A Scientist on Possibility

By Hadassah Head

There are many different directions that scientific thought has taken relating to pondering possibility and change.

One such concept, developed by biologist Stuart Kauffman, is that of the “adjacent possible.” Basically, this idea holds that what is possible right now is limited by con-straints (such as technology or capital). But we continue to push this edge of pos-sibility by working around constraints.

These new concepts create not only new breakthroughs, but also new niches that drive continued exploration. (For example, the Internet is a relatively modern niche.) As individuals and as a society, we consider where we want to go and we make short-term decisions that open doors toward our longer-term goals. We make it more likely to get where we are hoping to go, but we can’t predict with certainty that we will get there, because we don’t know what the variables will be in the future.

Hadassah Head is coordinator of the evolutionary studies program (EvoS) at Binghamton University. She studied at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and she tweets as @Haddie.

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