by Geoffrey West

via Jon fb share

François Lavallée introduced me to this book yesterday.

“Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies” by Geoffrey West.

I think “scale” will mean something different than the industrial-era meaning of something growing and spreading somewhat uniformly, as the network era unfolds.

I am intuiting (from reading a couple of reviews) that it will mean something more like fractal replication of capabilities in similar but contextually different forms ?

I am going to go to the bookstore and buy it today.

i’m thinking ginorm small ness

library has it.. yay




acknowledgments: i owe particular thanks to the amazing richard wurman, the original founder of ted, who has been indefatigable in his enthusiastic appreciation of my work



gen thaw – is the nearest embodiment i know of a traditional patron ..his support for my research agenda gave me the freedom to explore wherever my imagination and curiosity took me as i embarked on writing this book.. i take great pleasure in thanking him for his generosity and patience.

imagine 7 bn people getting that luxury.. everyday.. that’d x-d scale of the energy we so badly need

agent – john brockman


1- the big picture


perhaps the most startling of these is figure 2, which shows that the avg number of heartbeats in the lifetime of any mammal is roughly the same, even though small ones like mice live for just a few years whereas big ones like whales can live for a hundred years of more..(p 6 – about 1.5 bn)


big picture framework allows us to address a fascinating spectrum of questions.. (then lists several): why can we live for 120 yrs but not longer.. why do whales live longer than mice but same # of heartbeats.. why do organisms and ecosystems scale w size of 4.. why do we stop growing..  why does pace of life increase.. is there a max size of cities.. (2 of which are about co’s): why do almost all co’s live for only a relatively few yrs.. whereas cities keep growing.. can we develop a science of cities and co’s..

seems strange to me.. that co’s are thrown in there.. to me a man made system that’s destroying us.. could say same for cities.. but could also look at cities as natural gathering ness.. i just can’t see any way that co’s are natural.. then add to that.. his thinking that cities are more like bio and co’s more like people (they die).. and i don’t know… wondering.. if one could call it true.. if it’s because .. because of the market ness corruption of us.. that’s made us similar..? i don’t see market as fractal w all the rest..

organism as fractal


in addressing questions such as these, i will emphasize conceptual issues and bring together ideas from across the sciences..  though shamelessly from the perspective and thru the eyes of a theoretical physicist.. so much so.. i will also touch on how the same framework of scaling has played a seminal role in developing a unified pic of the elementary particles and fundamental forces of nature. including their cosmo implications for the evolution of the universe from the big bang. in this spirit.. i have also tried to be provocative and speculative where appropriate, but in the main, almost all of what is presented is based on s*established scientific work

dang.. wtf is *established sci work.. that’s one of our biggest problems .. no?


cities have emerged as the source of the greatest challenges the planet has faced since humans became social. the future of humanity and the long term sustainability of the planet are inextricably linked to the fate of our cities..

cure ios city.. but it’s not about the city.. it’s about a and a

cities are the crucible of civilization, the hubs of innovation, the engines of wealth creation and centers of power.. the magnets that attract creative individuals, and the stimulant of ideas, growth, and innovation.. but they also have a dark side

much of what you just described is/was already the dark side.. ie: civilization.. engines of wealth, power, stimulants..

given this dual nature of cities as, on the one hand, the origin of many of our major challenges (food, energy, water, health, markets..) and, on the other, the reservoir of creativity and ideas and therefore the source of their solutions, it becomes a matter of some urgency to ask whether there can be a ‘science of cities’ and *by extension a ‘science of companies’ in other words a conceptual framework for understanding their dynamics, growth, and evolution in the quantitatively predictable framework.. this is **crucial for devising a serious strategy for achieving long term sustainability

dang.. not sure i’ll make it thru this book.. *by extension..? well.. i guess the way the city was described.. fitting that it be a company.. **crucial..? god i hope you go that deep


for almost the entire time span of human existence most human beings have resided in nonurban environments.

and non monetary


the open ended expo growth of cities stands in marked contrast to what we see in biology: most organisms, like us grow rapidly when young but then slow down, cease growing, and eventually die. most co’s follow a similar pattern w almost all of them eventually disappearing .. whereas most cities don’t

dang.. can’t see co’s in this fractal.. and now.. seeing the angle presented of cities.. can’t see it in the fractal either..

and if kept on the more natural vantage of gatherings.. wouldn’t cities compare more to say.. species..?


as a physicist thinking about aging and death it was natural not only to ask about possible mechs for why we age and why we die but, equally important, to ask where the scale of human life span comes from. why hasn’t anybody lived for moe than 123 years?

they haven’t..?

are these absolutely false/mythical..? ie: The ten patriarchs (excluding Enoch) who preceded the Great Flood lived an average of 912 years. Lamech died the youngest at the age of 777, and Methuselah lived to be the oldest at 969. 

why do we approx sleep 8 hrs a night whereas mice sleep 15 and elephants just four..


in bio these are controlled and maintained by the process of metabolism..  amount of energy needed per second to keep an org alive.. for us it’s about 2 000 calories a day.. equiv of 90 watts.. a standard incandescent lightbulb.. our bio metabolic rate living as naturally evolved animals..

as social animals now living in cities.. still need just a lightbulb equiv of food .. but in addition.. now require homes, heating, lighting , automobiles, roads, airplanes, computers, and so on..  the amount of energy needed to support an avg person living in the us has risen to an astounding 11 000 watts.. this.. equiv to the entire needs of about a dozen elephants..

none of these systems, whether ‘natural’ or man made, can operate w/o a continuous supply of energy and resources that have to be transformed into something ‘useful’ .. refer to this as metabolism..

as social human beings and in marked contrast to all other creatures, the major portion of our metabolic energy has been devoted to forming communities and institutions such as cities, villages, co’s, and collective, to the manufacture of an extraordinary array of artifacts, and to the creation of an astonishing litany of ideas ranging from airplanes, cell phones, and cathedrals to symphonies, mathematics, and lit, and much much more..

maybe that’s part of problem.. mis directed energy.. ie: to market ness

w/o a continuous supply of energy and resource, not ony can there be no manufacturing of any of these things but perhaps more important.. there can be no ideas, no innovation and growth, and no evolution. energy is primary it underlies everything that we do and everything ht a happens around us..

but mostly energy of people.. which.. died out starting with.. ie: agri


there is always a price to pay when energy is processed; there is no free lunch.. because energy underlies the transformation/operation of literally everything.. no system operates w/o consequence. indeed, .. second law o f them.. whenever energy is transformed into a useful form, it als produces ‘useless’ energy as a degraded by product: ‘unintended consequence’ in the form of inaccessible disorg’s heat or unusable products are inevitable

is this another absolute truth..? i don’t know

thinking nothing is useless.. thinking upcycling et al

ie: eat.. go to the bathroom..  whenever energy is used/processed in order to make or maintain order w/in a closed system, some degree of disorder i inevitable – entropy always increases..  the word entropy.. literal greek.. ‘transformation’ or ‘evolution’

lest you think there might be some loophole in this law.. ie: einstein: it is the only physical theory of universal content which i am convinced will never be overthrown..

i just don’t think most .. if not all .. of what we call waste is useless..  and i don’t think we’re part of a closed system..

to maintain order and structure in an evolving system requires the continual supply and use of energy whose by product is disorder…

maybe we let go of trying to maintain order..  (and too of calling by product dis order)


entropy kills..

? entropy.. ? orcivilization ness..?

the battle to combat entropy by continually having to supply moe energy for growth, innovation, maintenance, and repair, which becomes increasingly more challenging as the system ages, underlies any serious discussion of aging, mortality, resilience, and sustainability, whether of organisms, co’s or societies..

scaling and scalability, that is, how things change w size.. and the fundamental rules/principles they obey are central themes through out this book



so .. we’re assuming gdp is part of this fractal ness..? growth.. numbers.. et al..



in the ie given here, th eis can be restated as saying that there is a systematic increase in per capita gdp, as well as in avg wages, crime rates, and many other urban metrics, as city size increases..



this feat is accomplished by each individual ant obeying just a few simple rules mediated by chemical cues and other signals, resulting in an extraordinary coherent collective output..

that’d happen w people if we gave this a try: a 2 convos .. as the day

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


it is in an emergent behavior which the constituents themselves agglomerate to form the emergent whole, as in the formulation of human social groups, such as *book clubs or political rallies, or your organs, which can be viewed as the self org of their constituent cells, or a **city as a manifestation of the self org of its inhabitants..

*well.. actually not those.. for the most part.. those are mostly determined via ie: voluntary compliance.. et al..

**this could be.. but it hasn’t happened yet.. because we’ve not yet been able to let go enough for it to happen.. in sync.. to dance..

reading article by Deborah just now:

The power of networks is in their local connections. All networks grow, shrink, merge or split, link by link. How they function and change depends on what forms, or disrupts, the connections between nodes. The internet dominates our lives, not because it is huge, but because each of us can make so many local links. Its size is the result, not the cause, of its impact on our communication.


it is natural to extend these ideas to ask how they might relate to co’s..

? natural..? when the co’s aren’t natural..?

2 – the measure of all things

too much math/measuring for me

3 – the simplicity, unity, and complexity of life


all of life functions by transforming energy from physical or chemical sources into organic molecules that are metabolized to build maintain, and reproduce complex, highly organized systems.. this is accomplished by the operation of two distinct but closely interacting system: the genetic code, which stores and processes the info and ‘instructions’ to build  and maintain the organism, and the metabolic system which acquires, transforms and allocates energy and materials for maintenance, growth and reproduction..


understanding how *info processing (genomics) integrates w the processing of energy and resources (metabolics) to sustain life remains a major challenge

ie: *hlb via **2 convos

the search for fundamental principles that govern how the complexity of life emerges from this underlying simplicity is one of the grand challenges of 21st cent science..

deep/simple/open enough..  a nother way


metabolism is the fire of life.. and food, the fuel of life..


magic number 4.. fractals – self similarity

4 – the 4th dimension of life


almost all of the networks that sustain life are approximately self similar fractals

key here: that sustain life.. ie: co’s not included..


on estimates of how long life can be extended by changing body temp (2 degree c can result in 20-30% increase in life span) or eating less (consistently decrease food intake by 10% – couple 100 calories a day – could live up to 10% longer – up to 1- yrs more)

5 – from the anthropocene to the urbanocene

while reading

John Hagel (@jhagel) tweeted at 6:50 AM – 19 Feb 2018 :

We’re still at a very early stage in studying the dynamics of networks – new research is challenging the view that complex networks in the real world are scale-free and shaped by power laws (

paper posted online last month has reignited a debate about one of the oldest, most startling claims in the modern era of network science: the proposition that most complex networks in the real world — from the World Wide Web to interacting proteins in a cell — are “scale-free.” Roughly speaking, that means that a few of their nodes should have many more connections than others, following a mathematical formula called a power law, so that there’s no one scale that characterizes the network.

scale-free network is a network whose degree distribution follows a power law, at least asymptotically

the new paper reports that few real-world networks show convincing evidence of scale-freeness.

“These results undermine the universality of scale-free networks and reveal that real-world networks exhibit a rich structural diversity that will likely require new ideas and mechanisms to explain,” wrote the study’s authors, Anna Broido and Aaron Clauset of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Aaron Clauset has found that scale-free networks are rare in nature, contrary to popular belief.

 both proponents and critics of the scale-free paradigm see what they already believed to be true. Much of the discussion has played out in vigorous Twitter debates.

In a power law distribution, there is no characteristic scale (thus the name “scale-free”). A power law has no peak — it simply decreases for higher degrees, but relatively slowly, and if you zoom in on different sections of its graph, they look self-similar. As a result, while most nodes still have low degree, hubs with an enormous number of links do appear in small quantities, at every scale.

The scale-free paradigm in networks emerged at a historical moment when power laws had taken on an outsize role in statistical physics. ..Soon after, power laws formed the core of two other paradigms that swept across the statistical physics world: fractals, and a theory about organization in nature called self-organized criticality.

Clauset sees his work with Broido not as an attack but as a call to action to network scientists, to examine a more diverse set of possible mechanisms and degree distributions than they have been doing. “Perhaps we should consider new ideas, as opposed to trying to force old ideas to fit,”.. t he said. @aaronclauset (cu boulder and sante fe institute)

Vespignani agrees that there is work to be done. “If you ask me, ‘Do you all agree what is the truth of the field?’ Well, there is no truth yet,” he said. “There is no general theory of networks.”


we have already made a sharp transition our out of purely anthropocene to what could be considered yet another epoch characterize by the expo rise of cities which not dominate the planet. to designate this much shorter and intense period that began w the industrial revolution i would like to into a new term and suggest the name urbanocene


(on his personal experience growing up and doing hard labor for next to nothing at age 15).. it’s easy to forget that harsh, unsanitary working conditions were the norm for many of the laboring class long before the industrial revolution..

so go back further.. no..? before agri.. et al

affluence w/o abundance 

all of the sins we associate w the industrial revolution and urbanization were just as prevalent in preindustrial society, whether it was child labor, dirty living conditions, or long working hours..  indeed, it was the improvements rendered by science and the enlightenment that eventually contributed to the large decrease in infant and child mortality and therefore to the rapid increase in the population growth rate.. life may appear worse for an urban industrial worker relative to his agri counterpart partially because of the perceived dehumanizing harshness fo factories and mines relative to working on the land but also because the scale and extent of the problem was so much larger as a result of expo expansion..  similar arguments persist today, when many believe that life was so much better when we all supposedly lived in small villages and towns where there was a sense of community and relatedness that today seems absent in th hubbub of modern city..


thomas robert malthus: population will grow expo while food supply increases arithmetically.. leading to catastrophic collapse – and seeing this population growth coming via the poor.. so working on ways to stifle that


in complete contradiction to malthus’s expectations, agri productivity did no increase linearly w time but instead tracked population growth and increased expo..  so too.. as avg wages increase.. workers reproduce less


the rate at which we need to process energy to sustain our standard of living remained at just a few hundred watts for hundreds of thousands of years, until about 10 000 years ago when we began to form collective urban communities.. this marked the beginning of the anthropocene, in which our effective metabolic rate began its steady rise to its present level of more than 3 000 watts today..   but this is just its avg value taken across the entire planet.. the rate.. in developed countries is far higher.. i n the us it is almost a factor of four larger, at a whopping 11 000 watts..  more than 100 times larger than its natural biological value.. we are operating as if our population is at least 30x larger.. equiv to a global population in excess of 22 bn people


this gives a sense of scale for how much energy we use but also illustrates just how far out of ecological equilibrium we have come relative to he rest of the ‘natural world’


life on our planet evolved and has been sustained by transforming energy directly from the sun into bio metabolic energy that fuels organisms..  a crucial element in how life has been sustained is that the energy source, namely the sun, was external, reliable, and relatively constant..  this ongoing, ever evolving quasi steady state very slowly began to change w our discover of fire, which is the chemical process that releases the sun’s energy stored in dead wood.. when coupled w the invention of agri, this began the transition to the anthropocene .. as we emerged from a purely bio organism to present state as urbanize socioeconomic creature no longer in meta equilibrium w the ‘natural’ world..  this all in the last 200 yrs when our discovery and exploitation of the sun’s energy stored underground in coal and oil heralded the beginning of the urbanocence.. fossil fuels were, and still are, perceived like the sun itself as an almost limitless source of energy whose subsequent release sparked the industrial revolution

from a sci perspective the truly revolutionary character of the industrial rev was the dramatic change from an open system where energy is supplied externally by the sun to a closed system where energy is supplied internally by fossil fuel.. this is a fundamental systemic change w huge thermodynamic consequences..  because in a closed system the 2nd law of therm and it s requirement that entropy  increases strictly applies..we ‘progressed’ from an external, reliable, and constant source of energy to one that is internal, unreliable and variable..

huge.. this is huge.. where we went from open to closed

solar energy ness

furthermore, because our dominant source of energy is now an integral component of the very system it is supporting, its supply is hostage to continually changing internal market forces


powered by fossil fuels, our socioeconomic accomplishments in just 200 yrs surpass anything that natural selection, powered directly by the sun, has ever done biologically over such a short period of time. but there is a potentially heavy price to pay for letting the fossil energy genie out of the bottle and we have to either learn to live w it, if possible, or put it back in the bottle whence it came.. i will not be discussing in any detail how the rates of physical and chemical processes depend on temperature, other than to reiterate that they scale exponentially rather than as a power law


yes.. we should all delight in and *promote the huge success and fruits of the free market system and of the role of human ingenuity and innovation, but we should also recognize the critical roles of energy and entropy and together act strategically to find global solutions to their deleterious consequences..

? *really..? promote..?

despite the obviously central role that energy has played in bringing us to this point in history.. remarkably , concepts like energy and entropy, metabolism and carrying capacity have not found their way into mainstream economics.. the continued growth of economies, markets, and populations over the past 200 yrs coupled w a *parallel increase in standards of living are, not surprisingly, seen as testament to the success of classic econ thinking and as a rejection of neo malthusian ideas..  there ahs been no need to think seriously in terms of energy as an underlying drier of economic success or of population growth, let alone to consider entropy as its inevitable consequence..  nor has there been the need to consider the possibility that resources may actually be limited,  nor that there might be underlying physical constraints that would question open-ended growth. until now..

*really..? for how many people..?


more energy is delivered by the sun in just one hour than is used by the entire world in a single year.. so from this pov.. no energy problem.. at least in principle..

consequently, the long term strategy for sustained global energy availability is clear: we need to return to the biological paradigm where most of our energy needs are supplied directly from th esun..but in such a way as to maintain and expand what we have so far accomplished

however, one of the more mysterious aspects of the 21st cent is that those who seem most vocal in promoting and celebrating innovation and the free market econ as the engine of sustainability seem so reluctant to recognize the urgency of the challenge and to champion research and development in exploiting the almost infinite power of solar energy


like conventional fossil fuel power plants, energy produced by nuclear reactors is internal to the entire global system and consequently suffers from similar issues regarding the production of entropy and deleterious by produces.. although nuclear power, like solar, is not a significant source of greenhouse gases and therefore not a driver of possible climate change, its by products can be extremely deleterious because their energy scale is so much higher (by a factor of a million) .. so radiation.. damaging to molecules and organic tissue.. serious health issues.. ie: cancer.. to a large extent, our atmosphere protects us from similar radiation from the sun, but in reactors on earth this is a major challenge..  in addition.. the issue of safe and reliable storage and disposal of the waste products from nuclear reactions.. which remain radioactive for 1000s of years..

ie: reverberations from the disaster at the fukushima nuclear power plant in japan in 2011 have led to decrease in present/future reliance on nuclear energy world wide.. fossil fuels have caused hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deaths and an enormous number of health problems..


to give a sense of the sorts of comparisons we have to make.. we are surprisingly tolerant of death and destruction arising from ‘unnatural, man made’ causes when they occur on a continual regular basis, but are extremely intolerant when they occur suddenly as discreet events even though the numbers involved are much smaller.. ie: each year more than a million and a quarter people die from car accidents worldwide.. which is comparable to the number who die from lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer death.. nevertheless, the fear and anxiety about dying from cancer seems to be far greater than the concern about being killed in an auto accident..  and this is reflected in the large discrepancy in the resources we devote to addressing each of these problems..  it is interesting to compare both of these to the number of people who have died directly from nuclear accidents.. even when integrated over the entre lifetime of all nuclear power plants this is less than 100 people, and most of them died in the chernobyl disaster in the ussr in 1986, while none died at fukushima. on the other hand, many 1000s may have contracted cancer and died, ow rill.. because of radiation exposure .. bu this should be ‘balance’ by the estimate 50 mn people who are injured, maimed, or disable each year by car accidents..

so the argument go back and forth as we try to compare apples and oranges, grappling fo the appropriate metrics to help us make these difficult decisions and comparisons as we try to prioritize the global energy portfolio..


adding to our difficulties are th psychosocial imponderable such as the almost universal love affair w the automobile and the almost universal fear of a major nuclear power disaster,  which is difficult to disentangle from the universal fear of nuclear bombs..

regardless of whether one believes in the innovative capacity of human beings to solve the problems of nuclear energy…. apart from its many other issues, the nuclear option, like that of traditional fossil fuels, keeps us trapped in the paradigm of a closed system, whereas ..

the solar option has the critical capacity for potentially returning us to a truly sustainable paradigm of an open system..t

huge – solar energy 

analogous to humanity sans money/measuring

6 – prelude to a science of cities


despite my skepticism, david and sander convinced me that extending the network based scaling theory from biology to social organizations was indeed a worthwhile project


it is all too often forgotten that the whole point of a city is to bring people together, to facil interaction, and thereby to create ideas and wealth , to enhance innovative thinking and encourage entrepreneurship and cultural activity by taking advantage of the extraordinary opps that th e the diversity of the city offer..

first half is great.. last part.. not sure


cities  are emergent complex adaptive social network systems resulting from the continuous interactions among their inhabitants, enhanced and facil’d by the feedback mechs provided by urban life

nice.. but begging a mech to facil and feedback .. as it could be

ironically, jane had no fancy academic creds not even an undergrad degree, nor did she engage in traditional research activities. her writings are more like journalistic narratives, based primarily on anecdotes, person experience, and a deep intuitive understanding of what cities are, how they work and how they ‘should’ work..



quote from jane: his aim was the creation of self sufficient small towns, really very nice towns if you wer docile and had no plans of your own and did not mind spending your life w others w no plans of their own. as in all utopias, the right to have plans of any significance belonged only to the planner in charge

disagree with bit on utopia ness.. assuming she’s calling his that because he did

the ‘his’ in this last quote is a ref to sir ebenezer howard, the inventor of the concept of the ‘garden city’..   20th cent idealized suburbs.. garden city as a planned community w distinct areas of residences (housing), factories (industry) and nature (agri) in prescribe proportions that he deemed ideal for providing the best of urban and country living. no slums, no pollution, .. integration of town and country as a step toward a new civilized society.. a curious marriage between libertarianism and socialism


masdar in abu dhabi.. envisioned showcase for a sustainable, energy-efficient, user-friendly high-tech community.. planned to have 50 000 inhabitants by around 2025 at a cost of 20 bn.. boundaries form an exact square..  in many way s its philosophy is derivative of howard’s garden city.. except appears to be designed for the privileged.. rather than the working poor..


many architects have explore/struggled/experimented w embracing free flowing sensual curves..  ie: using fibanacci sequence.. et al.. all of these ie’s are of individual structures, but there is no real equivalent in the design of entire cities,  nor in urban development beyond variations on the garden city .. however in 1980s a movement called the new urbanism arose that was an attempt to combat some of the issues inherent in an auto and steel and concrete dominated society..  the movement advocated a return to diverse, mixed use neighborhoods.. w emphasis on community structure.. much of the thinking was inspired by the critical writing of the great urbanists lewis mumford and jane jacobs..

new urbanism


on jane saying: ‘no. if i were to be remembered as a really important thinker of the century, the most important thing i’ve contributed is my discussion of what makes econ expansion happen. this is something that has puzzled people always. i thin k i’ve figured out what it s.. ‘

alas she was wrong.. she is in fact primarily remembered for her fight to preserver integrity of lower manhattan and insight into nature of cities.. unfortunately, her contributions to econ per se .. have not fared nearly so well..

her major point throughout her writing is that macroeconomically, cities are the prime drivers of econ development, not the nation state as is typically presumed by most classical economists.. this was radical idea at the time and almost entirely ignored by economists..

almost 50 yrs after jane’s hypotheses about the primacy of cities in national econs were articulated.. many of us who have come to study cities from a variety of perspectives have arrived at some version of her conclusions..  the fate of the cities is the fate of the planet.. jane understood this truth more than 50 yrs ago.. and only now are some fo the experts beginning to recognize her extraordinary foresight.. ie: edward glaeser and richard florida.. but none has been as forthright and bold as benjamin barber in his book.. if mayor rule the world.. dysfunction al nations, rising cities.. where challenges have to be addressed in real time

richard, benjamin


it is notoriously difficult to make an objective judgement about the success of a city.. it is not even clear what characteristics and metrics one should use to determine success/failure..  measurements of psychosocial phenom such as happiness, fulfilment and the quality of life do not readily lend themselves to reliable quantification.. let alone being modeled.. on the other hand, the more concrete characteristics of life such as income, health, and cultural activities clearly do. much of what has been written about the success of cities is not much more sophisticated than elaborations on the sort of anecdotes i’ve already quoted..

it does seem clear that to varying degrees almost all planned cities end up being soulless and alienating..


here’s the problem: cities do indeed evolve, but they take may decades to change and we simply no longer have the time to wait..

cities have an organic quality. they evolve and physically grow out of interactions between people..  it is shortsighted and even courting disaster to ignore this critical dimension of urbanisation and concentrate only on buildings and infrastructure..

7 – toward a science of cities


(on most research on cities being qualitative)..  lost of alt ways of perceiving cities.. though rarely interacting .. tellingly there are as yet no explicit depths of ‘urban science’ or ‘urban physics’.. these rep a new frontier as the urgency to understand cities from a more sci perspective emerges. this is the context of what i am presenting here, namely using scale as a powerful tool for opening a window on th e development of qauntitiative conceptual integrated systemic framework for understanding cities.. (then goes into graph of # of gas stations in city.. to show similarity between cities)


the larger the city.. the higher the wages.. the greater gdp.. the more crime.. the more cases of aids and flu.. the more restaurants.. the more patents .. and so on

most of those things could be irrelevant.. if we got back to an open system.. no? i’d say some of those things are causing the other things..


if given size of a city in the us.. you can predict w 80-90% accuracy what the avg wage is, how many patents.. etc

why ..?


for ie..   we don’t think of the number of cases of a particular disease as being connected to the number of patents produced or the number of gasoline stations in a city..  the *data convincingly show that despite appearances cities are approximately scaled versions of one another..

? *rather.. that things like patents (ownership) and money (measuring transactions) and cars (pollution .. taking us away from community.. not walking).. cause us to be sick (poor health.. crime) .. no..?


the quintessential anthropocentric process of wonder, thinking, contemplation, reflection, questioning, and philosophizing, of creating and innovating, of searching and exploring, has been enhanced and engendered by our invention of the city as the crucible of civilization, the engine that facilitates creativity and ideas

well.. not currently… too much norm ing and oppressing and automating ineq going and civilizing.. around.. but it could.. cure ios city.. ie: cure ios city

if cities are thought of solely in terms of their physicality, as just buildings and roads and the multiple network systems of wires and pipes that supply them w energy and resources, then they are indeed quite analogous to organism, manifesting similar systematic scaling laws encapsulating economies of scale..

?.. wires and pipes that supply energy.. that is not natural/open.. is analogous to organism ness..?

however, when humans began forming sizable communities they brought a fundamentally new dynamic to the planet beyond that of biology and the discovery of economies of scale. w the invention of language and the consequent exchange of info between people and groups of people via social networks, we discovered how to innovate and create wealth. *cities are therefore much more than giant organisms or anthills: they rely on long range complex exchanges of people, goods, and knowledge.. they are invariably magnets for creative and innovative individuals, and stimulants for economic growth, wealth production and new ideas..

?*thinking more machine like than ant hills .. because we’re messing the system up (cancer izing it.. closing it.. making it not us) by obsessing w/measuring those exchanges.. no..?

organism as fractal


what are these networks? recall three generic geometric and dynamical properties of biological networks that underlie quarter power allometric (study of relationship of body size to shape, anatomy, physiology and finally behaviour) scaling are:

*1\ space filling – every bit serviced

**2\ cells in variant

***3\ optimally minimal



***upcycling ness.. don’t need more resources just need to be more resourceful ..

these properties have direct analogs in the infra networks of cities.. ie; our road and transport networks have to be space filling so that every local region of the city is serviced, just as all of the various utility lines have to supply water, gas and electricity to all of its houses and buildings.. also natural to extend this concept to social networks

but this isn’t true.. anywhere.. is it..? ie: matter little if indeed roads/wiring did fill all the spaces.. if some people don’t have access to those fillers.. ie: no house.. no money for car or transit or phone..

ants could never work in our cities.. because you need all of them.. and in our cities.. they wouldn’t all have access to where they needed to go


a challenging and very interesting question is what, if anything, is being optimized in the structure and dynamics of cities..

profit is being optimized.. connection is being oppressed


fractal dimensions are a measure of an object’s degree of crinkliness, a measure of its complexity..


hidden beneath the geometry even of cities w rectangular grids lurks a fractality that permeates all cities an dis reflected in the universality of the scaling laws..

i’m thinking a and a as permeating similar infra.. and not sure what you mean by scaling laws here

ie: map of interstate road network system in us.. construction began after ww2 .. inspired by hitler’s autobahns.. strongly motivated by perceived defense needs..  planned to be as straight as possible in order to min distance and travel times between major cities.. result.. the interstate system roughly approximates a rectangular grid much like a typical american city.. does look much like a classical fractal

yet despite appearances, the interstate system i in fact a quintessential (representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class.)fractal when viewed thru the lens of the actual traffic flowing on it.. rather than when viewed simply as a physical road network.. the traffic flow is the very essence of the interstate and is the fundamental reason for its existence…

? what..? the flow is people going to work.. no?.. built for defense.. neither one of those things is a natural phenom..

to reveal its fractality, consider for simplicity some port city such as boston, long beach , or laredo. trucks leave these ports on a regular basis to deliver goods all over the us using the interstate road network..  the us dept of transportation keeps careful stats on such flows so easy to add up total number of trucks traveling in each road section over some specified period of time..

again.. you are studying non natural phenom.. ie: delivering (consumer) goods rather than needs.. and calling this a quintessential fractal of a living organism..?


as you can readily see, the regula grid of the interstate that you are used to seeing on the map has been transformed into a much more interesting hierarchical fractal like structure remarkably reminiscent of our circulatory system..

why would that be..? our circ system runs on your #3 optimal ness.. and the truck system doesn’t.. it’s transports excess.. to people who don’t know what they want/need..

unfortunately, no one has performed a similar analysis w/in cities.. primarily because we don’t have the detail stats on traffic flow for every street in the city. the advent of smart cities w the promise of countless detectors.. will eventually provide sufficient data to carry out similar analyses on all cities to reveal .. provide.. a detailed quantitative valuation of traffic patterns and the attractiveness of specific locations as well as other metrics that are crucial for planning purposes such as in successfully developing new areas of a city or deciding on the placement of new malls or stadiums..

dang.. malls and stadiums.. wow.. not seeing #3 at all

leading advocate for fractal city.. mike batty.. centre for advanced spatial analysis at uni college london.. his work has focused primarily on computer models of the physicality of cities and urban systems..  he is enthusiastic about the concept of cities as *complex adaptive systems and has consequently become a proponent of developing a science of cities..  his vision is a little diff than mine.. emphasized th more phenomenological traditions of the social sciences, geography and urban planning as against the more analytic, mathematical traditions of physics based on underlying principles that i’ve been articulating.. ultimately both approaches are needed if we are to accomplish the huge challenge of understanding cities..

depends of you want to understand them as is.. (with people not themselves living in them) or if you want to understand what they could be.. (not able to be made into an algo or an computer model.. ie: if alive organism.. can’t predict et al)

*complexity ness


a city is an emergent complex adaptive system resulting from the integration of the flows of energy and resources that sustain and grow both its physical infra and its inhabitants w the flows and exchange of info in the social networks that interconnect all of its citizenry

well.. it can be.. i haven’t seen it happen anywhere yet.. you?

physical networks.. not difficult to imagine how they mimic the physiological networks in our own bodies.. not quite so obvious however is to visualize the geometry and structure of social networks and the flows of info between the people in them..


social networks not studied as much as physical.. got a boost when physicist and mathematicians began to get interested in complex adaptive systems in the 199s..

stanley milgram – 6 degrees of separation – 1960s – the small world problem.. – how many iterations of friends of friends of friends of.. etc.. before i eventually connect to you

 pi degrees


milgram is equally famous for his extremely provocative and thought provoking experiments investigating obedience to authority.. having been strongly influenced by the events of the holocaust and in particular the trial in 61 of eichmann,.. one of its main architects, he devised experiments to show how easily any of us can be persuaded by peer and group pressures to perform acts or make statements in violation of our beliefs and conscience..

milgram was a high school friend of .. philip zimbardo.. stanford prison experiment.. these were inspired by milgram’s obedience to authority research and demo’d how otherwise normal people.. can be induced to perform sadistic acts when playing the role of a prison guard  or to exhibit extreme passivity and depression when playing the role of a prisoner..


the question as to how and why good people become evil and do bad thing.. – the human analog to job’s dilemma as to why god allow s bad things to happen to good people – has been a fundamental paradox of human behavior since we evolve social consciousness.. the question of man’s place in relationship to himself.. can be viewed as a companion to that of man’s place in relationship to universe..

the provocative work of milgram and zimbardo strongly suggests tha the conundrum as to why good people can do very bad things originates in peer pressure situations, fear of rejection and a desire to be part of a group where power and control are conferred on individuals by authority..  zimbardo has become an articulate and vocal advocate for the recognition that this powerful dynamic, which seems to be built into our psyches independent of cultural origins and which has wreaked horrors over the centuries, be explicitly recognized/addressed rather than restoring to our instinctual tendency to put the blame simplistically on inidviual ‘bad apples’ ..national characteristics ..or culture norms

maté trump law


6 degrees tell us despite appearances we are considerably more closely connected to one another than most of us are aware..  further.. small world networks typically manifest power law scaling reflecting underlying self similar characteristics and a preponderance of cliques of individuals..  such modular group structures are a central feature of our social life,  family.. friends.. work.. neighborhood.. or entire city

small world network

understanding and deconstructing the hierarchy of social group structures has been a major focus of attention in sociology and anthropology for more than 50 yrs.. b tit was only in the last 20 or so that some of their quantitative feature have become apparent.. some of this has been driven by the work of the evolutionary physiologist robin dunbar..  who proposed.. that an avg individual’s entire social network can be deconstructed into hierarchical sequence of discrete nested clusters whose sizes follow a surprisingly regular pattern.. the size of the group at each level systematically increases as one progresses up the hierarchy from , say, family to city, while the strength of the bonding.. decreases.. so.. strong w immediate.. but only  very weak w ie: bus driver.. council member..


jo freeman ness

partly inspired by .. social primate communities.. partly by hunter gatherers.. dunbar discovered that this hierarchy appeared to hae a surprisingly regular mathematical structure obeying very simple scaling rules reminiscent of self similar fractal like behavior.. found that lowest level of hierarchy the number of people w whom the avg individual has his or her strongest.. is only about five..

next leve.. close friends…. inner circle.. 15..


next level.. 50.. next level.. casual friends.. .. 150..


there is evidence tha tin social networks this pattern w a branching ration of three persists beyond the 150… to 500 .. 1500 .. and so on..

150.. size in which all individuals still know one another sufficiently well for group to remain coherent..

dunbar speculated has origins in evolution of cognitive structure of brain.. we simply don’t have computational capacity to manage beyond this size…

dunbar went much further by suggesting that the relationship is causal in the human intelligence evolved primarily as a response to he challenge of forming large and complex social groups rather than the usual explanation that it is a direct consequence of meeting ecological challenges..


i must confess i like the general idea that social network structure has its origins in evolutionary pressures whether social or environ, because it implies that the self similar fractal nature of social networks is encoded in our dna.. and therefore in the neural system of our brains.. .. white and gray matter in brains.. itself fractal like hierarchical networks.. suggests..  hidden fractal nature of social networks is actually a rep of the physical structure of our brains..  this speculation can be taken one step further by invoking the idea that the structure and org of cities are determined by the structure and dynamics of social networks.. in which case.. the universal fractality of cities can be viewed as projection of universal fractality of social networks..

.. led to outrageous speculation that cities are effectively a scale rep of the structure of the human brian

not outrageous.. unless we assume money/measuring.. then.. not self similar..

a pretty wild conjecture..  but it graphically incorporates the idea that there is a universal character to cities.. : cities are a rep of how people interact w one another and this is encoded in our neural networks and therefore in the structure and org of our brains..

only if the city is based indigenously.. open.. ie: no money, energy from sun, .. et al

unlike in biology, surprisingly little attention had been paid to scaling laws of cities, urban systems, or co’s prior to our investigations..  this may be because few people suspected that such complex, historically contingent man made systems as these would manifest any sort of systematic quantitative regularity..

well.. still not buying the co’s do that.. you can do anything w numbers.. esp lines of best fit


zipf.. bell curve..  for.. income.. words in a book.. et al..



given the connection of the occurrence of rare events, it is not surprising that power law distributions and models based on fractal like behavior have been gaining greater currency in the burgeoning field of risk management..

ugh.. risk for who..? and these aren’t organically/naturally fractal like

organism as fractal

as society becomes ever more complex and risk averse, developing a science of risk is becoming of increasing importance, so understanding fat tails and rare events is an area of increasing interest in both the academic and corporate communities..

rather.. increasing shini ness.. not importance/relevance.. to (alive/awake/authentic) humanity


no satisfactory explanation based on underlying principles for understanding the hierarchical structure observed by dunbar.. there are hints that such generic properties follow from the conjecture made earlier that self interest – that is, the desire of all individuals and com’s to *max their assets and income.. coupled w concept of maximal filling of social space are the underlying driving forces..

*cancer.. errored rna.. big red flag that not fractal

all socioeconomic activity in cities involves the interaction between people.. employment, wealth creation.. crime, policing, ed, ..all the pursuits that characterize modern homo sapiens

rather.. non thinking humans.. not us humans.. so.. not only not fractal.. not legit data..

the job of the city is to facil and enhance this process by providing the appropriate infra .. such as parks, restaurants, cafes, stadiums, office buildings..  to encourage and increase social connectivity

job of city could be to facil curiosity.. but .. facil ing all those things just perpetuates not us ness… perpetuates a broken feed back loop..


now let’s go back and take a look at how this plays out in tan entire city.. if it were possible for everyone to interact meaningfully w everyone else as in one great big happy family.. then the above argument would imply that all socioeconomic metrics should scale w the square of the population size.. .. reps the extreme and totally unrealistic case.. clearly impossible and certainly not desirable..

but that ‘s not the point of us being.. one.. in the city.. as the day.. the point is that we have all those people available (local.. but even now global).. so that we can have interact meaningfully with our tribe.. so the key is.. how do you find your tribe.. each day..

that’s what we need a mech for and a model of.. that’s the deeper problem to solve..


the underlying reason we are limited in the number and rate o f interactions we can sustain w other people in the city is rooted in the hidden constraints imposed by space and time. we simply can’t be in all places at all times..

well.. i think again.. that’s the wrong focus.. we can be ongoingly engaged w the entire population.. ie: the daily pooling of curiosities.. we need everyone.. so that when we get so specific as .. what matters to me today.. (3 min of convo).. we have all those possibilities to draw from.. so that everyday.. everyone is finding their tribe.. none of us want to be in all places at all times.. we want to be where our people are doing/being our daily art/curiosity

i think this is the key piece of the jo freeman ness misunderstanding/potential


(on internet getting us to think of virtual links.. but we have to be in a physical space.. and how we’re missing that in our constraint ness).. and that physical world is primarily that of the urban environ.. and this is where the infra of a city comes in: .. its role is to enhance and facil social interactions..

2 convos.. 3 min of curiosity and mech connects you to like locals that day

another obvious point.. not only located somewhere in the city, but .. at least some of the time we have to be going from that someplace to some other place.. people in *cities cannot be static.. their **mobility is essential..

yeah.. in the city.. as the day..  per daily curiosity.. not supposed to’s.. so minus work/school/et-al.. which completely changes the *transit element..


the biological metaphor of the city as a living org derives primarily from its being perceive in terms of its physicality. this is most apparent in the networks that carry energy and resources in the form of electricity, gas, water, cars, trucks, and people.. and it is this component of cities that is the close analog to the networks that proliferate in bio such as our cardiovascular and respiratory systems.. or the vasculature of plants and trees..  combing the ideas of space filling, invariant terminal units, and optimization .. results in these networks also being fractal like w infra metric s

but it doesn’t.. it’s not fractal like.. even by your metrics.. (#3  – optimal use).. ie: if our cardio systems (which some people who die too soon are) ran like we currently run cities.. we’d all be dead.. it’s not fractal to how a healthy cardio/respi/vasc system works.. we currently aren’t optimizing anything.. we use cars we don’t need.. electricity.. water.. food.. we don’t need.. we waste way too much for this to be fractal of an organisms natural system..

that’s huge.. and that’s what we keep missing… not all the math.. not all the science.. the fact that we are comparing apples to oranges.. or whatever..  so we’re iterating on error..


so increasing the size of a city increase the rate and number of interactions between its citizens

not really.. otherwise we run into dunbar/freeman messiness.. and lonely/together ness.. what it increases is the potential to find your daily tribe..  to shorten the lag time between intention and action everyday.. which increases the opportunity for equity (everyone getting a go everyday).. not a loner goal.. not a compromised goal because you have to hang out with the people who are close to you or available or are loudest or whatever..  that’s a huge difference.. that’s the fractal you’re looking for.. that’s the fractal we all crave.. and today.. we have the means to facil that.. (using everybody to find specific daily groupings.. for everybody).. but we’re lost/blind in the shiny/math of comparing the wrong things in order to predict/assure..

we’re not zooming out enough.. we’re not being quiet enough.. to see the fractal of us


consequently, to the same 15% degree, the bigger the city the more each person earns, creates, innovated, and interacts – and the mroe each person experiences crime, disease, entertainment, and opportunity – and all of this at a cost that requires less infra and energy for each of them. this is the genius of the city. no wonder so many people are drawn to them..

no .. that’s the cancerous/man-made version of the city.. attracting/confusing/housing simulated thinking people

the genius of the city is.. yes.. the jane jacobs diverse ness.. the eclectic ecosystem ness.. but if we get to the basic needs of humanity.. if we focus on the problem deep enough for 7bn of us to resonate with today.. if we address that.. facil that.. then the crime/disease/greed/competition/waste/measuring/addiction/enslavement.. become irrelevant/non-existent..


in contrast, in socioeconomic networks – those responsible for wealth creation, innovation, crime, and so forth – the inverse behavior is at play as was explained when we discussed the hierarchy of dunbar numbers. the strengths of social interaction and the flows of info exchange are greatest between terminal units )that is, between individuals) and systematically decrease up the hierarchy of group structure from families and other groups to increasingly larger cluster, leading to superlinear scaling, increasing returns, and an accelerating pace of life..

perhaps the dunbar hierarchy is not authentic.. perhaps the fractal is more about flattening and deepening..  which slows the pace of life

8 – consequences and predictions


critical from the physics perspective is to make quantitative predictions that are subsequently confronted w data, and in some cases big data

makes no difference how much you quantify..  if it’s the wrong and/or non-legit data.. just to clarify.. i think qualitative data scientists are collecting the wrong/non-legit data as well..

we can get plenty of quantity out of a nother way.. it’s all about quantity.. because it has to be all of us.. everyday.. but the data.. is not about prediction.. it’s about connection

the theory already passes its first test, namely , to provide a natural explanation for the origin of the many scaling laws reviewed earlier.. also explains their universal character across divers metrics and urban systems.. as well as self similar and fractal nature of cities.. further more, the analysis condenses and explains an enormous amount of data implicitly encapsulated in the many scaling laws tha cover much of what we can measure about the structure and org of cities.. including the socioeconomic life of their citizens.. although this reps a significant accomplishment, it is just a beginning..

i don’t think it passes the test..


it provides a point od departure for extending the theory to a broad range of problems pertinent not just to cities and urbanization but also to economics and fundamental questions fo growth innovation and sustainability…  metric quantifying social connectivity between people.. their movement.. attractiveness of specific locations.. ie: businesses; eye drs; criminal lawyers, shop assistants..

i don’ t see any of those as natural phenom of a safe/healthy organism/humanity

organism as fractal

and finally the key question addressed in ch 10.. can any of this be sustainable..

only way to be sustainable is to disengage from all the things you’re listing/assuming.. let go and let the organism (aka: free people) emerge the community.. let’s just facil daily curiosities.. and trust that/us

increasing pace of life:.. a typical person is considerably more connected and spends much more time exchanging significantly more info w other individuals

what if that’s not what we need/want..? what if what we want is deeper/slower connections.. the increase needs to be in the quantity of possibilities for tribal/soulmate connections/info not increase in the quantity of connections/info


(on slowing down of pace of life as org increase.. bigger animals live longer have slower heart and rep rates..) it should come to no great surprise that precisely the opposite behavior arises in social networks. rather than the pace of life systematically decreasing w size, the superlinear dynamics of social networks leads to a systematic increase in the pace of life.. disease spreads faster .. businesses are born and die more often.. commerce is transacted more rapidly, people walk faster..

in our cancerous/simulated-org city.. yeah.. but pace is slower if focus is on the increase in possibilties/potential for the better/deeper connections..

you’re looking at what we’re doing now.. and saying that’s why there’s this inverse.. you’re redefining the fractal ness to fit the data you’re taking in..

i’m thinking the data is wrong.. because the data w’ere looking at is not us.. it’s a simulation of us.. and a bad one.. a cancerous one..

we’re missing the opp to facil better/deeper connections.. rather than more..

affluence w/o abundance meets eagle and condor time


life on an accelerating treadmill.. ie’s: inbox always full; behind on taxes; continuous seminars; meetings; passwords; .. pressure never seem to abate..

the things you’ve listed would be irrelevant to truly free people.. let’s do this first.. and then study and be curious about how we dance.. if we want

black science of people/whale’s law –  we keep spending our time/energies studying whale in a water park.. to see what a whale is like..

quoting goethe 200 yrs ago.. saying pace is too fast..


(on time-saving inventions) john maynard kenyes 1930: for first time since his creation man will be faced w his real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well..

actually  not first time since creation.. more like.. 2% of time since creation via affluence w/o abundance

could not have been more wrong. the main challenge they foresaw was how to keep people occupied so they wouldn’t become bored to death instead of giving us more time ‘science and compound interest’ driven by ‘technologists working for 50 hr s a week’ have, in fact, given us less time


rather than being bored to death, our actual challenge is to avoid anxiety attacks..psychotic breakdowns, heart attacks, and strokes resulting from being accelerated to death

and/or.. bored to death with our supposed to days of work/school

(on how tv/fb/twitter/selfies/texts/gaming dominate our lives and fill up our time). they do serve other purposes and can certainly increase the quality of life, but their additive temptations have been hard to resist..  in any case, these are prime ie’s of recent innovations that have contributed to the acceleration of social time

both. .. these things we’re addicted to.. and the acceleration of time.. aren’t the cause.. they’re the symptoms.. of lacking our basic needs.. (which by the way require leisure time)


on zahavi’s findings that commute time no matter size of city.. so.. size as city increases so too efficiency of transport.. planners understanding this as the go for banning autos et order to maintain functionality of city

ugh.. let’s get rid of commute.. in order to thrive/slow-down in the city


walking pace increases too


on mobile phones ushering massive data sets.. for way to create more wealth

yuck.. more connections..

funny.. people always gripe about people on their phones.. when most often.. it’s a connection not a econ wealth creation.. so .. the people looking .. inhumane.. are the ones spending time on connection


the beauty of mobile phone data, or data from social media such as fb or twitter, for investigating social behavior is that these sorts of problems (inability to gather massive data for credibility_ can be significantly mitigated.  providing a quantitative window on how, where, and when we interact

again.. matters little how much you can collect.. if the people aren’t themselves.. detox first..

and i’m thinking.. if everyone is free.. even the inspectors of inspectors.. we’ll have less desire to quantify the things we feel we need to now.. ie: for predictive purposes..  why would we.. if everyone is fulfilled in the now


(on data from phones telling more about behavior/interactions and that findings show size of city irrelevant to size of individual’s social module – and relating that to limits of dunbar and brain capacity).. there is however an important qualitative difference in the nature of these modular groups in villages relative to those in large cities.. in a real village we are limited to a community that is imposed on us by sheer proximity resulting from its small size.. whereas in a city we are freer to choose our own ‘village’ by taking advantage of the much greater opp and diversity afforded.. and to seek out people whose interests… and so on ..are similar to our own..  this sense of freedom .. is one of major attractions of urban life..

yet we’re missing the means to facil that.. both in real villages and large cities..


motion of people in cities is not at all like the random motion of molecules in a gas or particles in a reactor.. instead it is overwhelmingly systematic and directed. very few journeys are random.. almost all.. involve willful travel from one specific place to another: mostly from home to work, to a store, to a school or cinema and so forth…

perhaps this is a sign that our city as fractal is off.. or perhaps when you say co is like people org but city is not.. is off..? ie: the directed/systematic ness.. is not natural.. the places defining the day.. ie: school, work, .. are not part of that natural fractal of us.. so of course.. the motion of people in this pre-determined/supposed-to space.. is predictable.. it’s just not authentically us.. i belive if free.. we’d be random like the motion of molecules.. whimsy in as the day ness..


successful co’s and unis attract the smarts people..

what’s your defn of smart..?

we’re missing most of the population’s energy ..which is what we desperately need.. by saying/believing things like that.. not to mention.. co’s and uni’s might be the least desirable places for truly free people.. so perhaps missing all the energy..

imagine 7 bn people free in spaces that facil leisure


once the set of individual building blocks is large enough.. resulting combination of talents and functions is sufficient to generate novel variations that expand the business landscape.. *leading to greater economic productivity

*this is why we’re doing match dot com all wrong..


lewis mumford: the chief function of the city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity..

can be thought of a social metabolism of a city..

the actual energy content of the food input to the total energy budget of a city is a tiny portion of its overall consumption.. less than 1%.. may seem paradoxical since we saw in last section that food establishments are the most abundant business type in most cities.. even exceeding lawyers.. the point is that the overwhelming energy cost associated w food is not in the food itself (the 2 000 food calories a day per person) but in its production, transportation, distribution and marketing thru the supply chain from farms to stores to your house and ultimately to your mouth

huge piece we’re doing wrong.. cancerous us

when one contemplates the huge number of diff contributions to the total metabolism of a city it becomes clear that determining its value, whether in dollars or watts, becomes a major challenge that as far as i know has never been attempted in detail. this is *quite surprising given that this is fundamental to how cities and more generally economies function and grow..

*more surprising.. that we’re missing data that matters.. ie: self-talk as data.. that we’re not noticing that we’re not us.. that we’re currently.. simulated thinkers


in addition to need for collecting and analyzing huge amounts of data across a broad spectrum of diverse activities, there is the issue as to what would actually be counted as part of the social metabolism of a city.. ie: energy costs of crime, police, patents, construction, investments .. because all subcomponents scale this way (1.15 ness) the total social metabolic rate of city must likewise scale .. this is the beauty of the scaling perspective – we dont’ need to know the details of what the individual contributions to the metabolism of a city are in order to determine its growth trajectory.. because  they are all interconnected /interrelated thru same integrated unifying dynamics of social/and infra networks that constitute urban life



on super expo growth and concomitantly to an increase in pace of life.. in ch 10.. i’ll pick up the story on open ended growth in larger context by relating it to the role of innovation cycles and the accelerating pace of life and how these affect the critical question of sustainability..

9 – toward a science of companies


co’s like people and households are fundamental elements of the socioeconomic life of cities and states..

but economics aren’t fundamental to people

innovation, wealth generation, entrepreneurship, and job creation are all manifest thru the formation and growth of businesses, firms, and corporations, all of which i shall refer to generically as companies..

not rep of the fractal of humanity

co’s dominate the econ.. ie: total worth of all publicly traded co’s in us.. total market capitalization – is more than $21 trillion .. which is more than 15% larger than the entire gdp.. the value and annual sales of any of ht every larger co’s.. such as walmart, shell, exxon, amazon google, microsoft.. approach half a trillion dollars implying that a relatively small number of them have the lion’s share of the total market..


historically, co’s have been viewed as the necessary agents that org people to work collaboratively to take advantage of economies of scale.. thereby reducing the transaction costs of production or services

historically for 2% of humanity.. ie: affluence w/o abundance

despite all of its pitfalls, abuses, and negative unintended consequences, th is free market credo has been instrument in creating an unprecedented standard of living across the globe..

? hari present in society law.. krishnamurtic measure law..  poverty. suicide. addiction. incarceration. et al et al et al .. this is ridiculous


the mechs that have traditionally been suggested for understanding co’s can be divided intro three borad categoires: transtion costs, organizational structure, and competition in the marketplace

3 strikes.. not us.. not the fractal

autos, computers, ballpoint pens, and insurance portfolios cannot be produced on a grand scale w/o creating a complex org structure.. which must be adaptive if it is going to survive in a competitive market..

who says we need all of those.. and who says we need them at grand scale..? the grand ness we’re modeling now is extremely wasteful.. of resources.. but more importantly .. of people..


the hope is that such an integrated simulation of the whole economy could provide a realistic test bed for evaluating diff strategies for econ stimulus, such as whether to reduce taxes or increase public sending; and perhaps most important, to be able to predict tipping points of forecast imminent crises so as to avoid potential recessions or even eventual collapse

so sad.. all our energies focused on: not losing money.. imagine if we focused all our energy on: alive people.. via cure ios city


it is sobering that no such detailed model for how the economy actually works exists

that’s sobering..? it’s sobering we’re so obsessed/imprisoned by econ

it’s important and healthy to have such outspoken mavericks challenging the orthodoxy (of econ) esp when it’s had such a poor record and its proclamations have major implications for our lives..

ie: the orthodoxy that we need money.. that we need to measure transactions..


marcus hamilton.. had a mission in life: to make anthropology and archaeology more quantitative, computation=l, and mechanistic..

of math and men.. rowson mechanical law.kelly efficiency law et al

are we looking at a fractal that’s an organism.. ? or trying to make us/anything alive into a machine..?

marcus pioneered some fascinating work (working for sfi) trying to understand hunter gatherer societies from our scaling perspective and together w jose lobo and me has been developing a theory for how and why our h/g ancestors made the crucial transition to sedentary communities that eventually led to city formation.. together we co authored a paper that was published in anthropology journal.. one of the crowning achievements of my career..

hunter gatherers..  from what i’ve read.. it was forced upon them.. but then .. the people forcing it.. where did they come from if not h\g’s..

asking james: why did hunter gatherers transition to sedentary communities

10 – the vision of a grand unified theory of sustainability


almost all existing approaches to the challenge of global sustainabiity focus on realtivley specific issues, such as the environemtnal conseuences fo future energy sources, teh economic concsequences of climate chage, and the social impact of futreu energy and envinronmental choices.. while suhc focused studies are of obvious importance and wehr emost of our research efforts should be directed, they are not sufficient. they focus primaiyl on th etrees and risk missing the forecst..

and.. let’s be careful not to take this zoom out approach.. and start studying a simulated forest..

it’s time to initiate a massive international manhattan style project or apollo stlye program dedicated to addressing global sustainability in an integrated, systemic sense

let’s try this: short bp.. short\bit


it is implicitly taken for granted, and often taken as unquestioned dogma, that as long as human beings r


(on the key being to innovate faster than the fast pace of problems.. and the image of sisyphus haunting us)




newton: heavenly laws are no diff from those on earth; maxwell: brought ether into our lives and gave us electromagnetic waves; darwin: reminded us we’re just animals and plants; laws of therm: suggest we can’t go on forever.. but all are to varying degrees incomplete..  truly remarkable and enormously ambitious quest that has occupied thousands of researcher for almost one hundred years at a cost of billions of dollars..  enormously successful… quarks.. higgs particle.. black holes.. big bang..


led to theory of everything – string theory – the grandest vision of all.. however.. potentially misleading and intellectually dangerous.. everything..? connotes a certain degree of intellectual arrogance..


qualitatively, this extreme version of reductionism may indeed have some partial validity, though i’m not sure to what extent anyone actually believes it – but, in any case.. something is missing

the something includes many of the concepts/ideas implicit .. in a lot of the problems/question consider in this book.. ie: info; emergence; accidents; historical contingency; adaptation; selection.. all characteristics of complex adaptive systems.. whether organism, societies, ecosystem or economies..   cannot be encoded in a small number of equations..  probably not even in an infinite number.. furthermore, prediction to arbitrary degrees of accuracy are not possible, even in principle..

scaling theory provides powerful tool for forging a middle ground in which a quantitative framework can be developed for understanding and predicting the coarse grained behavior of many broad aspects of such systems..

perhaps most surprising.. theory of everything implies on grand scale the universe.. though extremely complicated, is not complex .. but .. surprisingly simple.. because it can be encoded in a limited number of equations.. this is in stark contrast to the situation here on earth.. so.. while applauding/admiring search for grand unified theory.. we should recognize that it cannot literally explain and predict everything

consequently.. in parallel w the quest for the theory of everything, we need to embark on a similar quest for a grand unified theory of complexity.. the challenge of developing a quantitative, analytic, principled, predictive framework for understanding complex adaptive systems is surely one of the grand challenges for 21 cent science

how so..? isn’t that a death sentence.. for living organism.. don’t we have proof enough that the measuring ness kills alive ness..?

organism as fractal


this vision.. encapsulates what the sfi was founded to address.. a fantastic melting pot (no depts et al).. almost no hierarchy..  cross between silicon valley spaces and ivy league


philosophy of sfi: if you bring smart people together in a supportive, facilitative, dynamic environ.. that lets them freely interact.. good things will inevitably result..

so.. let’s try that for 7 bn.. no..? as it could be.. assuming we really believe we’re all interconnected.. which means we need everyone’s insight/being

the institute has been internationally recognized as ‘the formal birth place of the interdisciplinary study of complex system’

so.. why not have sfi embark on a global model to reset our natural indigenous complexity.. aka: show 7bn how to get a dance do over

thinking when we focus on self-talk as data via 2 convos in order to facil all of us (as it could be)

1\ dunbar ness connections (whatever your number and every changing) are deeper

2\ diversity is deeper – connections via curiosity.. rather than some binary/label ness

serendipitous/eudaimoniative surplus


what we are trying to do at sfi.. find the best people, trust them, give them support, and don’t hamper them w bullshit.. and good things will happen

imagine that for 7 bn people.. graeber min max law.. gershenfeld sel.. et al

let’s do this first..  for (blank)’s sake


we have truly entered the era of big data..

makes no diff if still collecting wrong/non-legit data

try self-talk as data

just relying on data alone, or even mathematical fits to data, w/o having some deeper understanding of the underlying mech is potentially deceiving and may well led to erroneous conclusions and unintended consequences..


underlying mech: address maté basic needs.. via short\bit

erroneous conclusion: black science of people/whales law


sydney brenner: we are drowning in a sea of data and thirsting for some theoretical framework w which to understand it…. we need theory and a firm grasp on the nature of the objects we study to predict the rest

all good.. not sure about the predict part though

let’s try  a nother way

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way