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 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.