Monthly Archives: January 2011

GeoComputation using cellular automata

by
Michael Batty

Cellular automata as GeoComputation
Cellular automata (CA) are computable objects existing in time and space whose characteristics, usually called states, change discretely and uniformly as a function of the states of neighboring objects, i.e. those that are in their immediate vicinity. The objects are usually conceived as occupying spaces
which are called cells, with processes for changing the state of each cell through time and space usually articulated as simple rules which control the influence of the neighborhood on each cell. This formulation is quite general and many systems can be represented as CA but the essence of such modelling consists of ensuring that changes in space and time are always generated locally, by cells which are strictly adjacent to one another. From such representation comes the important notion that CA simulate processes where local action generates global order, where global or centralized order ‘emerges’ as a consequence of applying local or decentralized rules which in turn embody local processes. Systems which cannot be reduced to models of such local processes are therefore not likely to be candidates for CA, and although this might seem to exclude a vast array of geographical processes where change seems to be a function of actionata distance, this criterion is not so restrictive as might appear at first sight.
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