[ExI] Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations and People Always Die, and Life Gets Faster

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Thu Jun 2 05:53:57 UTC 2011

Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations and People Always Die, and Life
Gets Faster

Apologies if this has been discussed recently.

Watch this talk by Geoffrey West. Very long, but well worth it.

He appears to have come up with a mathematical framework which
predicts and describes the singularity, but then disbelieves the
conclusion. Start somewhere around 25:00 if you're impatient, really
heats up around 32:00, gets to the point around 36:00.

He's found that, all things being equal, cities scale up in all kinds
of things with size, including crucially the amount (ie: speed) of
innovation, but can't go past a certain size without collapsing. Major
innovations let all things not be equal (ie: change the constants in
your equations), and allow us to have a new ceiling. Innovation gets
you out of the Malthusian trap. Ok.

But, the bigger cities get, the faster things go (including even, for
instance, walking speed!). You need major innovation on smaller time
scales to continue growing the way we do.

So right there, he's got the recipe for Singularity. But he baulks
well before the asymptote, saying for instance that major innovations
(say "invention of computing" sized innovation) couldn't happen, for
example, every 6 months.

Whereas I think what he's describing is that population cluster size
and density drives innovation faster and also requires faster
innovation, with no necessity for a ceiling.



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