A Little Archaeology could go a Long Way

Posted on July 27, 2011

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Watched this talk by Geoffrey West on cities and I was struck by a comment he made. Around the 4 min. mark he  says very few cities fail but all companies fail. What? I am pretty sure my undergraduate field school involved excavating a Mayan city that failed (failed in that no one lives there now, not a fan of the word failed). It is moments like this that could use a little be of archaeology or history.

Almost all classical Mayan cities are no longer in use. Nether are Anasazi or Mound builders or Sumerian or Indus Valley or Xia Dynasty, you get the point. Lots of cities have failed or have failed and then the area is re-inhabited but it is still not the same city. I am not always sure archaeology contributes a lot to society but this is a case were it could do a lot to dispel some pretty bold and fictitious statements.

On a more technical note: companies have only been around for a few hundred years and in their current forms of legal entities sanctioned by governments. There are some companies as old as the countries that first recognized them and that have not failed. Furthermore, companies is a broad category while cities is a subset of locations of human occupation, this is like comparing apples and oranges. You would have to include all locations of human occupation to all companies to have an exact comparison at which point we would see that %99.9999 of all locations of human occupation have failed, it’s why we have archaeology. I don’t like the term failed, a better way to put this would be  tried something and it did or did not work for a period of time.

Here is the video:
http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Posted in: Wildcard