Mathematical Models of Innovations

January 18, 2017

Interesting article spotted in The MIT Technology Review:

And yet the process of innovation is something of a mystery. A wide range of researchers have studied it, ranging from economists and anthropologists to evolutionary biologists and engineers. Their goal is to understand how innovation happens and the factors that drive it so that they can optimize conditions for future innovation.

This approach has had limited success, however. The rate at which innovations appear and disappear has been carefully measured. It follows a set of well-characterized patterns that scientists observe in many different circumstances. And yet, nobody has been able to explain how this pattern arises or why it governs innovation….

The adjacent possible is all those things—ideas, words, songs, molecules, genomes, technologies and so on—that are one step away from what actually exists. It connects the actual realization of a particular phenomenon and the space of unexplored possibilities.

But this idea is hard to model for an important reason. The space of unexplored possibilities includes all kinds of things that are easily imagined and expected but it also includes things that are entirely unexpected and hard to imagine. And while the former is tricky to model, the latter has appeared close to impossible.

What’s more, each innovation changes the landscape of future possibilities. So at every instant, the space of unexplored possibilities—the adjacent possible—is changing…

The team has also shown that its model predicts how innovations appear in the real world. The model accurately predicts how edit events occur on Wikipedia pages, the emergence of tags in social annotation systems, the sequence of words in texts, and how humans discover new songs in online music catalogues…

Photography Mapped

January 5, 2017


Screenshot from the interactive graphic

Following on from last year, I plan to do a few more photowalks in London this year. Part of this will be me getting to know my cameras better and hopefully using them better. From the controls, there are obviously a large number of options, which can sometimes seem overwhelming (I’m very much an amateur in this).

I recently came across an interactive graphic from Simon Roberts (a London based animator and designer) that helps quite a lot. The link is here and there’s a screenshot of the interactive site above:

A big part of my day job is using design and animation to make complex things more comprehensible – through this project I’m applying these skills to photography…

I adapted this design into an interactive diagram to help you explore the connections yourself. There are a total of 23,814 different photo combinations you can take (although most of those are either very overexposed or underexposed).

What If Technology Was Aligned To Your Values?

January 4, 2017

A series of three short videos on how technology could better align with your needs/values.