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Should We Build The Matrix? Some Challenges of the Digital Twin - Seminar presenting the Position paper on the use of Complexity Science for Local Digital Twins

The presentation "Should We Build The Matrix? Some Challenges of the Digital Twin Concept" by Professor Dirk Helbing aimed at showing the arguments for using complexity science when dealing with cities. It was based on the position paper produced by  Complexity Science and Smart Cities expert group.

Image of a city in the sky reflecting the city below

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On the 6th of September 2021, Dirk Helbing, Professor of Computational Social Science from ETHZ, gave a presentation based on the position paper that  the expert group on Complexity Science and Smart Cities has produced.

This presentation aimed at showing the arguments for using complexity science when dealing with cities.

Cities are extremely dynamic and complex systems, composed of a myriad of interacting and sometimes conflicting layers. A small perturbation in one of these layers or one of the initial conditions may cause a "butterfly" effect in the system leading to a serious instability.

These are signs of complexity, and as such, we should model smart cities as complex systems. These models may become useful when we want to have some idea of what may happen if we change something in the city and we want to "see" the result of this change in simulation, or when we want to test the result of a policy (e.g. increase the with of the ring road with an extra lane and its result on congestion). Complexity science also allows for the inclusion of people (or citizens) as parts of the system itself and under modelling as well.

In any case the idea of citizen participation, if not in the models, at least in the "playing" with the model scenarios and getting their engagement and effective feedback, is deeply rooted in the e-democracy model presented by Dirk, as opposed to the war room scenario where the twin (and its models) are centrally controlled by a few users.

32 external invited experts participated in the seminar, with different backgrounds, different units in DG CNECT (C3, C1), Joint Research Centre, EU projects, OASC, different cities, complexity science experts and representatives from standard bodies attended the seminar.

Dirk Helbing presented the ideas behind the position paper to the audience with a number of examples and practical recommendations of when to use complexity science.

After his presentation, there was time for questions, particularly on the practical use of complexity for cities and the creation of meta-models or meta-standards that could promote the use of this models and make them widely available and easy to apply. The involvement of citizens was also discussed.

The position paper is now in ResearchGate as a pre-print, in

The video recording of the seminar is at