Title: The hidden structures in cities, technological innovation and beyond.

Abstract: Cities are now home to the majority of the world’s population and built environments are centers of population growth and energy consumption. The unprecedented pace of urbanization presents both significant challenges and opportunities, including poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and adaption to climate change. How we manage urbanization, by advancing technological tools and transforming social, economic, and physical structure of the area, will have a huge impact on developing countries, and indirectly on developed countries over a long term. In order to design, build and manage cities in ways that address these issues, we need both a scientific and an engineering understanding of cities that provide theoretical predictions and practical solutions. Despite cities’ intricate dynamics, a number of self-similar patterns have been uncovered, irrelevant to geographical and historical factors: distribution of population size, fractality of spatial distribution, and universal structure of economic activities. In this talk, I will explain how these hidden structures can only reveal through certain mathematical tools. The self-similarity among cities, reinforced by scaling analyses on various urban characteristics, suggests that universal underlying dynamics act at all scales. These empirical findings are integrated to form a foundation for a science of cities, the recent ongoing effort to develop a quantitative, computational, mechanistic framework. I will describe such research efforts, theoretical, empirical and methodological, in the direction toward understanding the dynamic process underpinning both urbanization and innovation. Among others, I will especially focus on the work that describes the privileged role that cities have played in wealth creation, increasing productivity and generating innovation.

Tea & cake available from 3pm, talk starts at 3.15pm for 30 minutes to then be followed by discussion.