The Meaning of Emergent Urbanism, after A New Kind of Science | Emergent Urbanism

Back in the 1950s, when Jane Jacobs was writing Death and Life of Great American Cities, she arrived at a conclusion that was a precursor for Wolfram’s scientific treatise. She claimed that city planning was a problem of organized complexity, and that it should be done by starting with the particulars and observing their behavior, instead of trying to control for a single variable useful in mathematical formulas…. he found that by using computers to synthesize, instead of analyzing, all sorts of simple programs, he could find programs whose rules generated complex patterns similar to the natural world.Wolfram thus arrived at his methodology for complexity science: instead of analyzing the natural world to arrive at knowledge, one could search through the ”computational universe” for patterns found in the natural world, and know their rules immediately without necessarily understanding their behavior, which for complex systems defies analysis.Wolfram proposes ”mining” the computational universe for scientific facts and technological ideas…. Wolfram’s thesis is not only meaningful for future research, but also essential to reviving traditions that were cast aside generations ago for not meeting scientific rigor. Urban planning, beginning in the 19th century, was overwhelmingly statistical. Cities were reduced to variables that prescribed the average apartment block or suburban lot for the average family, and the force of scientific authority was used to coerce everyone to accept this plan as standing for the common good. What I found when I started searching for patterns of traditional urbanism that had common features and properties with advanced computations was that traditional urbanisms were in many aspects more sophisticated than modern ones, only they had been adopted by trial and error and, not being understood, could not be adapted to modernity’s scale. My first postings therefore sought to legitimize traditional urbanism using my scientific intuitions.

via The Meaning of Emergent Urbanism, after A New Kind of Science | Emergent Urbanism.


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