If you’re a human in this century, the odds are overwhelming that you are a city-dweller. These hubs of human cultural activity exert a powerful allure – and most people understand that this appeal is due to some deep link between the density, pace, wealth, and opportunity of cities. But what is a city, really? And why have the vast majority of human beings migrated to these intense and often difficult locations? Cities breed not just ideas but also crime, disease, and inequality. We live amidst a shift in what a normal human life looks and feels like, akin to the transition from our lives as nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers — only this time, it is happening before our eyes. How can we cultivate the best that cities offer and minimize the predicaments they pose? A powerful new science of the city has emerged in just the last few years, connecting the metropolis through physics to the properties that govern animal metabolisms, ecological diversity, and economics.
This week’s guest is Luis Bettencourt, External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute and Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at the University of Chicago. We spoke while he was visiting Santa Fe to lead SFI’s Global Sustainability Summer School to talk about what makes a city such a fertile zone for innovation of all kinds, and how to help ensure the future of the city is one human beings want to live in.
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Visit The Mansueto Institute's Website.
Watch a short video on Bettencourt’s work to eliminate slums.
Here are the three papers we discussed in this episode:
"Toward cities without slums: Topology and the spatial evolution of neighborhoods" in Science Advances.
"The Origins of Scaling in Cities" in Science.
“Towards a statistical mechanics of cities” in Science Advances.
Learn more about SFI's Global Sustainability Summer School.
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