Physicist Geoffrey West says that simple mathematical laws govern not just biology, but even human constructs such as commerce and cities – and if you feel like time is speeding up, you're correct.
United States


00:00:00what goes up must come down the laws of physics can be very simple and straightforward but sweet traditionally think of things like biology is Macy Sissy's I may see the growth of companies doesn't always follow the rules well maybe we should think against is a man that Time magazine called one of the 100 most influential people in the world dr. Jeffrey West argues that City's corporations even biologies follow certain rules the rules I follow a similar to physical laws there is Simplicity in the complexity of everything from our bodies to businesses and laws that bind it all together he makes his case and his new book it's called scale the universal laws of growth and Innovation sustainability and the pace of life in organisms cities economies and companies and Jeffrey West Des Moines
00:00:57Hello nice to hear you physicists end up studying things like biology because of my concern about getting old concern but interested by that that was one of the things that brought me into thinking along these lines wondering if you know generic or general rules or laws for debts of the speaker blade and then you started sniffing around and you thought I have got something you
00:01:38yes no I owe you lunch if you don't cover this is the first thing I noticed if you are asked you know about the animals not just the obvious the bigger they are the longer they live which we also get the actual lifespan itself follows very simple mathematical rule on the average and intrigued me and then as I started thinking about that and think about aging and mortality
00:02:38keeping you alive what's going wrong and Metabolism important maybe in a way that mortality metabolism how does your metabolic rate that is how much food do you need you need to eat each day to stay alive how does that vary with the size of the organism
00:03:12so and the the relationship between the two size and tableaus ammo size and Longevity is such that if I told you how big an animal was you would be able to tell me something about its lifespan in metabolism even if I didn't tell you which animal it was
00:03:31yes you have to tell me I think to be to make it but the more precise you have to tell me you know what is it a mammal is it a bird and sofa with roughly I mean even that it is not so crucial but that. Is an important ingredient that is what so does taxonomic group does it fit into but if you give me the song you to come in or predict if you like how much shopping the metabolic rate is but in fact you could be a logical metric with measurable any so-called life history of in life is to bed is like death but it will be time to maturity or you know how many offspring has any physiological variable like something as mundane as the length of the aorta or the number of heartbeats of that nature
00:04:31is a base is very simple scaling laws as you go across the spectrum of animals for example Among Us from the Shrew which is the smallest mammal all the way up to the blue whale which is a factor of a hundred million times bigger I'm almost everything about them and their kind of average way it's not a precise statement that it's true 18 90% level you tell me the size I can pretty much everything about you know some measure of complexity this really don't know no significant difference they're doing pretty much the same thing and they are simply
00:05:31is coarse-grained way I'm scared versions one another surprising on the land but anything that you measure about them in some Curious way of whale is a scaled-up elephant giraffe we just got up here in Baton Rouge is a scale. Mouse how do you scale something like breathing how do you compare the breathing of a of a mouse to a human to a scales in a systematic way as the as does happy and you know so I became very intrigued by the laws because it goes
00:06:31what we shouldn't chew it from natural selection that we have this idea that each organism in each component of the organisms in each cell type each genome has its own unique history animal as a sort of uniqueness associated with its environmental Niche and from that Viewpoint you have this image that says it is a sudden Randomness associated with the organization Lifestyles life histories of animals and so if you plotted say if you project basketball it right versus the weight of an animal on a graph you would expect the points to buy all over the grass and no no not particularly car related
00:07:31expressing the you-know-what the uniqueness of each animal where is in fact they you know if you clock me the right way there was lineup on the single line that's a hundred or so this is what started me on this Quest that was it you know where in the hell is a hundred years come from why not why is 4 million years or 5 years now why is it that's the scale of human life span so what that question away shifted first understand what is the mechanism one of the principles that have led to these extraordinary scanning those what is it the house that electricity
00:08:31Beijing immortality but I hooked up with some together we developed a broad theoretical framework that can be put into a into mathematics a quantitative I tried to stop the origin of the screening laws and you know the first thing about the Oscars what is it that's coming about all these different animals I mean the distinct same scaling laws apply to mammals as they do not just Birds fish insects but also to plants and trees at your house what is it the train seems that evolve design and the thing that we realized what is the challenge
00:09:31to sustain all of them. Number of cells that comprise the organism and the way Natural Selections done it is by the simplest possible ways your bowl with a bunch of jokes so to speak hi Rocket City broadcasting network systems like the respiratory system and it is it is the mathematics in the physics in the general principles of networks that it turns out when you put it into a spot to go find what is rise to order these words backwards where all the meat and what was nice is that it gave a quantitative article framework not just for the sky
00:10:31structure and dynamics of these networks is it that we sleep a thousand likes you know what water why do we grow quickly meaning of our lives and then stopped so one of these and ultimately even understand at least in general terms wide is a hundred years for the lights to the three years from now cigarettes made of the same stuff. So this this was so nervous all the complete broad theory of witches I say many other things could be calculated by Jeffrey West
00:11:31is the man who wrote the book scale the universal laws of growth Innovation sustainability and the pace of life in organisms cities economies and companies and that's where it gets interesting because if you just studying the natural world we might think of yet you got that sorted but then you make this leap two cities and companies how how is the natural world I used to tease one of the natural things to do in this Paradigm what is the things like citizen companies because their first of all they want to ride from life
00:12:31more importantly it away from this Vantage Point Network systems in that sense that like us and as I said the with physics and Mathematics the reason for the skating laws is to be found in physics and Mathematics and roads in electrical lines and water lines Circle 3 systems that is no resources into living phenomena that's something else which is something Beyond traditional biology
00:13:31it also produces well and maybe even more importantly it produces ideas and it innovates that's where most of the innovation ideas come from and show them that aspect of a city is intimately related to The Social Network structures so we have in the city kind of physical Network structure is analogous to buy the idea of metabolism which is you know that's social network it is supposed to benefit stood in the way we interact with each other and also the way we form little modular units whether it's family
00:14:31Joe groups departments and so forth that we talk to each other and then we found these kind of positive feedback loops and it is in that you're a talks to BB talks to CiCi's talks to D&D books like the air game and ideas get develop that way and kind of positive feedback that leads to text new ideas Innovative phenomena wealth which is all taken place over this extremely short. Of time the most 10,000 years when we stopped being hunter-gatherers but most of it with much of it in the last couple of hundred years since the Industrial Revolution and so
00:15:31you think things about these social networks because that positive feedback loop they have a character that leads to a scaling phenomena which is quite different time in organisms so the first question however is an elephant is a scaled-up giraffe which is a scout up you were being weird question is this that something analogous to that in the United States is New York a scaled-up Los Angeles which is a scared of Chicago which is a scaled-up Cleveland which is a scaled-up Santa Fe
00:16:31when will the things that was that if you look at any metric of a city whether it's something as mundane as the length of its Road was something as sophisticated as the number of patency produces or the number of cases of influenza or AIDS or of the number fancy restaurants are the wages any any quantity amazing what you discover the cities are in Frank's Goldbergs one another two organisms but they express something that one doesn't see in biology and that is and I have to go back for a moment and say something else to elaborate a little bit on the biology examples and that is
00:17:31size of an organism instead of requiring twice as much food a day instead of doubling its metabolic rate and the metabolic rate goes up by 75% is this extraordinary so cold economy of state so a gram of all tissue or one of us selves that medicine requires less energy than a similar gram of a dog or cat but your horses gravel tissue or your horses cells require less energy than ours and it's very systematic and predictable and there's this 25% savings with each Table Rock Lake
00:18:21so are they scored in the economy of scale in in cities what you discover there is an economy of scouting to set up 25% savings with 15% gas stations much socio-economic return so with every Dublin instead of guessing twice the average twice the average number of educational institutions or twice the production of patents you get twice and then 15% more so the kind of bag
00:19:21a dude with increasing City size is there limits to how big a city should get a number 2 is does a sissy like a biological organism have a lifespan
00:19:41that's the real question so it turns out doubling leads to unlike in the organisms the scaling scaling leads to Bounty go to stop growing in cities and in fact leads to open-ended growth this this popical superlinea Behavior something I'm increasing by this 15% needs to open energy Grove principal except for the the actual practical phenomenon that if you were to you no trouble the size of any major city you can't keep the city integrated because eventually what happens when you take Los Angeles but there are 12 Lane freeways in Los Angeles if you ever make
00:20:41those freeways would have to have 20 legs or Elaine's and you simply economics and the social forces wouldn't allow back to their practical but in principle not except for one other thing and that is that they need something that we caught a finite time Singularity which means that the metrics will go to church Infinity in a finite time is it over to see crazy and Siri says that if you were to continue with that growth the system would eventually collapse that would have avoided what you have to do is so to speak reinvent yourself as you have to realize that that's mommy system you might have made a major invention in ancient times discovered iron you go mudding X cold and then we discovered computers and now we've invented i t
00:21:41which one of these which is a major major paradigm shift with beige Innovation resets the clock so that as you're growing open-ended Lee and would lead to the singularity that would lead to collapse you intervene with a major in Innovation which resets the clock and you start over again so this predicts that to have have open-ended growth you must have a sequence of Innovations open-ended Innovation and that's what is that what the Siri says positive feedback becomes in Social organization and it predicts speed up time
00:22:41from the network dynamics of the infrastructure Network Dynamics on the social dynamics speeds up time so that the Innovations have to come fast and Foster don't need to speed up Innovations and the question is can you do it fast enough I mean look at 25 years to go from laptop to it you know where is Innovations maybe a thousand years ago me to take a hundred years to develop into the paradigm-shifting as220 is your company continue with this accelerating treadmill without having a socio-economic off the back
00:23:37meanwhile it's taking you and I 25 minutes to look at Wild and motorists speed through orange lights they have two batteries are moving faster in the big city is the big city no question yeah but we haven't even got two companies and will send people to the book to I find out more about your thoughts on the universal laws of growth is that apply to companies the book schooled Sky OB Universal Innovation sustainability and the pace of life in organism cities economies and companies in book 2 GIF free whist I want of times 100 most influential people in the world I really appreciate the time with us today we we thank you very much

Transcribed by algorithms. Report Errata
Disclaimer: The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from Radio New Zealand, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.


Thank you for helping to keep the podcast database up to date.