Why do we stop growing, live for 100 years, and sleep eight hours a day? Why do all companies and people die, whereas cities keep growing and the pace of life continues to accelerate? Are cities and companies "just” very large organisms? And how are all these related to innovation, wealth creation and the sustainability of the planet?
Although life is probably the most complex and diverse phenomenon in the universe, many of its characteristics scale with size in a surprisingly simple fashion: for example, metabolic rate (the 2,000 food calories you need each day) scales in a systematically predictive way from cells to whales, while time-scales, from lifespans to growth-rates, and sizes, from genome lengths to tree heights, likewise scale systematically. Remarkably, cities and companies also exhibit systematic scaling: wages, profits, patents, crime, disease, and roads all scale in an approximately “universal” fashion.
Watch the talk (103 mins.)
In this SFI community lecture and book signing, Distinguished Professor Geoffrey West presented the origin of these scaling laws and their compelling implications for explaining the lifecycles of companies, social connectivity, aging and death, tumor growth, urbanization and slums, innovation, and the possibility of a grand unified theory of sustainability.
Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests have been in fundamental questions in physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles, their interactions, and cosmological implications. West served as SFI President from July 2005 through July 2009. In 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" and his work was selected as one of the breakthrough ideas of 2007 by the Harvard Business Review.
Generous underwriting from Thornburg Investment Management, with additional support from The Lensic Performing Arts Center, makes this series possible.
Listen to Geoffrey West's pre-lecture interview on KSFR public radio (August 21, 2017)