Geoffrey West

Ep.19: Geoffrey West on Computational Biology, Complexity, and a Unified Theory of Sustainability


Episode Summary for Geoffrey West on Computational Biology, Complexity, and a Unified Theory of Sustainability

In this episode of Hidden Forces, host Demetri Kofinas speaks with theoretical physicist Geoffrey West about his work studying biological systems, infrastructure, and the socioeconomics of cities. Dr. West’s primary interests have been in fundamental questions in physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles, their interactions, and cosmological implications. Geoffrey West currently serves as distinguished professor at the Santa Fe Institute, the global headquarters for complexity research, where he served as President from  2005 through 2009. Prior to joining SFI Dr. West was the leader, and founder, of the high-energy physics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is also the author of SCALE, a remarkable, and timely book, whose substance and theory we explore today.

In this episode, we explore some of the most remarkable insights coming out of the fields of complexity and computational biology. This is an interdisciplinary cohort consisting of theoretical physicists, biologists, and mathematicians who are all working together to create models that explain the origins, requirements, and limits of life. What do our models tell us about nature’s design for humanity? Are there limits to growth? What accounts for the decrease in metabolic rate as size/mass increases? How do physical systems and networks scale in size within the confines of the Earth’s physical space? What are the universal costs associated with our cities and our lifestyles? What accounts for their resilience? What is the significance of our thirst for more power as defined by the amount of work we do over time? What can interest rates and human time preferences tell us about our relationship to nature? What role do we play in the universe’s inexorable procession towards entropy? How much time do we have left?

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas
Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

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Reading List for Geoffrey West on Computational Biology, Complexity, and a Unified Theory of Sustainability

SCALE: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, and Sustainability by Geoffrey West
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky
Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil
Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses by Vaclav Smil
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life by Nick Lane
A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth by Peter Ward
Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden
A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Frank Wilczek