There are many differences between modern cities and their ancient predecessors. For example, modern cities have massive amounts of technology in its infrastructure, including traffic light sensors, sensors for street lights that come on when the sun goes down, and traffic plans that use algorithms to map streets to reduce congestions. All of these aspects change the way in which modern cities are organized. Moreover, modern culture is much different, economic priorities have considerably changed from the agriculture-based settlements of hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Though, scientists from the University of Colorado – Boulder have conducted a study which has concluded that modern cities have much more in common with the cities of the past. Their research has led them to the discovery that modern cities are organized and grow in a similar fashion to their ancient counterparts. According to the researchers, this notion could change the way in which people plan cities of the future.
The research team used measurements of around 4,000 ancient settlements, houses, and other infrastructure from an area that is now Mexico City. Emily Conover, a writer for the journal Science, explained since the material possessions of the former inhabitants of the city have been lost, researchers used substitutions to measure the collective efficiency of the ancient city. For example, the size and number of monuments and other important buildings.
Their research proved that the expansions of both ancient and modern cities are ruled by the same set of parameters, known as urban scaling. The research showed the rules of urban scaling dictate, as urban populations increase throughout time, people grow further inward toward each, rather than growing outwards creating a larger suburban area, making a city less crowded. They explained this allows the populous to live closer together, interact more, and use infrastructure more exhaustively.
The team’s research was published in the latest issue of Science Advances. The team also found that their research showed that just like modern cities, ancient settlements became more productive over time as their populous became larger and more compact. They found that in many cases, levels of productivity outpaced growth, meaning the change in the city was not only due to the increased number of available workers.
Scott Ortman, lead author of the study, stated as the community grows, the total production of the group multiplies. The theory of urban scaling builds the argument that the increase in the productivity of a populous comes from the multiplied rate of social interactions. In conclusion, since people are physically closer together, like in modern cities, engaging in social events in cheaper and easier. Conover said regardless the size of the city, the more productive the population is. Therefore, modern cities may be the key to the evolution of society, he said.
The research could possibly aid scientists in better understanding how modern cities inherently function and could shape the minds of architects and urban planners. Since the fundamental drivers of socioeconomic patterns in modern cites rely upon a vibrant, productive culture, the cities of the future, much like the cities of ancient times, could be built larger and more compact.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Josh Liba – Flickr License