The Red Queen’s Palace of the Adjacent Possible (The Network of Ideas and Evolution in Action)

In my previous post I introduced the Red Queen and opened a door into her imaginary realm as a way for me to present my thoughts concerning networks.

Here I’m going to attach some other thoughts concerning; creativity, diversity, invention, discovery and innovation.

To quickly recap the Red Queen can be thought of as a form of dimensional being which assists in civilisations progress. She plays an evolutionary role. Her presence is felt in those places where progress is due.

We cannot communicate with The Red Queen in any way. But maybe we do not need to communicate with her to learn more than she can tell us.

There are 3 lessons contained within the first post.

Here is the 4th lesson.

The Red Queen is always the smartest person in the room.

She always knows where to make her presence felt as she already knows all of the possible futures. She is in every room and at every doorway onto the next.

In the Realm of the Red Queen everything is connected to everything else. Every discipline to every other. Every discovery to its every possibility.

Here maximum diversity is the norm not the exception.

In our reality this aspect of her reality corresponds with the Adjacent Possible (Stuart Kauffman, 2002) in ours.

“The adjacent possible is 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

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.” — Steven Johnson

You can see why the Red Queen feels perfectly at home!

There is a network of ideas and possibility here and if you look closely you can see evolution in action.

A Network of Ideas and Possibility

The Red Queen, her realm and her palace is an imagined place but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful to us.

Shifting our thinking into another place allows us to contemplate the existence of different realities with different rules and properties.

It unshackles us and sets us free.

Upon our return to our own reality what we thought of as set in stone may actually just be an accepted notion. Perceived barriers may be easily overcome.

This in itself as a technique lends itself towards the Adjacent Possible. It can assist in opening new doors to new rooms.

In fact so can any other form of diversity, creativity or experience. The key is to have your mind opened to the possibility, to be awake.

To give something different a go. To embrace the diverse and the new.

The Red Queen’s Palace of Adjacent Possibility doesn’t exist but it is possible to bring the; exploratory, experimental and liberatory potential of; networks, creativity and diversity together to emulate it.

This is part of what Socially Enterprising does. It creates the space and the story and the connections to those things that make it possible.

Evolution in Action

As I propositioned in my last post The Enlightenment may contain a weakness which comes in the form of reductionism.

You could think of The Enlightenment as a time in which every door could be cast open within the Palace of Adjacent Possibility.

Daylight could illuminate unbeaten paths of intellectual pursuit and a new world was brought into being beyond the palace walls.

But if The Enlightenment held one set of keys to a new world and new vistas then reductionism possessed another.

Over time it sealed the palace doors behind itself and gave the rooms their names. Sciences became separate from sciences. Institutions isolated and adrift. Experts deaf and blind to each others learning.

An unintended consequence for sure but a true picture of the world we find ourselves within today and it was a trend which continued unabated throughout all of society.

Reductionism almost by definition creates a world of boxes and systems in which we are ever more tightly constrained and it can prove very difficult to question this rule bound reality once established.

Once upon a time an enquiring mind could open themselves to experiencing and learning whatever the world had to offer.

But this becomes more difficult when the school system is the authority of learning. Or when politicians are the authority on how to live your lives. Or when government is the authority on your needs.

It is a lifeless palace and a lifeless place.

The doors are shut first in the world we create and then our own minds follow suit becoming numb to the possibility that exists around us. This has always been the call of the elders and the liberators.

Like anything else in history you can see it when you look back. You can see why it happened that way. It all made sense.

But you have got to ask why we continue to do it.

So what would happen if we decided to do it differently?

To open our eyes to experience and learning in its every form.

To challenge the boundaries of our imposed reality.

To open those doors within the palace and let the fresh air rush in.

But to open them to whom? There is no throng waiting outside the gate.

You see in our world where everything has been systematised using the logic above there is very little reason for people to continually learn, experiment and try new things.

If you’re a busy executive what incentive do you have to try hedge making?

If you’re a busy parent why help run a creche?

If you’re working on a factory line why try learning an instrument?

It isn’t that there is anything stopping you or anyone else from doing any activity you like. It’s just that the logic for doing so isn’t built into the system.

They tend to get in the way of work.

But when we use a different set of logic with a different way of seeing the world then things begin to make a lot more sense.

The Adjacent Possible is one tool that can help us to do this. Especially when combined with developmental models and approaches (I refer to these in other posts).

As well as modifying how we view non-work related activity it can also help break the financial sense framework we operate within as people, organisations or businesses.

It helps us to understand that just because something isn’t directly applicable (read financially beneficial) to our lives or work this doesn’t mean that it can’t bring great benefits, advantages and be a lot of fun to boot.

It introduces to our understanding another story for how evolution happens.

Not in boxes but through networks.

Not by institutions but through society.

Not through isolation but with diversity.

Not dictated but freely chosen.

All with a little bit of help from The Red Queen! :)

You see The Red Queen isn’t like you or me. We can never ever be her.
But she may be
showing us the way to be free people in a free society.

It’s a story that is as good for business as it is for every one of us.