The Unforeseen Future City: Its Real and Imaginary Counterparts

by Prof. Elsa Arcaute

Date: Wednesday, Jun 15, 2022 | 16:00-17:00 CET

Abstract: Through centuries we have aimed at understanding what gives rise to the characteristics that we observe in cities. We have created models, abstracting the main variables that can replicate the phenomenon of interest, knowing that these models and simulations of different scenarios are only approximations of reality and possible futures. These efforts bring us closer to pinning down the mechanisms that lead to undesired states, such as inequality. But the future will always elude us, since there will always be unforeseen shocks to the system, such as technological innovations, that will create irreversible changes. In this talk, we will reflect on how we can think about evolution in the city from the complexity science perspective, such that changes can transition cities towards more sustainable systems.

Speaker Biography: Elsa Arcaute is a Professor of Complexity Science at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL). She holds a master's and a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge, where she applied Clifford algebras to the problem of constructing a space for general relativity and quantum mechanics using Penrose's Twistors formalism. In 2006, she moved to the field of Complexity Science, when joining the Complexity and Networks group at Imperial College London to study self-organisation in ant colonies. For the past 10 years, she has dedicated her research to the study of urban systems, focusing on understanding the emergence of hierarchies, the characterisation of resilience, the definition of cities, and the emergence of innovation.