ComplexCity - How Cities are like the Human Brain

By Richard Florida

Jane Jacobs long ago showed us that cities are complex adaptive systems. Now new research by cognitive scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute finds that not only are cities organized along the same complex principles as the human brain, but evolve in ways that mirror the brain's evolution.

"Natural selection has passively guided the evolution of mammalian brains throughout time, just as politicians and entrepreneurs have indirectly shaped the organization of cities large and small," said Mark Changizi, a neurobiology expert and assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer, who led the study. "It seems both of these invisible hands have arrived at a similar conclusion: brains and cities, as they grow larger, have to be similarly densely interconnected to function optimally." ... "When scaling up in size and function, both cities and brains seem to follow similar empirical laws," Changizi said. "They have to efficiently maintain a fixed level of connectedness, independent of the physical size of the brain or city, in order to work properly."

Science Daily provides a fuller summary (via Planetizen). The full paper can be downloaded from Changizi's website.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2009/09/complexcity-how-cities-are-like-the-human-brain/27148/