Adjacent Possible

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search



"The concept of the adjacent possible originates from Stuart Kauffman and his work on biological evolution. Kauffman was particularly interested in the origins of order and the mechanisms that drive self-organization. His findings are broadly applicable to any complex adaptive system, be it natural like the biosphere, or human-made like cities, the economy, or technology. Kaufman investigates how the actual expands into the adjacent possible. The actual describes the system under investigation in its current state, with all its components and interconnections. The adjacent possible contains all the elements outside but near that system; those represent the opportunities for the current system to expand by building new connections and turning those elements into system components.

Now let’s apply this abstract notion to technology and innovation. And let’s take today’s ‘technosphere’ as the actual, comprising all the tools and technologies we use in modern-day societies, together with the knowledge, concepts, facts and ideas required to devise, build, operate, and maintain them. Right outside that ‘technosphere’, in its adjacent possible, you’ll find the space for innovation, for combining known technologies in novel ways, and for developing and implementing novel problem-solutions that yield novel technologies.

The adjacent possible therefore provides a powerful framework to structure a further investigation of innovation. " (