Week 5: Foresight and the future of cities

The main project operating under the UK Foresight programme at the moment is on the Future of Cities, which is intended to look at ‘the opportunities and challenges facing UK cities over the next 50 years’.  They have recently published a somewhat difficult-to-follow study on ‘urban metabolism‘ (although for those in System Dynamics, the concept of stocks and flows are central).  There is also a much more accessible ‘guest blog‘ by Christopher Kennedy of the University of Toronto on how electrification is key to the future of cities.  In addition to the urban metabolism study, there are also other recent studies on ecosystem services, land and housing, amongst others. There is also a particularly compelling report on visualisations of the future of cities.  Most importantly, there is a study on cities and public policy, which includes a set of scenarios (from p. 35 onward) discussing the evolution along two distinct dimensions: centralised governance versus devolved governance and public versus private provision of resources.

In addition, there are also a number of case studies and the most interesting for us is the Cambridge 2065 study.  There are also a number of short studies such as: ‘Beyond Peak Car‘, Active Travel (i.e., cycling and walking), water and cities, development underground and smart infrastructure (led by CSIC and Prof Robert Mair of Cambridge)

I was impressed (surprised!) that almost everyone answered all three questions I posed last time, but do feel free to focus your contribution this time:

  1. Do you find the proposed scenarios in the public policy paper to be helpful (or would you choose different dimensions)? How would you apply these (or your preferred scenarios) to your national context?
  2. Feel free to comment on one or more of the studies — can we electrify and/or move beyond peak car by moving to autonomous and/or electric vehicles (happy Ed? Elon?)? Would you want to live in a city that is increasingly underground? do you have privacy or other concerns about smart infrastructure? As I asked in my initial tweet about electrification, these all sound great, but how do we get there?
  3. Overall, do you feel that these Foresight studies offer compelling insights into the Future of Cities? Do you think that the exercise is a worthwhile one?

Although I give you a chance to ‘opine’ and offer general views on Foresight under the last question, I hope and expect that you will delve into one or more of the studies and provide some thoughtful, incisive and even critical comments.

For those wanting to find out more even about the implementation side of the Future of Cities in the UK context, a good starting point is the Future Cities Catapult (similar to the Satellite Applications Catapult I mentioned during the Alice Bunn talk).