The Singularity

One more thing about Ferguson’s book.  In the section about cities, it discusses the ideas of Geoffrey West, a physicist and member of the Santa Fe Institute team.  West proclaims to have a mathematical proof of sorts for the idea of over-success.

“One of the bad things about open-ended growth, growing faster than exponentially, is that open-ended growth eventually leads to collapse.  It leads to collapse mathematically because of something called finite times singularity.  You hit something that’s called a singularity, which is a technical term, and it turns out as you approach this singularity, the system, if it reaches it, will collapse.” (as quoted in Ferguson).

What is this singularity?  I am conceiving of it as sort of an asymptote, a mathematical line or curve at which a value is impossible.  Growth is possible until it reaches the area code of the asymptote, but as it gets closer, the growth curve takes a sudden dive.  Is it a natural constraint built into the system?  Can technological or institutional innovation shift the asymptote outward to make more growth possible?  This is something I need to look into.