Inventing Future Cities

Inventing Future Cities

By Michael Batty

How we can invent—but not predict—the future of cities.





How we can invent—but not predict—the future of cities.

We cannot predict future cities, but we can invent them. Cities are largely unpredictable because they are complex systems that are more like organisms than machines. Neither the laws of economics nor the laws of mechanics apply; cities are the product of countless individual and collective decisions that do not conform to any grand plan. They are the product of our inventions; they evolve. In Inventing Future Cities, Michael Batty explores what we need to understand about cities in order to invent their future.

Batty outlines certain themes—principles—that apply to all cities. He investigates not the invention of artifacts but inventive processes. Today form is becoming ever more divorced from function; information networks now shape the traditional functions of cities as places of exchange and innovation. By the end of this century, most of the world's population will live in cities, large or small, sometimes contiguous, and always connected; in an urbanized world, it will be increasingly difficult to define a city by its physical boundaries.

Batty discusses the coming great transition from a world with few cities to a world of all cities; argues that future cities will be defined as clusters in a hierarchy; describes the future “high-frequency,” real-time streaming city; considers urban sprawl and urban renewal; and maps the waves of technological change, which grow ever more intense and lead to continuous innovation—an unending process of creative destruction out of which future cities will emerge.

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  • With a clear voice and compelling vision, Batty provides a roadmap for urban invention and reinvention in the unpredictable twenty-first century, with an eye for the interplay between technology and urban form. A significant contribution to the field of urban planning and urbanism more broadly.

    Edward Glaeser

    Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University; author of Triumph of the City

  • This is an inspiring book filled with thought-provoking ideas, from the intriguing tension between predictability and unpredictability of future cities to complexity theory and smart cities. Its tremendous scope will greatly enrich our understanding and thinking about past, present, and future cities.

    Mei-Po Kwan

    Professor of Geography and Geographic Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign; coeditor of Space-Time Integration in Geography and GIScience: Research Frontiers in the U.S. and China

  • With Inventing Future Cities, Mike Batty provides a fresh look at the future of an urbanizing world. Weaving together history and spatial theory with scenario analysis, Batty examines what future patterns and distributions of cities may look like in an era of disruptive technologies and global connectivity. This volume is a must-read for anyone interested in our urban future.

    Karen C. Seto

    Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

  • Against the rising optimism in the growth of urban science and the predictive power of big data in service to urban improvement, Michael Batty draws on his decades of research to caution that, in his view, there may be limits to our knowledge of cities as complex systems. Those who seek to make progress in understanding how cities work—as scientists, scholars, or policy makers—will benefit from considering the challenges raised by this book.

    Luís M. A. Bettencourt

    Pritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, University of Chicago

  • Michael Batty reconstitutes urban space into an unrecognizable zone full of new discoveries. This book is an invitation to travel novel vectors.

    Saskia Sassen

    Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University; author of The Global City