When All the World’s a City: Prospects for the Next 100 Years

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25 May 2011
Michael Batty, Bartlett Professor of Planning, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London
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In 1960, the systems theorist Heinz von Foerster wrote an article in Science magazine that suggested that given the rate of population growth over the last 10,000 years, the world’s population would effectively become infinite in the year 2026. This he called ‘Doomsday’ but since then many have speculated that the rate of change in key technological innovations has similar superexponential rates of growth and in the next 30 or 40 years, we will face some sort of technological discontinuity or ‘singularity’ after which our experiences of life as we have known it since prehistory will be very different. Far from population becoming infinite, it now looks as though population is rapidly stabilizing – growth is slowing down dramatically, populations are aging, and the world is becoming entirely urbanized. Here I outline these speculations and try to imagine what a world will be like where we all live in cities and where the focus changes from growth which has dominated all our experiences so far to a world where migration and differential growth and decline becomes the norm.

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