The Great Simplification #117– Geoffrey West: “Metabolism and the Hidden Laws of Biology”

| April 17, 2024 | Leave a Comment

The Great Simplification

Item Link: Access the Resource

Date of Publication: April 3

Year of Publication: 2024

Publisher: The Great Simplification

Author(s): Nate Hagens

In this episode, physicist Geoffrey West joins Nate to discuss his decades of work on metabolic scaling laws found in nature and how they apply to humans and our economies. As we think about the past and future of societies, some patterns emerge independently across cultures in terms of resource use and social phenomena as the size of a city grows. Does Kleiber’s law, which describes the increasingly efficient use of energy as an animal gets larger – also apply to human cities? How have humans deviated from this rule through excess social consumption beyond the human body’s individual metabolic needs? What could we learn from these scaling laws to adjust our communities to be more aligned with the biophysical realities of energy and resource consumption? Can an understanding of social metabolism impact our social metabolism?

About Geoffrey West

Geoffrey West is the Shannan Distinguished Professor and former President of the Santa Fe Institute and an Associate Senior Fellow of Oxford University’s Green-Templeton College. West is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests have been in fundamental questions ranging across physics, biology, and the social sciences. His work is motivated by the search for unifying principles and the “simplicity underlying complexity”. His research includes metabolism, growth, aging & death, sleep, cancer, ecosystems, innovation and the accelerating pace of life. Most recently he has been developing a science of cities and companies, including the challenge of long-term global sustainability of the anthroposphere. He is the author of the best-selling book Scale; The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies.

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