Lecture L04
ADJACENT POSSIBLE
Exponential World

Global and Exponential

Local and linear
The S-curve
Improvements in performance
varies throughout the life of the
technology
Moore’s Law
Number of transistors on

an integrated circuit will double "
in about 18-24 months
The Law of Accelerating Returns
Evolution applies positive feedback in that the more
capable methods resulting from one st...
Ideas build upon Ideas
Every generation of technology 

becomes a source for new 

innovations
Web of Technology
Products are made using different
parts using many technologies confection of ideas
Complexity of Technology

Global and Exponential

Local and linear
Gall’s Law
All complex systems that work evolved from 

simpler system that worked
“I, Pencil” by Leonard E. Read
Toaster
Thomas Thwaits: The Toaster Project
"Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster.
He could just about make a sandwich 

and that was it."
Mostly Harml...
“And that was something that reoccurred
throughout the project, was, the smaller the
scale you want to work on, the furthe...
The Law of Disappearing Technology
When some technique is
mastered, it will “disappear” as
something obvious and trivial, ...
Layers of Technology
Technologies evolves layer by
layer, from simple to complex "
technologies
Adjacent Possible
Adjacent Possible

...a kind of shadow future, hovering
on the edges of the present state of
things, a map of all the ways...
Ideas usually come at similar time
Who invented the telephone?
Enabling Technology
Existing technology that can be used
to build new technologies
Think about this!
Why was the computer
invented in the 1940s 

and not in the 1840s?
Charles Babbage

worked on his 

difference engine
and later 

analytical engine
In 1822-1871
Vacuum tubes where used 

to build computers

Image	
  source:	
  http://www.computersciencelab.com/ComputerHistory/Histor...
The Second Industrial Revolution
The period 1870-1914 shaw innovations in the chemical,
electric, petroleum and steel indu...
Nikolai Kondratiev
Kondratiev waves are supposedly
cycle-like phenomena in the
modern world economy
Kontrativ Wave

Source:	
  Wikipedia,	
  Kondratiev	
  Wave
Kontrativ Wave
Wave

Years

1

First Industrial Revolution

1787–1842

2

Railroad and Steam Engine Era

1842–1897

3

Age...
The Prevailing Technology Trap

Current	
  and	
  dominant	
  technology	
  will	
  highly	
  
influence	
  and	
  restric...
Technology Cramming
Technology Cramming
Adjacent Possible
The inventor must use the
components that exist in
his environment
Steven	
  Johnson
Two Waves of Products Development
In the first wave the product
is restricted by the
prevailing technology, but in
the sec...
Adjacent Possible
The inventor must use the
components that exist in
his environment
Steven	
  Johnson
Next
L05 Innovation
New Technology Lecture L04 Adjacent Possible
New Technology Lecture L04 Adjacent Possible
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New Technology Lecture L04 Adjacent Possible

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Slides from Lecture L04 Adjacent Possible
In Reykjavík University course New Technology 2014

Technology evolves by exchange of ideas. With speciality began prosperity. After one idea comes another idea, by combining ideas into new ideas. In this lecture we look at the fundamental reason for technological progress and it is similar to that of how species evolve in nature.

At any given time, with all the knowledge we have, new knowledge can emerge. We call this the adjacent possible. It explains why new inventions are invented when they are, and why they are not possible before their time.

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New Technology Lecture L04 Adjacent Possible

  1. 1. Lecture L04 ADJACENT POSSIBLE
  2. 2. Exponential World Global and Exponential Local and linear
  3. 3. The S-curve Improvements in performance varies throughout the life of the technology
  4. 4. Moore’s Law Number of transistors on
 an integrated circuit will double " in about 18-24 months
  5. 5. The Law of Accelerating Returns Evolution applies positive feedback in that the more capable methods resulting from one stage of evolutionary progress are used to 
 create the next stage" "" "As a result, the rate of progress of an evolutionary process increases exponentially over time
  6. 6. Ideas build upon Ideas Every generation of technology 
 becomes a source for new 
 innovations
  7. 7. Web of Technology Products are made using different parts using many technologies confection of ideas
  8. 8. Complexity of Technology Global and Exponential Local and linear
  9. 9. Gall’s Law All complex systems that work evolved from 
 simpler system that worked
  10. 10. “I, Pencil” by Leonard E. Read
  11. 11. Toaster
  12. 12. Thomas Thwaits: The Toaster Project
  13. 13. "Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich 
 and that was it." Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams, 1992
  14. 14. “And that was something that reoccurred throughout the project, was, the smaller the scale you want to work on, the further back in time you have to go” - Thomas Thwaites
  15. 15. The Law of Disappearing Technology When some technique is mastered, it will “disappear” as something obvious and trivial, and other more useful things that are built on top of it
  16. 16. Layers of Technology Technologies evolves layer by layer, from simple to complex " technologies
  17. 17. Adjacent Possible
  18. 18. Adjacent Possible ...a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself Steven Johnson
  19. 19. Ideas usually come at similar time Who invented the telephone?
  20. 20. Enabling Technology Existing technology that can be used to build new technologies
  21. 21. Think about this! Why was the computer invented in the 1940s 
 and not in the 1840s?
  22. 22. Charles Babbage
 worked on his 
 difference engine and later 
 analytical engine In 1822-1871
  23. 23. Vacuum tubes where used 
 to build computers Image  source:  http://www.computersciencelab.com/ComputerHistory/HistoryPt4.htm
  24. 24. The Second Industrial Revolution The period 1870-1914 shaw innovations in the chemical, electric, petroleum and steel industries
  25. 25. Nikolai Kondratiev Kondratiev waves are supposedly cycle-like phenomena in the modern world economy
  26. 26. Kontrativ Wave Source:  Wikipedia,  Kondratiev  Wave
  27. 27. Kontrativ Wave Wave Years 1 First Industrial Revolution 1787–1842 2 Railroad and Steam Engine Era 1842–1897 3 Age of steel, electricity and internal combustion 1897–1939 4 War and Post-war Boom: Suburbia 1939–1982 5 Post Industrial Era: Information Technology 1982? – ?? Source:  Wikipedia,  Kondratiev  Wave
  28. 28. The Prevailing Technology Trap Current  and  dominant  technology  will  highly   influence  and  restrict  new  innovations
  29. 29. Technology Cramming
  30. 30. Technology Cramming
  31. 31. Adjacent Possible The inventor must use the components that exist in his environment Steven  Johnson
  32. 32. Two Waves of Products Development In the first wave the product is restricted by the prevailing technology, but in the second, there is something new
  33. 33. Adjacent Possible The inventor must use the components that exist in his environment Steven  Johnson
  34. 34. Next L05 Innovation
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