The Adjacent Possible

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For those of you not familiar with the term “The Adjacent Possible,” it was originally coined by the biologist Stuart Kauffman, but it was recently popularizedin Steven Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come From. You will find an RSA Animate video summary of his book at the bottom of this page. Basically, it refers to the fact “that at anygiven time – in science and technology, but perhaps also in culture and politics – only certain kinds of next steps are feasible.” For example, growing in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, many of today’s teachers learned or were made aware of adjacently-possible techniques for learning and sharing ideas (The book, the pencil, the notebook, the phone, Microsoft Word) Today’s kids live in a world with 1.6 million apps available from Google Play and 1.5 million apps available in iTunes (Statista, 2015). How many Adjacent Possibilities do these apps allow for?

Which is better? 92% – 96% – 99.5%

Computers can identify cancer cells with 92% accuracy. Humans are capable of finding the cancer cells 96% of the time. When we open the door to the adjacent possible of working together with the technology we can increase the accuracy to 99.5%. Why aren’t we looking for more adjacent possibilities?

In his recent TED Talk, Tom Gruber (The co-creator of Siri also shared part of this video from autodesk)In this video he showed how autodesk can work collaboratively with humans to suggest hundreds of possible designs. This opens new doors to the adjacent possible for engineers.


What kinds of adjacent possibilities are opened when we add AI to the classroom?



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