Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute


Growth, Innovation, and the Accelerating Pace of Life from Cells to Cities: Are They Sustainable?

"Prof. West is a theoretical physicist who has spent the past decade looking at whether and how universal scaling laws found in biology can be applied to cities. He and his colleagues have found that cities around the world are comprised of systems that grow, on average, at remarkably similar rates, in the same way that organisms among different species grow in the same general fashion, no matter their ultimate size. This suggests we can project the scale and nature of urban growth rates for the planet. This work is important because, as he noted, globally people are moving to cities at the rate of 1.5 million people per week, and by mid-century more than 70 percent of the global population will live in urban areas. The current urban growth rate “is equal to a metro Boston every month in terms of infrastructure needs,” he said, adding that in terms of growth rates, “we live in an exponential world.”"

Boston University
West, G.
complexity; cities; urban growth;

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