The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 214, Issue 1, pp 11–39 | Cite as

FuturICT: Participatory computing to understand and manage our complex world in a more sustainable and resilient way

  • D. Helbing
  • S. Bishop
  • R. Conte
  • P. Lukowicz
  • J. B. McCarthy
Open Access
Regular Article


We have built particle accelerators to understand the forces that make up our physical world. Yet, we do not understand the principles underlying our strongly connected, techno-socio-economic systems. We have enabled ubiquitous Internet connectivity and instant, global information access. Yet we do not understand how it impacts our behavior and the evolution of society.

To fill the knowledge gaps and keep up with the fast pace at which our world is changing, a Knowledge Accelerator must urgently be created. The financial crisis, international wars, global terror, the spreading of diseases and cyber-crime as well as demographic, technological and environmental change demonstrate that humanity is facing serious challenges. These problems cannot be solved within the traditional paradigms.

Moving our attention from a component-oriented view of the world to an interaction-oriented view will allow us to understand the complex systems we have created and the emergent collective phenomena characterising them. This paradigm shift will enable new solutions to long-standing problems, very much as the shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric worldview has facilitated modern physics and the ability to launch satellites.

The FuturICT flagship project will develop new science and technology to manage our future in a complex, strongly connected world. For this, it will combine the power of information and communication technology (ICT) with knowledge from the social and complexity sciences.

ICT will provide the data to boost the social sciences into a new era. Complexity science will shed new light on the emergent phenomena in socially interactive systems, and the social sciences will provide a better understanding of the opportunities and risks of strongly networked systems, in particular future ICT systems. Hence, the envisaged FuturICT flagship will create new methods and instruments to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

FuturICT could indeed become one of the most important scientific endeavours ever, by revealing the principles that make socially interactive systems work well, by inspiring the creation of new platforms to explore our possible futures, and by initiating an era of social and socio-inspired innovations.

Graphical abstract


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Helbing
    • 1
  • S. Bishop
    • 2
  • R. Conte
    • 3
  • P. Lukowicz
    • 4
  • J. B. McCarthy
    • 5
  1. 1.ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Math DepartmentUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.ISTC-CNRRomeItaly
  4. 4.DFKIKaiserlauternGermany
  5. 5.University College CorkCorkIreland

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