Super-linear Scalability

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From Arc90: A nice example of the Baader Meinhof phenomenon throwing up an interesting concept:

This happens to me all the time – I come across a new interesting concept and then within weeks I encounter it again and again. Recently I was doing some prep-work for an upcoming talk Rich and I are delivering at the IA Summit in Memphis and read about super-linear scaling. This is the observed fact that as a city grows in population it experiences a scaling factor that is greater than 1 for social outputs such as productivity, patents issued, crime and income (see simple graph below illustrating super-linear v. linear scaling).

[…]”If the scale were linear, a city with a population of 1 million would talk to New York City about 10 times as much as a city with a population of 100,000,” says Nashid Nabian, an architect and member of the SENSEable City Lab. “Instead, we see a roughly 30-fold increase.” These findings – superlinearity of personal communication – are in one sense very puzzling, says Nabian. In a uniform space, she explains, “every person has the same probability of calling New York City, so one would expect communication to increase linearly with city size.”


I wonder if super-linear scaling is seen in natural systems…?