All companies die. All cities are nearly immortal.
Both are type of networks. But there are two basic network forms: organisms or ecosystems. Companies are like organisms, while cities are like ecosystems.
All organisms (and companies) have share many universal laws of growth. Creatures age in the same way, whether they are small animals, large mammals, starfish, bacteria, and even cells. All ecosystems (and cities) also share universal laws. They evolve and scale in a similar fashion among themselves — whether they are forests, meadows, coral reefs, or grasslands, or villages.
Geoff West from the Santa Fe Institute has piles of data to prove these universal and predictive laws of life. Organisms scale in a 3/4 law. For every doubling in size, they increase 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, on the other hand, scale by greater than one, or 1.15. Every year they 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?