The Future Cities project

challenging risk-aversion and the precautionary principle

» Science & Technology

Blade Runner’s Retro Futures

by Dr. H J McCracken | 14 Oct 2017

We are now only two years from the dateline of the original Blade Runner. Ray Bradbury’s melancholic future of Martian settlement and abandonment, The Martian Chronicles, has since long passed Read more…

Film Review: ‘City Visions’ #3

EcopolisJosh Broomer | 7 October 2014

‘Ecopolis China’, Directed by Anna-Karin Grönroos

Anna-Karin Grönroos’s insightful Read more…

Book Review: The Writing on the Wall


by Martin Earnshaw | 7 June 2014

If you’ve ever wondered how much of your life you have wasted on Social Media, Facebook will tell you with its new app. Read more…

Commodity Creatures


By Charlie Winstanley | 18 April 2014

‘Tools for Unknown Futures’ was the theme for the latest FutureEverything conference in Manchester Town Hall Read more…

Manufacturing the future

The New Industrial Revolution: consumers, globalization and the end of mass production by Peter Marsh; Yale UP, 2012. 320 pp

Reviewed by Martin Earnshaw | 7 March 2013

Even the ghosts of England’s past oppose HS2 it seems. On 10th February 2013 the Observer ran a bizarre story about how HS2 might go through a historic battle site Read more…

The Great Stagnation

‘The Great Stagnation’ by Tyler Cowen; Dutton Books, 2011. 109pp

Reviewed by Stephen Nash | 23 November 2012

With its sizeable subtitle – ‘How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better’ – this slim volume has made a big splash since its initial appearance in ebook format at the start of 2011. Read more…


Lost in Space’ by Greg Klerkx: A review by Martin Earnshaw

Neil Armstrong, who died last month, encapsulated humanity’s desire for exploration and discovery, and is believed to have been dismayed at NASA’s diminished ambitions. Here Martin Earnshaw assesses Klerkx’s claim that NASA is the main barrier to realising a human future in space.  Read more…

The Energy Report

The Energy Report by WWF, Ecofys and AMO; January 2011, 253pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | February 2011

If you enjoy reading end of year accounts, or poring over corporate brochures, you will love The Energy Report – the eco-equivalent of a BP audit statement. Written by a huge number of people from WWF, together with some from Ecofys (a Dutch renewable energy consultancy), it has been designed by AMO, the consulting arm of Rem Koolhaas’s OMA.  Read more…

Driving the world to destruction?

‘Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability’ by Daniel Spurling and Deborah Gordon, Oxford University Press, 2010. 322pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | 10 April 2010

Musing about Easter Island, Jared Diamond famously asked “what were they thinking when they chopped down the last tree?” Diamond’s polemical book “Collapse”, written five years ago (but based on a 1995 article), argues against the unthinking exploitation of nature Read more…

Two Cases for the (Floods) Defence

‘Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line’ (010 Publishers) & ‘Facing up to rising sea levels (Building Futures, RIBA)

Reviewed by Austin Williams | February 2010

Contrary to the implication in its title, the Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line has nothing to do with global warming and flood management. The book is a historical assessment of the network of watercourses known as the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (NHW) Read more…

Powerful Connections

Martyn Perks | 20 October 2009

The Times restaurant critic Giles Coren recently experimented with Twitter—the phenomenally successful online social networking tool. He used it to review London’s Criterion restaurant using his mobile phone. With Twitter, you can send individual messages or ‘tweets’ up to a maximum of 140 characters each. Starter, main course and dessert all followed. By the end of the meal Coren had sent 19 separate tweets.  Read more…

Dan Dare or Dan Daren’t

Austin Williams | 3 October 2008

Whatever happened to the jet-pack; the monorail; the personalised Lear jet; Maglev taxis; automated highways; long-haul flights by space shuttle? All of these strange and wonderful transport ideas were commonplace Utopian ambitions for the future as seen by the Sixties’ generation. Read more…

Taking a shortcut around the digital divide

Martyn Perks | 1 March 2007

Sunderland City Council has just won the Digital Challenge competition and been awarded £3.5m by government. While digital inclusion has become a major focus for funding and social renewal, it is questionable whether IT is actually being used for the right reasons. Read more…

Technology and Obsolescence

‘Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America’ by Giles Slade; Harvard University Press, 2007. 336pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | 30 November 2007

I wasn’t looking forward to this book. The title seemed to sum up two popular contemporary pastimes, a despondency about societal progress and a condescension towards American (over)consumption. Read more…

The Story of Creative Engineering

‘Masterworks of Technology: The Story of Creative Engineering, Architecture and Design’ by EE Lewis; Prometheus Books, 2004. 328pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | 20 September 2004

What a refreshing change, as they say. This is a book that oozes calm intelligence and an ease of imparting knowledge that at once informs and avoids patronising its audience.  Read more…


‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov; Collins, 1971. 256pp

Reviewws by Dave Clements | 28 April 2005

In this collection of short stories written in the 1940s, Asimov explores the human condition and our changing understanding of it, vis-a-vis the robot. Each is linked by the reminisces of Susan Calvin, robo-psychologist with US Robot and Mechanical Men, Inc. Read more…

Tomorrow's World

David Clements | 13 December 2003

‘One year ago, Tomorrow’s World was cancelled,’ announced Austin Williams, convenor of the one-day conference Future Vision: Future Cities and chair of the final plenary ‘Tomorrow’s World: Visions of the Future ‘. Read more…

Dan Dare, or Dan Daren't

‘Future Visions: Future Cities’ Conference, London School of Economics, 6 December 2003

Reviewed by Dave Clements | 11 December 2003

The Future Visions: Future Cities conference,  supported by the Architects Journal, examined the role of the city through the prism of politics, culture and economics.  Read more…

Interview with Peter Schwartz

‘Inevitable Surprises: A Survival Guide for the 21st Century’ Free Press (Simon & Schuster), 2003. 320pp

Peter Schwartz interview by Austin Williams | 20 November 2003

I first heard Peter Schwartz speak when he attended the press launch of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report’ at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank. He joined an impressive panel of speakers who had been assembled to describe, interpret and explain the film; Read more…

Futuro: Tomorrow’s House from Yesterday

‘Futuro: Tomorrow’s House from Yesterday’ by Marko Home and Mika Taanila (Eds);  Desura (Finland), 2003. 192pp

Review by Maari Vertainen | 4 November 2003

The book of the film of the concept of the building. When, in 1965, Dr Jaakko Hiidenkari asked Matti Suuronen to design a ski cabin that would be ‘quick to heat and easy to construct in rough terrain’ the result was a simple, space-age structure that divided public opinion. Read more…