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June 17, 2020 49 min

We’re living through a unique moment in history. The interlocking crises of a global pandemic, widespread unemployment, social unrest, and climate change, show us just how far human civilization has traveled along a path that leads to collapse. It is more crucial than ever to seek a deeper understanding of the systems that sustain us, and the thin layer of life on the surface of our planet. What are the underlying laws that govern how we live together and as individuals? How do our economies and cities grow? How are the human and non-human worlds related? And can we solve the problems we’ve created when we’re quarantined from one another?

By identifying the basic cardiovascular and nervous systems of human societies, we may one day be able to cure some of the complex diseases of civilization and found a new, sustainable mode of existence.

Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and each week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe.

This week’s episode is part one of a two-part conversation with Geoffrey West, a physicist,  Distinguished Shannan Professor, and former president of the Santa Fe Institute.

In it we set the stage for a deep, difficult examination of the existential threats we’re facing by reviewing some key revelations from his book, Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies. In next week’s episode, we tackle the question of open-ended growth and whether complex systems science offers any insight into the design of a sustainable economy. 

Note that these episodes were taped before the murder of George Floyd, and now seem both strangely out-of-date and uncannily prophetic. Stay tuned in the weeks to come for conversations more directly touching on race, bias, inequality, polarization, counterspeech, and trauma, and follow us on social media for timely coverage of the science helping guide society toward fairer and saner outcomes.

If you value our research and communication efforts, please consider making a one-time or recurring monthly donation at santafe.edu/podcastgive … and/or consider rating and reviewing us at Apple Podcasts. Thank you for listening!

Further Listening & Reading:

Geoffrey West’s Wikipedia & Google Scholar Pages
Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West
COMPLEXITY 04: Luis Bettencourt on The Science of Cities
COMPLEXITY 10: Melanie Moses on Metabolic Scaling in Biology & Computation
COMPLEXITY 17: Chris Kempes on The Physical Constraints on Life & Evolution

Visit our website for more information or to support our science and communication efforts.

Join our Facebook discussion group to meet like minds and talk about each episode.

Podcast Theme Music by Mitch Mignano.

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