I begin with a true, whimsical and lovely tale. Recently a Japanese man living in a tiny apartment, perhaps in Tokyo, with his 2,000 books felt utterly crowded. He scanned his library into his new iPad and sold the used books. But THEN: It dawned on him that this was a new business opportunity, and he is now offering “iPad library scanning” services as his new way of making a living.
I love it. Notice, to be a bit technical, that his “iPad library screening” business is a technological complement to iPad, as screw and screw driver are complements, creating value together.
Obviously the “iPad library scanning” business could not have come into existence prior to iPad’s invention and reasonably widespread sale.
What is the whimsical new “functionality” of this business that is the iPad complement? Screening libraries of those in tiny Japanese apartments crowded by books.
Then given the invention and widespread sale of iPad, the new “iPad library screening” business was in what I keep calling the Adjacent Possible of the evolution of our economic and technological web. The little example above demonstrates the ever innovation of new “complementarities”, that is new functionalities i.e., “screening libraries of those in tiny Japanese apartments crowded by books”, made POSSIBLE by what exists now.
So there are four huge implications: First, the Adjacent Possible is fruitful. There are myriad new Adjacent Possibilities, given the current Actual economy.
Second, we simply cannot PRESTATE what lies in this Adjacent Possible. Who would have thought of “screening libraries of those in tiny Japanese apartments crowded by books” as a part of the Adjacent Possible. Who would have thought, as I have blogged before, of the World Wide Web, eBay, Google, and Facebook, 30 years ago? We live in a fruitful world of ever new possibilities that we cannot prestate. As I keep writing, not only do we not know what WILL happen, we do not even know what CAN happen.
But the third implication is profound for today’s world. So, third, we cannot prestate the relevant strategy space of, say, the burgeoning economy becoming into its Adjacent Possible, so we CANNOT OPTIMIZE with respect to that BECOMING.
And the fourth implication is, I think, deeply empowering. iPad ENABLED THE POSSIBILITY of “screening libraries of those in tiny Japanese apartments crowded by books.” This new Adjacent Possible economic niche is not random, but not deterministic. Therefore we truly create the very possibilities we become. The same is true for the evolution of the biosphere where new species create non-random adjacent possible empty niches where the biosphere may/will evolve, then create ever new Adjacent Possible empty niches.
These issues are deeply important. Many people, including our elites, think we can prestate the possibilities, hence can optimize given a “figure of merit” and a set of expectations over those possibilities.
The new Japanese business is a tiny, profound, demonstration that this belief is just wrong. Sometimes, in confined conditions, we can optimize. Hence our aim is not only our limited prediction, optimization and management, it is enablement and adaptation.
I find this very empowering.
Think different, indeed!
The iPhone is the information appliance that Raskin imagined at the end of his life: A morphing machine that could do any task using any specialized interface. Every time you launch an app, the machine transforms into a new device, showing a graphical representation of its interface. There are specialized buttons for taking pictures, and gestures to navigate through them. Want to change a song? Just click the “next” button. There are keys to press phone numbers, and software keyboards to type short messages, chat, email or tweet. The iPhone could take all these personalities, and be successful in all of them.
When it came out, people instantly got this concept. Clicking icons transformed their new gadget into a dozen different gadgets. Then, when the app store appeared, their device was able to morph into an unlimited number of devices, each serving one task.
In this new computing world there were no files or folders, either. Everything was database-driven. The information was there, in the device, or out there, floating in the cloud. You could access it all through all these virtual gadgets, at all times, because the iPhone is always connected.
Apple’s announcement is scheduled for 27 January 2010, and the world will be watching. Oh, and it does exist, via Cult of Mac:
According to mobile analytics company Flurry, the Apple Tablet isn’t just a very real product, but they’ve detected up to fifty of them floating through Cupertino, running a new version of the iPhone OS numbered 3.2.
The data comes from Flurry’s tracking code, present in some App Store apps. Around 200 of these apps — mostly games — were downloaded onto this mystery device with the “characteristics” of a Tablet, starting in October and picking up in January.
If Flurry’s assessment if correct, it means that the Tablet — or at least Tablet prototype devices — do indeed run iPhone apps natively, without any necessary modifications. The problem is that Flurry doesn’t actually specify what the “characteristics” of a Tablet are, so it’s hard to know for sure that what they are seeing is the Tablet. If their whole theory rests upon seeing a higher resolution device, say, Flurry might just be looking at a prototype iPhone HD… a device that is pretty much a given when Apple refreshes the iPhone line in June, considering the recent strides made in display resolutions by the likes of the HTC Nexus One.
Tablet or no, Apple’s clearly testing out a new version of the iPhone operating system, so that’s something, but only Wednesday will tell exactly which device it’s running on.
Nice buzz from Apple, which actually makes something instead of talking about it.
So it’s simple really. If you make a product that turns the culture upside down, drives stock price and reconfigures other industries, you step to the stage amid a herald of trumpets and perform magic.