SFI Distinguished Professor Geoffrey West spoke February 16 as part of The Economist magazine’s “Ideas Economy: Intelligent Infrastructure” event at Pace University in New York City.

Watch his presentation here. (17 minutes)

The conference focused on the global challenges and innovative solutions necessary for building intelligent infrastructure. West’s presentation summarized what researchers are finding about how cities –- like organisms and many other complex systems -- grow and change in predictable, measurable ways, and what quantitative indicators are signs of progress and decline.

Over the next several decades, the world will spend $30 trillion on infrastructure. Intelligent Infrastructure will explore how green architecture, geo-engineering, smart systems, and connectivity will allow countries and governments to create a smarter and stronger infrastructure. It will also focus on how cutting-edge development in this area can leverage the speed and vitality of private markets while at the same time including smarter government regulation.

“Cities are a primary source of crime, pollution, global warming, and other human challenges and also the origin of potential solutions, as many creative endeavors emerge, to a large degree, from cities,” says West. “New theoretical insights about cities can inform our understanding of the interplay between innovation, resource appropriation, and consumption and the makeup of their social and economic activity.”

West joined speakers from many fields, including architects, urban planners, civil engineers, public health officials, public policy analysts, computer scientists, energy and sustainability experts, economists, sociologists, authors, and futurists.

For more information about the conference, visit the event website.

Watch video (at The Economist) of Geoffrey West responding to another speaker, futurist Ray Kurzweil, who said "the singularity" -- the point in time when machines become smarter than humans -- is fast approaching.

More about SFI's research of cities and urbanization:

     SFI news release about Rockefeller Foundation grant on the study of cities

     Article in The New York Times

     Science News article

     New Scientist article 

     Nature special issue on cities

     Video: Yahoo labs Big Thinkers presentation

     AudioInterview with West on WNYC Radio