the adjacent possible


From the NewScientist’s Culture Lab blog:

Exaptation is one of seven patterns or hallmarks of innovation that [Steven Johnson identifies in Where Good Ideas Come From], and you’ll find them, he argues, whether you are looking at self-organizing phenomena, the emergence of species or human ideas. They include serendipity, error and the ‘adjacent possible,’ a term he borrows from biologist Stuart Kauffman…

Kauffman coined the phrase ‘adjacent possible’ with respect to the potential and limitations of prebiotic chemistry, which could spontaneously form amino acids but not a human brain, despite the availability of all the necessary elements in the primordial soup.

The adjacent possible is the space of all possible configurations the soup can take in just one step, ‘a sort of shadow future,’ Johnson writes, ‘a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.”

I suppose I might start changing Abler’s site-mission language to reflect the precise and useful “exapted technologies.” Thanks, Mr. Johnson.

image credit.

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