Predicting the Future

Could urban planners be the 21st century’s clairvoyants? Substitute supernatural abilities with mountains of data and fast computers, and the idea is not that far-fetched. First developed in the 1960s, urban modelling is not new, but two key developments – GIS in the 1990s and mobile digital technology today – mean that it is playing a...

Date

September 21, 2016

Could urban planners be the 21st century’s clairvoyants? Substitute supernatural abilities with mountains of data and fast computers, and the idea is not that far-fetched. First developed in the 1960s, urban modelling is not new, but two key developments – GIS in the 1990s and mobile digital technology today – mean that it is playing a rapidly growing role in how we plan our cities. In a thorough article, Government Technology explores the proliferation of urban modeling technology and its many applications. From models that focus on a specific sub-section of an urban system, to comprehensive models that aim to account for any potential unintended consequences – with others for fostering public engagement or that gamify planning – modelling can serve many purposes. To help identify the right tool for the task, Planetizen compiled a list of useful models. These new tools can help craft better cities, but they are not risk-free. Data selection creates the parameters for a model, which leaves room for exclusionary data bias, while there are other concerns that an over-reliance on computers is reshaping the way we think. Modeling programs, like the planners and programmers behind them, are not perfect, but as part of a balanced and critically-considered tool set, can play a beneficial role in city-building.