Inventing Future Cities

My new book will be published on 11th December 2018 in the US and on the 8th January 2019 in the UK

We cannot predict future cities, but we can invent them.

Cities are largely unpredictable because they are complex systems that are more like organisms than machines. Neither the laws of economics nor the laws of mechanics apply; cities are the product of countless individual and collective decisions that do not conform to any grand plan. They are the product of our inventions; they evolve. In Inventing Future Cities, I explore what we need to understand about cities in order to invent their future

This book attempts to communicate many of the ideas concerning science, prediction and complexity that have been useful in thinking about cities and urban planning in the last fifty years.

About the Book Cover


  • “With a clear voice and compelling vision, Batty provides a roadmap for urban invention and reinvention in the unpredictable twenty-first century, with an eye for the interplay between technology and urban form. A significant contribution to the field of urban planning and urbanism more broadly.”   Edward GlaeserFred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University; author of Triumph of the City

  • “This is an inspiring book filled with thought-provoking ideas, from the intriguing tension between predictability and unpredictability of future cities to complexity theory and smart cities. Its tremendous scope will greatly enrich our understanding and thinking about past, present, and future cities.”   Mei-Po KwanProfessor of Geography and Geographic Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign; coeditor of Space-Time Integration in Geography and GIScience: Research Frontiers in the U.S. and China

  • “With Inventing Future Cities, Mike Batty provides a fresh look at the future of an urbanizing world. Weaving together history and spatial theory with scenario analysis, Batty examines what future patterns and distributions of cities may look like in an era of disruptive technologies and global connectivity. This volume is a must-read for anyone interested in our urban future.”   Karen C. Seto, Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

  • “Against the rising optimism in the growth of urban science and the predictive power of big data in service to urban improvement, Michael Batty draws on his decades of research to caution that, in his view, there may be limits to our knowledge of cities as complex systems. Those who seek to make progress in understanding how cities work—as scientists, scholars, or policy makers—will benefit from considering the challenges raised by this book.”   Luís M. A. BettencourtPritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, University of Chicago

  • “Michael Batty reconstitutes urban space into an unrecognizable zone full of new discoveries. This book is an invitation to travel novel vectors.”   Saskia SassenRobert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University; author of The Global City

The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2018

Posted in city size, Complexity, Connectivity, Information, Interactions, Networks, Scaling, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Architecture and Collective Behaviour

Just published: a special Issue of Philosophical Transactions B (The Royal Society) on ‘Interdisciplinary approaches for uncovering the impacts of architecture on collective behaviour’. My own contribution is ‘open access’ and you can read it and print it from the web site here. The issue covers many aspects of collective behaviours at different architectural and spatial scales dealing with different social and physical systems. The commonality of diverse approaches to very different systems is well demonstrated by this issue. All the papers can be seen in terms of contents here.

The editors say:

“Built structures, such as animal nests or buildings that humans occupy, influence where and how individuals interact. These interactions lead to cooperation, collaboration, and collective behaviours, which are fundamental for the formation of functional human and animal societies. Despite the obvious influence of space on interactions, because spatial proximity is necessary for an interaction to occur, spatial constraints are rarely considered in studies of collective behaviour or collective cognition.

This special issue highlights ways in which structures impact society, for example through the impact of the built environment on information flow, disease transmission and health behaviours. In addition, the issue brings new research on how architecture affects collective behaviours of humans and animals. For example, humans have fewer face-to-face interactions than expected in open spaces and ground squirrels interact differently in open and closed spaces. This special issue creates a unique exchange of ideas among a wide range of disciplines including behavioural ecologists, evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists, social scientists, architects, physicists, and engineers. The goal of this issue is to formalise and catalyse an interdisciplinary exchange that will propel the study of architecture and collective behaviour.”

Posted in Agent-Based Models, Cellular Automata, Complexity, Connectivity, Hierarchy, Interactions, Networks, Transport Models | Leave a comment

Applied Urban Modelling 2018

This conference is the seventh in a by-now very well established meeting held each June in Cambridge UK, which brings together those working on land use transport interaction/integration models (LUTI models) in the narrower sense and more generally on urban simulation models. Although initially set up to continue work on aggregate land use and transportation models, it has broadened to include other kinds of models and this year there are interesting papers on very large scale models such as UrbanSim, PECAS and TRANUS as well as cellular automata models like SLEUTH. The programme is here and those wanting the papers should contact the authors. During the meeting we have had a session dealing with the contributions of Lionel March to urban modelling. I tweeted about this a couple of weeks ago but here is my contribution – the PDF of my talk about my work with Lionel some 44 years ago when we were both at the University of Waterloo in Engineering. Lionel of course set up the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies that morphed into the Martin Centre (at the University of Cambridge’s School of Architecture) in the mid 1970s. Much of what goes on in LUTI modelling can be traced to Lionel and I am not being melodramatic. My talk recounts what we did with probability theory and spatial interaction and how we tried to fashion ideas about priors, posteriors, minimum information and so on. There is much more to say about Lionel’s contributions but readers might be interested in my own thoughts which are in the attached PDF. Enjoy.

Posted in Agent-Based Models, Cellular Automata, Complexity, Economies of scale, Entropy, Flows, Interactions, LUTI models, Planning Support, power laws, Smart Cities, Transport Models, urban and regional planning, Urban Dynamics, Urban Models | Leave a comment