Sunday, February 28, 2010

Emergent Cities

As any emergent system, a city is a pattern through time.

Intelligence is an emergent system generated by the brain, therefore it is mandatory that we think about cities as a brain, the same way that we think about ant colonies in the scale of a super organism, as patterns of activity that through complexity and intensity generates a city.

Cities are the solution to the human brain storage capacity problem. Cities store and transmit new ideas useful for its general population. Avoiding that new and powerful technologies disappear once they’re invented, as also the communities of self-organized neighborhoods helps its inhabitants to be more ‘intelligent’.

A city its a set of cells that interact among each other, each cell depends strongly of a DNA code for its development, but also need a sense of ‘location’ to perform its specific task in the “organism”. As Jane Jacobs mentioned, sidewalks are the main catalyzer for the flux of information between inhabitants of a city. Information is Anything that has the capacity to change something. Sidewalks provide the correct amount and type of local interactions. This can be thought as the inter-cellular connections in the city life.

The value of the exchange among unknowns lies in how this benefits the city’s super-organism. Life in cities depends on the un-even interaction among unknowns, which produces a change in the individual behavior.

All the differentiated abilities like memory, pattern recognition, and computation capacity, have a parallelism with the development of urban centers: it is in their shared-information cores their capacity to mirror and amplify patterns of urban behavior, and the ability to solve complex supply and demand problems.

In any case, intelligent systems depend simultaneously of its “structure and organization” as also in their “interconnection”, intelligence requires connectivity and organization. Intelligent systems have reciprocal relations: you affect your neighbor and your neighbor affects you.

This influence is generated by “informal” encounters of unknown (among each other) agents, Te way ‘informal’ illuminates the city is in stressing patterns that emerge from new relations and interconnections. Te city is a “natural environment” and formal patterns do underlie some of nature (spherical planets, hexagonal snowflakes) but most of the cosmos shows non-linear organisations. Brain waves, heartbeats, or the growth of galaxies show paterns that are fractal and dynamic.

Contemporary and emergent cities are often defined as ‘chaotic’. Chaos definition is: A mathematically determinate state of turbulence. Is it chaos just a different kind of order?, it is more and different patterns and arangements which give order to a whole, all happening at the same time and with different levels of intensity, and emergence can be defined as the internal will of chaotic systems to reach coherence.

Add more information, energy, mass, or whatever, and a system will reach a critical point and jump into a new regime. Under these conditions new patterns of organization are emerging spontaneously: Surfaces not lines, zones not points, Scatter not equal support, and moving locus instead of fixed centers.