Cities, companies, and innovation – Why cities keep growing

A theoretical physicist and researcher of complex adaptive systems, Geoffrey West asked himself what social systems have in common with biological systems: Could it be that cities or companies actually follow the same underlying principles like plants or animals? Is London a great big whale? Is Walmart an elephant? In earlier work, he and his team had investigated the role […]

Cities, companies, and innovation – Biological beginnings

Coming from the background of theoretical physics, Geoffrey West looked at the field of biology from the angle of complex adaptive systems. Given the seemingly infinite diversity of life, he set out to find the basic underlying principles that run through biological systems, hoping in the end to transfer those principles to social (human-made) systems like cities or […]

Cities, companies, and innovation – Prologue

It’s rather rare that I’m immediately fascinated when I hear about an idea for the first time, but Geoffrey West’s 2011 TED talk about The surprising math of cities and corporations really stunned me. A theoretical physicist and former president of the Santa Fe Institute, West’s quest is for a genuine science of cities, based on universal principles, with quantifiable […]

Malthus and Moore

Here’s a nice puzzle for you: Is there any lesson that we could learn from the Malthusian Trap and apply that to Moore’s Law? Or is that a bridge too far? Well, let’s look at a couple of arguments. Thomas Malthus At the very beginning of the 19th century, the political economist Thomas Malthus wrote “An Essay on the Principle of Population“. […]

Different scales, different purposes, all intertwined

Complex adaptive systems exists at different scales, both spatial and temporal. As Lance Gunderson and Crawford Holling described it, those different scales form of structure of nested adaptive cycles. To make this idea a bit more tangible, let’s take weather and climate: we are all exposed to the very local patterns every minute we are outdoors; we take into […]