dynamically stable systems -- my tribute to Jane Jacobs

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I've always been inspired by Jane Jacobs' observation of cities and economies. Her thesis in her work, The Nature of Economies was around dynamically stable systems and how they avoid collapse.  

Efficient ecosystems do four things, she said:

  • bifurcate
  • create positive feedback-loops
  • ensure negative controls
  • adapt to emergency

It occurred to me after hanging with my friend (and Summit roommate!) Leyla Acoroglu:

^^ my awesome Summit roomie

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...that we all live in many independent and efficient ecosystems everyday.  Our world, of course, the largest and most common denominator ecosystem that we all share.

The environment, atmospheric conditions, our garbage production and carbon emissions we know and collectively acknowledge affect us now and will affect us in the future.

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We're each individually members of concentric circles - institutions of learning, groups of friends, people bound by shared interest or property.  They are, though, not as independent as we may think they are.  They need common denominators to function, people to bind them.

They are, in fact, more like interconnected concentric circles with multiple points of crossover and connection.

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Bifurcation happens when we begin to identify in different circles or groups...technologist, teacher, athlete, mom...our individual identities (chosen and unchosen) begin to allow us to see similarity and difference in each other. My friends who are having babies are joining a new group 'mother' - which will now be an identity they share with mothers all over the world.

When we receive positive feedback that these groups are working (mommy groups, lobbying groups, athletic endeavors like a marathon), we double-down. Technology is like this too: we find a market-segment need and solve for it.

With regard to technology, Uber is a perfect example of these first two steps in Jane's theory.  Bifurcation occurred when Uber's co-founders observed a need in the market: a cab to their location in Paris. The trial runs for Uber perfectly mimicked the market conditions we'd hope for: since Uber's founders basically disregarded the established Taxi and Limousine Commissions that govern local taxis, they were able to receive positive feedback fairly quickly validating this was a worthy idea. The positive feedback loop was validation enough to continue to grow this emerging company...Thusly, ensuring negative controls were in place. By the time the government and regulating bodies came to call, Uber was a profitable company - able to hire the talent they need to keep Uber in major cities.  Therefore, adapting to emergency has become second nature to this company that seemingly can know no bounds...

Back to mommy friends, the groups we create for ourselves in small and large help us to create dynamically stable systems...and ones that we feel safe in.