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Sander E. van der Leeuw
ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems
USA



Published on 21 June 2018   DOI : 10.21494/ISTE.OP.2018.0267

Abstract

Résumé

Keywords

Mots-clés

This paper first argues that the driving force behind the aggregation of human settlement, throughout the centuries, has been the ever-increasing need for collective problem solving. Villages and cities have emerged in ‘dissipative flow structures’ in which organization (information processing capacity) spread out from cities into their hinterland, enabing energy and other resources to increasingly flow into cities to meet the needs of the population. Information processing is thus the driver of urbanization, and energy is the constraint. With the Industrial Revolution, the growth of such dissipative flow structures accelerated very rapidly due to the fact that fossil energy became available and lifted the constraint. Hence the urban explosion of the last couple of centuries. In the second part of the paper, some of the potential consequences of this explosion are discussed. First, whether the ever accelerating increase of global urbanization will continue or not, and then what might be the consequences of that acceleration for urban planning and architecture, emphasizing that cities need to become pro-active rather than re-active. They need to start designing for change rather than responding to it. In a final section we discuss some of the risks to urbanization that are posed by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Revolution, and conclude with a suggestion how, in developed countries, information technology might reverse the trend to increasing concentration of the population in cities, whereas for the moment, this is not likely to be the case in developing countries.

This paper first argues that the driving force behind the aggregation of human settlement, throughout the centuries, has been the ever-increasing need for collective problem solving. Villages and cities have emerged in ‘dissipative flow structures’ in which organization (information processing capacity) spread out from cities into their hinterland, enabing energy and other resources to increasingly flow into cities to meet the needs of the population. Information processing is thus the driver of urbanization, and energy is the constraint. With the Industrial Revolution, the growth of such dissipative flow structures accelerated very rapidly due to the fact that fossil energy became available and lifted the constraint. Hence the urban explosion of the last couple of centuries. In the second part of the paper, some of the potential consequences of this explosion are discussed. First, whether the ever accelerating increase of global urbanization will continue or not, and then what might be the consequences of that acceleration for urban planning and architecture, emphasizing that cities need to become pro-active rather than re-active. They need to start designing for change rather than responding to it. In a final section we discuss some of the risks to urbanization that are posed by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Revolution, and conclude with a suggestion how, in developed countries, information technology might reverse the trend to increasing concentration of the population in cities, whereas for the moment, this is not likely to be the case in developing countries.

cities information processing dissipative flow structures complex adaptive systems energy innovation long-term evolution

innovation long-term evolution complex adaptive systems dissipative flow structures energy information processing cities