ADJACENT POSSIBLE

NEW TECHNOLOGY 2015 LECTURE L04

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Technology evolves by exchange of ideas. 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.

Technologies are combinations of other technologies. If you look at a device like a smartphone it is a combination of multiple technologies. Each one of these are combination of other ideas. To make a smartphone thousand of people need to collaborate to create all the parts.

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

Why was the computer invented in the 1940 but not 1940? I turns out that Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace had the idea of a programmable computer 100 years before it became possible to build it.

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