Questions on Future Infrastructure, 5G pros and cons, and the merits of TransPod (high speed tube transportation) for Alberta and Canada

About Simon O’Byrne

Image Credit: Speakers Bureau Canada

Simon O’Byrne is both an award-winning urban designer/planner and Senior Vice President of Stantec’s global Community Development business. As a city building expert, he has been frequently quoted in European and North American media and has done many keynote talks on both continents. Simon is very active in the community and has chaired many different initiatives and organizations, such as the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Vibrancy Task Force, Habitat for Humanity National Leadership Council, Winter Cities and the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation. He has also been named as one of Edmonton’s Power 30 by the Edmonton Journal, one of the fifty most influential Albertans by Alberta Venture and was in Avenue magazine’s first Top 40 Under 40 list.

About Stantec
Communities are fundamental. Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That’s why at Stantec, we always design with community in mind.  We care about the communities we serve—because they’re our communities too. This allows us to assess what’s needed and connect our expertise, to appreciate nuances and envision what’s never been considered, to bring together diverse perspectives so we can collaborate toward a shared success. We’re designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.  Stantec trades on the TSX and the NYSE under the symbol STN

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