Digital Twins and Multiple Urban Models
with Michael Batty (University College London, UK)
Live online event
11:00 am
12:30 pm
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Digital twins have become all the rage and are simply the latest stage in the process of using computers in the development of scientific theory and practice. If you go back to the 1920s, the term ‘model’ meaning a ‘simplification of the real thing’, or an ‘abstraction’ was barely visible but once computers emerged, the idea of computer models first but fast on their heels, models of many kinds gained momentum. In science, the notion of theory has now become almost interchangeable with the idea of model. In this short note, I will focus on defining digital twins in the context of computer or digital models, raising paradoxes and conundrums that pertain to the semantics dominating the field. After some brief discussion of definitions, I will ask the question ‘how do we define a good model’ and then introduce variants of a relaxed version of Turing’s famous test that simply asks the question ‘can you see the difference between the twin and the real thing’. This is an open question of course but then, using applications from our own work on digital models in London, I suggest that the way forward is to develop many variants, many examples, many applications of digital models of the same place, thereby initiating comparisons and providing platforms for their integration.


Michael Batty is Bartlett Professor of Planning at University College London where he is Chair of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). He has worked on computer models of cities and their visualisation since the 1970s and has published several books, such as Cities and Complexity (MIT Press, 2005) which won the Alonso Prize of the Regional Science Association in 2011, and most recently The New Science of Cities (MIT Press, 2013). His research group is working on simulating long-term structural change and dynamics in cities as well as their visualisation. Prior to his current position, he was Professor of City Planning and Dean at the University of Wales at Cardiff and then Director of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) and the Royal Society (FRS), was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2004 and the 2013 recipient of the Lauréat Prix International de Géographie Vautrin Lud (generally known as the 'Nobel de Géographie'). He has Honorary Doctorates form the State University of New York and from the University of Leicester.

Supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (RESCOM/2021/16537536)

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