The Rules of Growth: Organisms, Cities and Companies

Laurence Articles

What do living organisms, cities and businesses have in common? They all have organic characteristics: they’re born, grow, sometimes shrink and usually die; they all require energy to maintain and grow; and they all must deal with the sometimes undesirable byproducts of their existence.

Do these wide-ranging behaviors follow simple laws that have explanatory and predictive value? Geoffrey West, a physicist and past president of the multidisciplinary Santa Fe Institute, says “yes…and they are laws of scale.” Such rules “quantitatively describe how almost any measurable characteristic of animals, plants, ecosystems, cities, and companies scales with size.”

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