The Simplicity and Unity Underlying the Complexity of Life from Growth and Innovation to Mortality, Sustainability and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities and Companies
Professor Geoffrey West
Santa Fe Institute, USA
Why do all companies and people die whereas cities keep growing and the pace of life continues to accelerate? Why do we stop growing, sleep 8 hours a day and live of the order of 100 years? And how are these related to innovation, wealth creation, social networks, urbanisation and global sustainability? Global urbanisation has emerged as the source of the greatest challenge the planet has faced since humans became social. Cities are simultaneously the hubs of innovation, engines of wealth creation and centers of power, but are also the prime source of crime, pollution, disease, climate change and the consumption of energy and resources. Despite this dual role and the threat to global sustainability, there is no integrated, quantitative, predictive, scientific framework for understanding their dynamics, growth and organization. Ideas for developing such a theory, inspired by a network-based framework for understanding diverse properties of organisms (such as growth, metabolism, cancer, sleep, aging, death, and ecosystems) will be discussed and extended to companies. Despite their extraordinary complexity and diversity, many characteristics of cities and companies, including wages, patents, assets, sales, diversity, crime, police, disease, pollution, and infrastructure, scale systematically and predictably with size suggesting that universal principles that transcend history, geography and culture underlie their dynamics and structure. This has dramatic implications for growth, development and long-term sustainability: left unchecked, innovation and wealth creation that fuel socio-economic systems potentially sow the seeds for collapse.
Geoffrey West is Distinguished Professor and former President of the Santa Fe Institute, and Associate Fellow of Oxford University’s Martin School. His BA is from Cambridge and PhD from Stanford where he later joined the faculty. West is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests have been in fundamental questions ranging from elementary particles and their interactions to universal scaling laws in biology and developing a science of cities, companies and global sustainability. His work is motivated by the search for “simplicity underlying complexity”. His research includes metabolism, growth, aging & death, sleep, cancer and ecosystems, the dynamics of cities and companies, rates of growth and innovation, and the accelerating pace of life. He has been featured widely across the media including The New York Times, The Economist, Financial Times, Wired, Scientific American, Nova, National Geographic and the BBC. His work was selected as a breakthrough idea by Harvard Business Review (2007) and for Time's 2006 list of "100 Most Influential People in the World".
Human-machine synergy: Bringing humans and autonomy into balance
Professor David Garlan
Carnegie Mellon University, USA
As the systems that we depend on become increasingly autonomous, a critical challenge is to understand how to engineer systems where humans and systems can work together synergistically to achieve their common goals. Adaptive systems research has largely focused on replacing humans with intelligent automation, thereby reducing the cost of operation, the likelihood of human error, and the time to put a course of adaptation into action. But for many such systems it is not possible or desirable to completely eliminate human involvement in adaptation. In this talk I explore some of the challenges in achieving an appropriate balance, and outline some promising directions that research might take to address these challenges.
David Garlan is a Professor of Computer Science in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where he has been on the faculty since 1990. He received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon in 1987 and worked as a software architect in industry between 1987 and 1990. His interests include software architecture, self-adaptive systems, formal methods, and cyber-physical systems. He is a co-author of two books on software architecture: "Software Architecture: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline", and "Documenting Software Architecture: Views and Beyond." In 2005 he received a Stevens Award Citation for “fundamental contributions to the development and understanding of software architecture as a discipline in software engineering.” In 2011 he received the Outstanding Research award from ACM SIGSOFT for “significant and lasting software engineering research contributions through the development and promotion of software architecture.” He is a Fellow of the ACM and the IEEE.