I have found it in this video. The sentence is at about the 2th minute. Here is the sentence:

One thing is true: the way we feed 7 billion people today won't scale to feed 10 billion tomorrow.

I have checked a few dictionaries, but I cannot understand what definitions of them fit.


2 Answers 2


The writer has chosen to use the expression won't scale to mean that today's methods of food production are not scalable.

Something is scalable if increasing productivity follows a straightforward ratio or scale. For example, if it takes one man to dig one hole in a week, then you will need five men to dig five holes in the same time. The assuption is that each man could dig one hole, so that the five holes can be dug in parallel. This same situation would not be scalable if they only had one spade, so only one man can be digging at any time.

In the case of food production, we have progressively more people who will need (and could produce) food but the planet isn't going to get any bigger so we won't have sufficent land, water etc.



  1. to adjust in amount according to a fixed scale or proportion (often followed by down or up):

to scale down wages.

Now, let's paraphrase your sentence:

One thing is true: the amount of recourses we need to feed 7 billion people today won't be in proportion to the amount of recourses that we will have to spend to feed 10 billion people tomorrow.

In other words, the number of people on the planet is obviously going to grow and the amount of money, food and other recourses we spent to feed today's 7 billion, considering factors like inflation, the amount of food that we can produce with our limited resources etc., is not going to be proportional to the same amount of money, food etc. that we will need to feed the 10 billion people that we are expecting tomorrow.

  • I think you've somewhat missed the point of OP's cited example. It's not really about the amount of food - it's saying that the methods we currently use to feed 7B people won't work when there are 10B people to be fed. Personally, I don't think it's a very appropriate usage in context though - usually when we say a method "won't scale", we mean something that works for a small number of cases (dozens, hundreds, thousands) won't work for a far larger number (millions, billions). I certainly wouldn't use it in contexts where the increase is only around 50%. Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 14:14

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