by Vittorio Loreto
Abstract: Innovations are key factors in the evolution of human societies, since they represent the primary motor to explore new solutions in ever-changing and unpredictable environments. New technological
artefacts, scientific discoveries, new social and cultural structures, are very often triggered by mutated
external conditions. Unfortunately, the detailed mechanisms through which humans and societies express their creativity and innovate are largely unknown and no comprehensive mathematical framework has been proposed so far. Creative solutions, novelties and innovation share an important feature: often, innovative events do not happen by chance, rather they seem to be triggered by some previous novelty or innovation. In studies of biological, technological, and cultural evolution, it has been hypothesized that one innovation can lay the groundwork for another by creating fresh opportunities. In our daily lives, a similar process may account for why one new thing so often leads to another. This idea has been beautifully summarized by the notion of adjacent possible introduced by Stuart Kauffman. In this picture the advance into the adjacent possible is the driving force for correlating innovative events, and novelties are produced through an exploration of a space – physical, conceptual, technological or biological – that enlarges itself whenever one reaches a point of the space never touched before.