The Adjacent Possible
Stuart Kauffman has a concept called the Adjacent Possible which I find incredibly useful in understanding the world. Simply put, if you think of the space of possibilities from the present moment forward and just concentrate on those that are achievable today — adjacent to the present moment — that’s the Adjacent Possible.
What’s interesting about possibility-space is that tomorrow’s Adjacent Possible depends on the actions and choices we make today; it’s not symmetric and it’s nonlinear. Certain actions generate more future possibilities than others. In my experience, those actions tend to be the cooperative ones, ones that produce network effects: financial, social and otherwise.
Due to our evolutionary heritage, having come from a resource-constrained world, we may be predisposed to see the more competitive actions which tend to shrink the Adjacent Possible. Whether or not this is a bias or an actual state of affairs, much of our thinking is based on scarcity, so we are drawn to actions that become self-limiting.
Here’s how I visualize the Adjacent Possible, and it has profound consequences for how I think and live my own life: