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IBS Speaker Series: What Urban Science can tell you about the cities of the present, past and future

October 25, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

View the recording of this talk here:

Zoom link: – email for password.

Speaker: Luis Bettencourt

Abstract: The confluence of worldwide urbanization and of bigger data of many kinds and from many places is enabling a new, more systematic, and more scientific understanding of human societies and of cities in particular.

In this talk, I will provide a brief overview of the emergent field of urban science, a body of evidence-based, interdisciplinary, and predictive knowledge about the general processes that create, sustain, and expand human settlements of all sizes, from small towns to megacities.  I will show that classical models of geography, economics, and sociology must be integrated and expanded to produce a simple but very generative synthesis of cities as socio-economic networks, with specific properties tied to the space and the built environment. I will show how the study of human settlements across scales provides an integrative nexus for concepts and evidence (data) across the social sciences, including a deeper understanding of agglomeration effects, social heterogeneity and inequality, neighborhood effects, learning, decision-making, and growth. I will finish with some considerations of present and future challenges of sustainability and resilience, which require the kind of scientific knowledge about cities that generalizes to new and unprecedented circumstances.

Luis Bettencourt
Mansueto Urban Luis, December 3, 2018. (Photo by Jean Lachat)

Bio: Luís M. A. Bettencourt is the Inaugural Director the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at the University of Chicago and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the College. He is also Associate Faculty of the Department of Sociology and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He conducts interdisciplinary research on complex adaptive systems in biology and society and leads research and education programs in Urban Science and Sustainable Development. His research focuses on the identification, modeling and theory of the systemic processes and properties that create and sustain cities. This work uses interdisciplinary concepts together with many different forms of evidence and data to create new theoretical and methodological syntheses that account for the complex properties of urban environments and produce new science-based solutions. This work also involves partnerships and collaborations with international networks of researchers, local governments and NGOs to understand and systematize urban knowledge, and to foster processes of sustainable development. His work is well-known academically and has been influential in developing new theory and new creative approaches to challenges of urbanization worldwide.


October 25, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


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