By Karl Arnold Belser
24 June 2013

The future apparently depends on inventions or accidents that can not be predicted. Consider, for example, the invention of the Internet, which is a dominant influence in today's world. The Internet could not have been predicted 100 years ago.  

I think that it is the unpredictable happenings that will shape the future. So, how can a person proceed?

The operative word here is LUCK. There are many meanings for luck described in Wikipedia, which shows that there
is confusion regarding luck.

I like Louis Pasteur's insight about luck:
Chance favors the prepared mind”.  I think that part of preparing for the future is to be well informed, to interact with many people, and to have the intention to take action.


Stephen Johnson describes the Adjacent Possible in his book
Where Good Ideas Come From. (VIDEO) He points out that the Adjacent Possible leads to a SHADOW FUTURE.

Stuart A. Kauffman first described the idea of the Adjacent Possible. He gives an interesting observation regarding life as an autonomous agent.  I personally like Kauffman's concept of the Adjacent Possible from a kind-of quantum mechanical point of view. Suppose that all of these close possibilities are computed with a wave function (PSI) type of mechanism as in quantum computing. Then the human or maybe life force becomes a precipitation mechanism that causes one of the many possibilities to become real. There is currently no science behind Kauffman's conjecture, but scientists like David Deutch are starting to investigate what he calls Constructor Theory. Hence until more is known about these studies, I will not pursue Kauffman's usage of the Adjacent Possible any further.

The problem is that the adjacent possible may not be obvious. I think that each person has possibilities that only he or she can see and do somehting about. One just has to pay attention and then act.  As Werner Erhard said in the Erhardt Seminar Training (EST), "Preceive what needs to be done and do it".

The adjacent possible for society at large is usually intractable, especially since an individual cannot take action to cause an outcome.  What one has to do is what I describe in 7 Steps to Personal Growth. First, one has to tell the truth. Next, one needs to accept that truth. Lastly, one has to decide to have results. These results are, in essence, the Adjacent Possible. In this case one can only guess at possible outcomes and try to assign a probability to that outcome. This process prepares one's mind for what might happen.

As an aside, I observe that one of the reasons that central control or dictatorship in organizations, companies and governments does not work well is that it shuts off the Adjacent Possible by impeding individuals from being creative. Hence, a megatrend that could foreshadow a distorted future is too much central control.


I recently read some books that might be useful in becoming more conscious of the Adjacent Possible.

Dweck, Carol - Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals, personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.

Johnson, Steven - Where Good Ideas Come From

The figure of the lone genius may captivate us, but we intuit that such geniuses’ creations don’t materialize in a vacuum. Johnson supported the intuition in his biography of eighteenth-century scientist Joseph Priestly (The Invention of Air, 2009) and here explores it from different angles using sets of anecdotes from science and art that underscore some social or informational interaction by an inventor or artist. Assuring readers that he is not engaged in “intellectual tourism,” Johnson recurs to the real-world effects of individuals and organizations operating in a fertile information environment. Citing the development of the Internet and its profusion of applications such as Twitter, the author ascribes its success to “exaptation” and “stacked platforms.” By which he means that curious people used extant stuff or ideas to produce a new bricolage and did so because of their immersion in open networks. With his own lively application of stories about Darwin’s theory of atolls, the failure to thwart 9/11, and musician Miles Davis, Johnson connects with readers promoting hunches and serendipity in themselves and their organizations. --Gilbert Taylor

Lehrer, Jonah - Imagine: How Creativity Works

I was shocked when I read that this book had been recalled by the publisher because it had a few incorrect quotes. Lehrer recounts many creation myths such as for the Barbie Doll, Swifter and Post-it Notes. He proves an engaging tour guide to the mysteries of the imagination and the science of innovation.
I personally found the insights of the author edifying.

Thaler, Richard - Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Nudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioral science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions. In the tradition of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, Nudge is straightforward, informative, and entertaining—a must-read for anyone interested in our individual and collective well-being.

Last updated July 3, 2013
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