The existence of these remarkable regularities strongly suggests that there (Location 153)

is a common conceptual framework underlying all of these very different highly complex phenomena and that the dynamics, growth, and organization of animals, plants, human social behavior, cities, and companies are, in fact, subject to similar generic “laws.” (Location 154)

urbanized. In 2006 the planet crossed a remarkable historical threshold, with more than half of the world’s population residing in urban centers, compared with just 15 percent a hundred years ago and still only 30 percent by 1950. It is now expected to rise above 75 percent by 2050, with more than two billion more people moving to cities, mostly in China, India, Southeast Asia, and Africa.8 (Location 230)

Death is integral to all biological and socioeconomic life: almost all living things are born, live, and eventually die, yet death as a serious focus of study and contemplation tends to be suppressed and neglected, both socially and scientifically, relative to birth and life. (Location 263)

now require homes, heating, lighting, automobiles, roads, airplanes, computers, and so on. Consequently, the amount of energy needed to support an average person living in the United States has risen to an astounding 11,000 watts. (Location 293)

maintain order and structure in an evolving system requires the continual supply and use of energy whose by-product is disorder. (Location 323)

The battle to combat entropy by continually having to supply more energy for growth, innovation, maintenance, and repair, which becomes increasingly more challenging as the system ages, underlies any serious discussion of aging, mortality, resilience, and sustainability, whether for organisms, companies, or societies. (Location 326)

Scaling simply refers, in its most elemental form, to how a system responds when its size changes. What happens to a city or a company if its size is doubled? Or to a building, an airplane, an economy, or an animal if its size is halved? If the population of a city is doubled, does the resulting city have approximately twice as many roads, twice as much crime, and produce twice as many patents? Do the profits of a company double if its sales double, and does an animal require half as much food if its weight is halved? (Location 337)

In general, then, a universal characteristic of a complex system is that the whole is greater than, and often significantly different from, the simple linear sum of its parts. (Location 472)

The study of complex systems has taught us to be wary of naively breaking the system down into independently acting component parts. Furthermore, a small perturbation in one part of the system may have giant consequences elsewhere. The system can be prone to sudden and seemingly unpredictable changes—a market crash being a classic example. One or more trends can reinforce other trends in a positive feedback loop until things swiftly spiral out of control and cross a tipping point beyond which behavior radically changes. (Location 490)

predictions about such systems, it is sometimes possible to derive a coarse-grained quantitative description for the average salient features of the system. For example, although we will never be able to predict precisely when a particular person will die, we ought to be able to predict why the life span of human beings is on the order of one hundred years. Bringing such a quantitative perspective to the challenge of sustainability and the long-term survival of our planet is critical because it inherently recognizes the kinds of interconnectedness and interdependencies so frequently ignored in current approaches. (Location 500)

This scaling law for metabolic rate, known as Kleiber’s law after the biologist who first articulated it, is valid across almost all taxonomic groups, including mammals, birds, fish, crustacea, bacteria, plants, and cells. Even more impressive, however, is that similar scaling laws hold for essentially all physiological quantities and life-history events, including growth rate, heart rate, evolutionary rate, genome length, mitochondrial density, gray matter in the brain, life span, the height of trees and even the number of their leaves. (Location 534)

They also lead to a theory of growth. Growth can be viewed as a special case of a scaling phenomenon. A mature organism is essentially a nonlinearly scaled-up version of the infant—just compare the various proportions of your body with those of a baby. Growth at any stage of development is accomplished by apportioning the metabolic energy being delivered through networks to existing cells to the production of new cells that build up new tissue. (Location 558)

In a nutshell, the problem is that the theory also predicts that unbounded growth cannot be sustained without having either infinite resources or inducing major paradigm shifts that “reset” the clock before potential collapse occurs. (Location 627)

Theory dictates that such discoveries must occur at an increasingly accelerating pace; the time between successive innovations must systematically and inextricably get shorter and shorter. (Location 632)

This is clearly not sustainable, potentially leading to the collapse of the entire urbanized socioeconomic fabric. Innovation and wealth creation that fuel social systems, if left unchecked, potentially sow the seeds of their inevitable collapse. Can this be avoided or are we locked into a fascinating experiment in natural selection that is doomed to fail? (Location 637)

Equally surprising is that they scale sublinearly as functions of their size, rather than superlinearly like socioeconomic metrics in cities. In this sense, companies are much more like organisms than cities. The scaling exponent for companies is around 0.9, to be compared with 0.85 for the infrastructure of cities and 0.75 for organisms. However, (Location 645)

They grow rapidly in their early years but taper off as they mature and, if they survive, eventually stop growing relative to the GDP. In their youth, many are dominated by a spectrum of innovative ideas as they seek to optimize their place in the market. (Location 653)

Relatively quickly, economies of scale and sublinear scaling, reflecting the challenge of efficiently administering a large and complex organization, dominate innovation and ideas encapsulated in superlinear scaling, ultimately leading to stagnation and to mortality. Half of all the companies in any given cohort of U.S. publicly traded companies disappear within ten years, and a scant few make it to fifty, let alone a hundred years. (Location 656)

accelerating and conditions change at a faster and faster rate. Cities, on the other hand, become increasingly multidimensional as they grow in size. Indeed, in stark contrast to almost all companies, the diversity of cities, as measured by the number of different kinds of jobs and businesses that comprise their economic landscape, continually and systematically increases in a predictable way with increasing city (Location 663)

simple argument for why there are limits to the heights of trees, animals, and buildings has profound consequences for design and innovation. Earlier, when explaining his argument I concluded with the remark: Clearly, the structure, whatever it is, will eventually collapse under its own weight if its size is arbitrarily increased. There are limits to size and growth. To which should have been added the critical phrase “unless something changes. (Location 1093)

Because of the conflicting scaling laws that constrain different attributes of a system—for example, the strengths of structures supporting a system scale differently from the way the weights being supported scale—growth, as manifested by an open-ended increase in size, cannot be sustained forever. (Location 1103)

Consequently, in order to build larger structures or evolve larger organisms beyond the limits set by the scaling laws, innovations must occur that either change the material composition of the system or its structural design, or both. (Location 1107)

design were stimulated by the desire, or perceived requirement, to meet new challenges: in this case, to traverse wider and wider rivers, canyons, and valleys in a safe, resilient manner. (Location 1111)

All of these represent innovative responses to a combination of generic engineering challenges, including the constraints of scaling laws that transcend the individuality of each bridge, and the multiple local challenges of geography, geology, traffic, and economics that define the uniqueness and individuality of each bridge. (Location 1129)

Innovation in this context can then be viewed as the response to the challenge of continually scaling up the width of space to be crossed, beginning with a tiny stream and ending up with the widest expanses of water and the deepest and broadest canyons and valleys. You cannot cross San Francisco Bay with a long plank of wood. To bridge it you need to embark on a long evolutionary journey across many levels of innovation to the discovery of iron and the invention of steel and their integration with the design concept of a suspension bridge. (Location 1133)

Nowadays, every conceivable process or physical object, from automobiles, buildings, airplanes, and ships to traffic congestion, epidemics, economies, and the weather, is simulated on computers as “models” of the real thing. I discussed earlier how specially bred mice are used in biomedical research as scaled-down “models” of human beings. In all of these cases, the big question is how do you realistically and reliably scale up the results and observations of the model system to the real thing? This entire way of thinking has its origins in a sad failure in ship design in the middle of the nineteenth century and the marvelous insights of a modest gentleman engineer into how to avoid it in the future. (Location 1147)

Many consider him the greatest engineer of the nineteenth century, a man whose vision and innovations, particularly concerning transport, helped make Britain the most powerful and richest nation in the world. He was a true engineering polymath who strongly resisted the trend toward specialization. He typically worked on all aspects of his projects beginning with the big-picture concept through to the detailed preparation of the drawings, carrying out surveys in the field and paying attention to the minutiae of design and manufacture. His accomplishments are numerous and he left an extraordinary legacy of remarkable structures ranging from ships, railways, and railway stations to spectacular bridges and tunnels. (Location 1165)

showed that his broader gauge was the optimum size for providing higher speeds, greater stability, and a more comfortable ride to passengers. Consequently, the Great Western Railway was unique in having a gauge that was almost twice as wide as every other railway line. Unfortunately, in 1892, following the evolution of a national railway system, the British Parliament forced the Great Western Railway to conform to the standard gauge, despite its acknowledged inferiority. (Location 1188)

When systems fail or designs don’t meet their expectations there are usually a plethora of reasons that could be the problem. These include poor planning and execution, faulty workmanship or materials, poor management, and even a lack of conceptual understanding. However, there are key examples like that of the Great Eastern where the major reason for failure was that they were designed without a deep understanding of the underlying science and of the basic principles of scale. Indeed, until the last half of the nineteenth century, neither science nor scale played any significant role in the manufacture of most artifacts, let alone ships. There were some significant exceptions to this, the most (Location 1248)