The Adjacent Possible: Evolution, Innovation & Catastrophe

When we talk about failures in complex systems, we often mention contributing factors and how the right combination of events lead to failure. This often casts major incidents as “Black Swan” events that could have never been predicted or anticipated. But what if we’re wrong? In his frequent writings about innovation, Steven Johnson uses the term “The Adjacent Possible” to describe how some inventions make others possible. He argues that in many cases, The Adjacent Possible is not just the possibility of subsequent invention, but the inevitability of it—such as the invention of lenses for eyeglasses inevitably leading to the invention of telescopes and microscopes. In this session, I’ll discuss how this can also apply to failure. Some failures may be inevitable, unless we step in to prevent them.



Jason Yee

Jason Yee is Director of Advocacy at Gremlin where he helps people build more resilient systems by learning from how they fail. He also leads the internal Chaos Engineering practices to make Gremlin ...