podcast: Geoffrey B. West: Why Cities Keep on Growing, Corporations Always Die, and Life Gets Faster - The Long Now
For people who like data (and science), this is a fascinating story...
The conclusion: cities survive because (people in them) innovate faster.
Network effect. And Cities are more efficient. File more patents to survive...
And corporations: in average, they get big, become slow, and die.
As organisms, cities, and companies scale up, they all gain in efficiency, but then they vary. The bigger an organism, the slower. Yet the bigger a city is, the faster it runs. And cities are structurally immortal, while corporations are structurally doomed. Scaling up always creates new problems; cities can innovate faster than the problems indefinitely, while corporations cannot.
These revolutionary findings come from Geoffrey West's examination of vast quantities of data on the metabolic/economic behavior of organisms and organizations.
A Physicist Solves the City @ New York Times
Geoffrey West @ Wikipedia
Metabolic theory of ecology
Video of presentation at Google:
Scaling Laws In Biology And Other Complex Systems
Talk at TED: