The Adjacent Possible

By | October 15, 2010

An idea worth pondering. (Click it for a magnified view.)


The quote is from Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From. (The photo is supplied by Stephen Gordon.)

The adjacent possible is part of possibility space, the most easily accessed part. It is our nearest neighbor here in the world of fully realized possibilities.

One of the most interesting aspects of life in our current era is this — there was a time when one’s possibility space grew rapidly during the first few years of life and then tapered off precipitously. Today, everyone’s possibility space is growing at an enormous clip. I believe there are many more possibilities, even adjacent possibilities, available for me at age 48 than there were at age 28.

That’s pretty amazing.

Study in Red

Image by dragon762w via Flickr

For example, look at this picture:

Somehow, Zemanta scanned the text I had written so far and suggested this image as a possible fit. It’s really not a fit at all, of course.

And yet it is.

Even a few months ago, I wouldn’t have included this image in a blog post. It wouldn’t occur to me to do so. Such an image was possible, but it wasn’t adjacent — the way the Zemanta window is literally adjacent to this post as I write it.

The Zemanta media gallery is like a miniaturized version of the adjacent possible.

 What do I want to show in my blog post?

Autumn's Path

Image by afsilva via Flickr

Autumn leaves?




Upgrade (?)

Image by psiaki via Flickr







The C-Building (core building) at Northwestern...

Image via Wikipedia

Some random high school in Maryland?






And what ideas do I want to link?  Maybe these?


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Now just imagine that instead of talking about extra links and images that we can throw into a blog post, we’re talking about new people and ideas and situations and stuff that we can experience in our lives. There’s a lot more of it out there than there used to be.  

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  • stephentg

    “For example, look at this picture:”

    Well, if I must. :-)