Steven Johnson wrote a book called, “Where Good Ideas Come From” that is a terrific discussion of progress and communities that bring out new ideas.
The idea of the “adjacent possible” is that when new tech or combinations of new insights happen in history it allows other combinations of technology and invention to occur as though out-of-the-blue. Really it is the availability of the resources that sometimes causes great inventors to look so great.
The Genius of the Tinkerer
The secret to innovation is combining odds and ends, writes Steven Johnson.
Evolution advances by taking available resources and cobbling them together to create new uses. The evolutionary theorist Francois Jacob captured this in his concept of evolution as a “tinkerer,” not an engineer; our bodies are also works of bricolage, old parts strung together to form something radically new. “The tires-to-sandals principle works at all scales and times,” Mr. Gould wrote, “permitting odd and unpredictable initiatives at any moment—to make nature as inventive as the cleverest person who ever pondered the potential of a junkyard in Nairobi.”
The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.