Wicked Problems: how to engineer a better world - RSA

Wicked Problems: how to engineer a better world

Fellowship events

 -  | BST British Summer Time

The Steps, The RSA, 8 John Adam Street, WC2N 6EZ

  • Social innovation
  • Behaviour change
  • Fellowship

Our world is filled with pernicious problems. How, for example, did novice pilots learn to fly without taking to the air and risking their lives?

How should cities process mountains of waste without polluting the environment? Challenges that tangle personal, public, and planetary aspects―often occurring in health care, infrastructure, business and policy―are known as wicked problems, and they are not going away anytime soon.

In this talk, Guru Madhavan FRSA, will focus on key facets of systems engineering―efficiency, vagueness, vulnerability, safety, maintenance and resilience―illuminating how wicked problems have emerged throughout history and how best to address them in the future. He will explore best-known tragedies and lesser-known tales, from the efficient design of battleships to a volcano eruption that curtailed global commerce, and how maintenance of our sanitation systems or repair of our world. Braided throughout will be the uplifting tale of Edwin Link, an unsung hero who revolutionised aviation with his flight trainer. In Link’s story, Madhavan uncovers a model mindset to engage with wickedness.

Madhavan’s new book, on which the talk will be based, is an homage to society’s innovators and maintainers. Wicked Problems offers a refreshing vision to build a better future and demonstrates how engineering is a cultural choice―one that requires us to restlessly find ways to transform society but perhaps more critically, to care for the creations that already exist.

This event is free to attend and open to RSA Fellows, friends and colleagues.

Taking part in RSA in-person events  

To participate in this event, you will need to register for a ticket for capacity purposes. If you wish to register another attendee, this must be done separately using a different email address. We encourage all attendees who are ill or showing symptoms of illness to stay home and cancel their tickets if they are no longer able to join us. 

At the RSA, we strive to create inclusive and supportive environments for all Fellows. We recognise that individuals may require different forms of support to fully participate in our events and activities. Therefore, we welcome and encourage Fellows to bring the support they feel is necessary, whether it be a carer, an emotional support animal, or any other form of assistance. We ask that you email [email protected] in advance of attending one of our events to confirm your requirements to ensure that the venues can accommodate such requirements. Our aim is to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and valued, and we are committed to accommodating diverse needs to foster an inclusive community. 

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Please be aware that registrations will close two hours before the event is due to start. 


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