All companies die. All cities are nearly immortal.
Both are type of networks, with different destinies. There are two basic network forms: organisms or ecosystems. Companies are like organisms, while cities are like ecosystems.
Geoff West from the Santa Fe Institute has piles of data to prove these universal and predictive laws of life. For instance, organisms scale in a 3/4 law. For every doubling in size, they increase in other factors by less than one, or .75. The bigger the organism, the slower it goes. Both elephants and mice have the same number of heartbeats per lifespan, but he elephant beats slower.
Ecosystems and cities, on the other hand, scale by greater than one, or 1.15. Every year cities increase in wealth, crime, traffic, patents, pollution, disease, infrastructure, and per capita by 15%. The bigger the city, the faster it goes.
A less than one rate of exponential growth inevitably leads to an s-curve of stagnation. All organisms and companies eventually stagnate and die. A greater than one rate of exponential leads to a hockey stick upshot of seemingly unlimited growth. All cities keep growing. As West remarked: We can drop an atom bomb on a city and 30 years later it will be thriving.
The question Geoff West could not answer at tonight’s Long Now talk was:
Is the internet more like a company or more like a city?
I’d bet it is more like a city.
I think the difference between the development of an organism and a ecosystem, or a company and a city, is that the later in each case evolves rather than grows. Growth is always self-limiting, while evolution is unlimited. Evolution is the infinite game; it remakes itself again and again from within so that its growth cannot catch up or stagnate…