Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies

tags: science

This book is undoubtedly interesting, but it’s a bit meandering.

The basic idea is that…things (anything, apparently), “scale” according to universal laws. Meaning, as something gets bigger, it grows less linearly along different axes, and this is a very predictable phenomenon.

For example, an elephant is 10x as big as a human, but it requires 7x as many calories. Why not 10x? Because of the laws of scaling.

A city that is 10x the size of another city will generate more than 10x as many patents. Why? Again, scaling – economy of scale, whatever.

The author takes a principle from biology, and extends it to cities and companies, attempting to show that everything in the world scales – gets bigger – according to some universal principles.

Like I said, it’s an interesting premise, and well-supported, but the book is long and drawn-out, and the author tends to wander. He’s a scientist approaching his 80s, and he injects himself into the narrative quite a bit. You learn a lot about him and about the Santa Fe Institute where he works, and about his childhood, etc.

I don’t regret reading it, but it could have been half the size.

Book Info