Urban Blight Simulator

I’m sorry, that was a dishonest post title. I don’t have an urban blight simulator nor do I know where you can get one. But, having spent up to 15 slack-jawed minutes at a time watching this Zombie Outbreak Simulator, I really think someone ought to build one. (Turn your sound down before you click on that.)

The Zombie Outbreak Simulator represents a new leap forward in zombie attack prediction in that it superimposes the action on a Google satellite photo/map of a real Washington, D.C. suburb. You can observe the progress of zombie infections in the area and see which streets and neighborhoods get taken over first. And also where specific buildings, physical barriers, or armed civilians and cops are having an effect. (Er, not a whole lot of effect, actually.)

If someone can do this with zombies, why can’t we plug in all sorts of data and factors having to do with decline of Rust Belt cities, flip the switch and see what happens? I’m serious. Obviously we wouldn’t be tracking zombies, but would be tracking the comings and goings (well, mostly goings) of various demographics and businesses, as well as local and national economic and political developments and initiatives — then waiting to see which houses’ lights go dark and which historical landmark buildings go “poof.” We would get a reasonable prediction of exactly where the changes would take place decades in the future. And it would take a lot less time and effort than actually sitting around and waiting for it to unfold.

Then, once you’ve got the algorithm going, you could program in new variables drawn from the strategies of your favorite urbanist thinkers or Syracuse.com commentariat cranks. Would anything new and interesting happen? Well, that would be the suspense of the game.

It could be, however, that the Urban Blight Simulator would just leave you staring at it listlessly and obsessively for days or years on end, turning you into a meta-zombie (as the Zombie Outbreak Simulator has an odd tendency to do) with its strange fascination. I think that’s a risk we’ll have to take.

3 Replies to “Urban Blight Simulator”

  1. Strangely when I clicked the link, my mind immediately thought this might actually be a Creative Class simulator rather than a Zombie Outbreak model!

    …with a bunch of young “professionals” going around infecting others with not the Rage virus but Creativity & Optimism, Coffee Shops, and community art!!

    …with government types chasing developers with tax incentives and PILOT agreements, paying Florida types big money to discuss how air conditioning actually killed the Northeast (rather than mindless politicians paying big money for outside “experts” and nationally renowned PhD consultants).

    …with backhoe’s to demolish “blighted” landmarks and historic homes full of families for “Progress” (as depicted by SyracuseB4) rather than guns to shoot zombies!

    Man, I love Zombie Outbreak thinking already!

  2. Wow. That simulator is addictive. But blight tends to happen as people leave areas (well, at least progression-minded people). Zombies spread as the population is more concentrated.

    So, you’d kind of have to invert the algorithm to predict how blight would spread. Or, you could use an algorithm like this to predict how blight could be solved.

  3. This would be a fun project that any number of GIS-lovin’ urban planners would ADORE working on. However, it is the policy of this country to aim computer simulation development funds, both public and private, toward games that increase skills for automated warfare, not the solving of social problems.

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