Conference on Complex Systems 2017

Sep 17 - 22. Cancun, Mexico

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The logic of cities

Luis Bettencourt talked about the importance of complexity to have balanced cities.

Published on September 19, 2017 15:57

Aleida Rueda / Translation by Carlos López Natarén


To prevent the biggest problems in cities it is essential to study their logic, said Luis Bettencourt in his plenary conference at the Conference on Complex Science 2017 in Cancun.

“We now have more knowledge about cities that comes from sciences like geography, sociology and economy. And we can articulate their logic as a complex system”, has said.

Luis Bettencourt is one of the leading researchers in urban science and complex systems. He has studied cities and their urbanization extensively. His research is focused on the creation of interdisciplinary synthesis  to describe the cities in quantitative and qualitative forms, thanks to the great availability of data around the world.

“There are two spaces that need to fit into each other: there are people which is moving in the city and there is infraestructure (trains, streets, transportation) which provide a space in which these mixing interations occur. When these two elements get together it is when magic emerges”, said Bettencourt.

“In bigger cities, these interactions intensify. Then, by understanding that logic, we can have a bunch of generic properties that describe cities and predict the complicated logic of economy or society based on the logic of simpler social networks”.

When social interactions are at balance with the elements of the infrastructure, people in cities get some benefits: they can be social, economical, or of knowledge.

“When the balance is positive or negative, cities can exist. The problem is when this balance is broken" and the cost of living in the city outweighs the benefits. "This can happen when transportation becomes too expensive or when cities become too congested or very dangerous”, said Bettencourt.

For him, this knowledge from a complex view can be useful to prevent urban problems and help us to make qualitative transformations in the cities.

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