Developing ideas
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Power& tradition holding back progress
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The constraints are described. 
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How ideas develop

Summary
Good ideas are successful because they build upon prior developments that have been successfully implemented.  Johnson demonstrates that they are phenotypic expressions of memetic plans subject to the laws of complex adaptive systems (
This page introduces the complex adaptive system (CAS) theory frame.  The theory is positioned relative to the natural sciences.  It catalogs the laws and strategies which underpin the operation of systems that are based on the interaction of emergent agents. 
John Holland's framework for representing complexity is outlined.  Links to other key aspects of CAS theory discussed at the site are presented. 
CAS
). 
Where good ideas come from
In Steven Johnson's book 'Where good ideas come from' he illustrates scenarios which encourage the development of good ideas.  He sees the answer revealed in the explanation, he builds layer by layer in the book, of how coral reefs support relatively vast ecosystems

Johnson argues that ideas
This page reviews the implications of selection, variation and heredity in a complex adaptive system (CAS).  The mechanism and its emergence are discussed. 
evolve
,
This page discusses the mechanisms and effects of emergence underpinning any complex adaptive system (CAS).  Key research is reviewed. 
emerging
at Stuart Kauffman's adjacent possible from the competitive pressure to develop new niches.  He explores the adjacent possible showing it to correspond to the presence of
The complex adaptive system (CAS) nature of a value delivery system is first introduced.  It's a network of agents acting as relays. 

The critical nature of hub agents and the difficulty of altering an aligned network is reviewed. 

The nature of and exceptional opportunities created by platforms are discussed. 

Finally an example of aligning a VDS is presented. 
enabling strategic forces in the local environment
which determine the properties of the new niche.  These properties then dictate what will be a viable instantiation of a good idea.  Without the ability to leverage these properties the instantiation will fail.  He stresses that good ideas also contribute significantly to the strategic forces.  An idea that generally expands the chances of survival, or reduces the cost of survival for all who enter the niche will be good.  It will create the potential for the development of further niches. 

Johnson advocates Francois Jacob's view that
This page reviews the implications of selection, variation and heredity in a complex adaptive system (CAS).  The mechanism and its emergence are discussed. 
evolution
is a 'tinkerer' rather than an engineer.  He adds Stephen Jay Gould's emphasis " Nature's innovations rely on spare parts.  Evolution advances by taking available resources and cobbling them together to create new uses.  "

Johnson stresses that the tinkering is not planned, but that, through exaptation, initially termed preadaptation refers to the coopting of some function for a new use.  , components that are useful enough in one niche to be selected for by evolution become available to contribute to the entry into an adjacent new niche where other features of the components are important.  To illustrate the point Johnson reviews Gutenberg's innovation is the economic realization of invention and combinatorial exaptation. 
of the printing press to enable the mass-production of Bibles.  The key elements were all in existance:

Ideas are seen by many as tools that we use to think proactively about the future and design.  However, Johnson explains that significant design processes have involved serendipity and error: 
Johnson argues that good ideas reflect their
This page discusses the interdependence of perception and representation in a complex adaptive system (CAS).  Hofstadter and Mitchell's research with Copycat is reviewed. 
representation within a particular type of 'liquid network' structure
that preserves useful relations but allows for
To benefit from shifts in the environment agents must be flexible.  Being sensitive to environmental signals agents who adjust strategic priorities can constrain their competitors. 
flexible
reconfiguration to support new connections and supports randomization.  Regarding human networks he equates hunter gatherer pastoralists to gases,
An epistatic meme suppressed for a thousand years reemerges during the enlightenment. 
It was a poem encapsulating the ideas of Epicurus rediscovered by a humanist book hunter. 
Greenblatt describes the process of suppression and reemergence.  He argues that the rediscovery was the foundation of the modern world. 
Complex adaptive system (CAS) models of the memetic mechanisms are discussed. 

Dark Age
farming communities to solids, and
Matt Ridley demonstrates the creative effect of man on the World. He highlights:
  • A list of preconditions resulting in
  • Additional niche capture & more free time 
  • Building a network to interconnect memes processes & tools which
  • Enabling inter-generational transfers
  • Innovations that help reduce environmental stress even as they leverage fossil fuels

trading networks
to liquids in which a few good ideas can move around and connect with one another. 

Johnson sees cross project meetings as recombination hot spots in liquid networks allowing review from divergent areas of expertise and experience.  This can help
This page discusses the interdependence of perception and representation in a complex adaptive system (CAS).  Hofstadter and Mitchell's research with Copycat is reviewed. 
clarify the significance and implications
of erroneous results to effectively evaluate
Plans emerge in complex adaptive systems (CAS) to provide the instructions that agents use to perform actions.  The component architecture and structure of the plans is reviewed. 
schematic
The agents in complex adaptive systems (CAS) must model their environment to respond effectively to it.  Samuel modeling is described as an approach. 
models
and associative connection strengths. 

The recombination that sets up the pieces of a good idea requires that all the parts are available and become associated.  That typically happens piecewise, a process Johnson calls the slow hunch.  Johnson outlines three aspects:
  1. Agents use sensors to detect events in their environment.  This page reviews how these events become signals associated with beneficial responses in a complex adaptive system (CAS).  CAS signals emerge from the Darwinian information model.  Signals can indicate decision summaries and level of uncertainty. 
    Sensors
    detect some activity and raise a signal. 
  2. When enough signals are present over an extended time period the signals are given more salience, Douglas Hofstadter controlled the amount of attention a Workspace object in Copycat would receive from codelets via its salience.  The more descriptions, analogous to geons, an object has and the more highly activated the nodes involved therin, the more important the object is.  Modulating this tendency is any relative lack of connections from the object to the rest of the objects in the Workspace.  Salience is a dynamic number that takes into account both these factors.  In Smiley the instantaneous salience of a Workspace's objects is calculated by itsalience.  .  
  3. The integration of signals benefits from infrastructure that supports both the distribution of the signals, and the association of valued truths through active recording in close proximity - for example in a 'common place, a format of note book where multiple areas of interest were recorded, described and cross referenced over a period of time.  Steven Johnson explains how the idea of a common place book inspired Tim Berners-Lee's design for the world-wide-web.  ' format book. 
Because of the risk of corrupting accepted ideas the process typically involves
Walter Shewhart's iterative development process is found in many complex adaptive systems (CAS).  The mechanism is reviewed and its value in coping with random events is explained. 
iterations
of
The agents in complex adaptive systems (CAS) must model their environment to respond effectively to it.  Samuel modeling is described as an approach. 
trial and validation where the weighting of a part being considered for addition is slowly increased

The coral reef platform
Johnson illustrates the nature of the infrastructure supporting the emergence of good ideas by analogy.  He returns to his early question about coral reefs

He explains that the development of coral reefs occurs when the sea is shallow enough for light to penetrate down to the ocean floor.  The reef structure is made from the shells of a polyp is either:
  • A tube like animal with a ring of tenticles at the front end.  These polyps often survive in a symbiont relationship with algae in their gut microbiome, that provides the polyp with nutrients.  Polyps build coral reefs and atolls enabling the emergence of the coral reef platform.  Under heat stress the polyps may expel the algae and become weak. 
  • An abnormal growth of tissue projecting from a mucous membrane. 
.  The polyps eat photosynthetic algae.  After the polyp's death the shells offer other creatures a reusable habitat.  Further as the ocean plates shift the reef base may descend below the level where light penetrates, but the polyps continue to grow where the light penetrates adding additional coral layers, creating an expanding high rise.  Other creatures are attracted to this expanding habitat and by
This page discusses the effect of the network on the agents participating in a complex adaptive system (CAS).  Small world and scale free networks are considered. 
network effects
This page discusses the benefits of geographic clusters of agents and resources at the center of a complex adaptive system (CAS). 
clusters of aligned phenotypes gather
.  The effect generates a rich variety of niches suited to a highly differentiated local population.  Johnson answers that reefs are platforms

Johnson adds that Darwin, who first developed the coral atoll, structures formed by polyps when the sea bed is near enough to the ocean surface that the Sun's rays can penetrate.  As the sea bed descends slowly new layers of coral are deposited keeping the top of the coral within range of the Sun light.  Over time a coral tower or atoll forms.  In warm & acidic seas the atolls collapse. 
theory, had to leverage the ideas of naturalists, marine biologists, geologists and the technical skills of sailors, and reject other popular proposals.  Further Johnson suggests that the environment that Darwin worked in was contributory, allowing him to follow his curiosity and then reflect broadly while testing his ideas with other experts.  Johnson sees a positive environment as critically important to the generation of creative combinations. 

Platforms tend to encourage the introduction of additional layers of value, each opening up new niches in the adjacent possible.  Platforms are ubiquitous: Johnson describes examples in technology, the sciences, and the arts, as well as pointing to the example of major cities. 

Johnson argues that the dependence on appropriate infrastructure for the target environment and on serendipitous integration with ideas or mechanisms makes it more likely that a 'good idea' will arise as a slow hunch.  But each good idea associated with a platform tends to recycle and repurpose, initially termed preadaptation refers to the coopting of some function for a new use.   the platform resources below it, so over time the opportunities should speed up, and the effect will also
Matt Ridley demonstrates the creative effect of man on the World. He highlights:
  • A list of preconditions resulting in
  • Additional niche capture & more free time 
  • Building a network to interconnect memes processes & tools which
  • Enabling inter-generational transfers
  • Innovations that help reduce environmental stress even as they leverage fossil fuels

reduce the time needed to invest in instantiating the idea


Johnson suggests over time the most creative environment has shifted from individuals developing noncommercial creations to cooperative networks introducing noncommercial creations to be shared and leveraged by all.  Few commercial platforms have been invented and Johnson suggests that is because the ideas were kept secret limiting the leverage obtained. 

Johnson concludes that governments and corporations must aim to leverage the creative ubiquity of noncommercial cooperative networks. 

Complex adaptive system
This page introduces the complex adaptive system (CAS) theory frame.  The theory is positioned relative to the natural sciences.  It catalogs the laws and strategies which underpin the operation of systems that are based on the interaction of emergent agents. 
John Holland's framework for representing complexity is outlined.  Links to other key aspects of CAS theory discussed at the site are presented. 
(CAS) theory
applies directly to the
The complex adaptive system (CAS) nature of a value delivery system is first introduced.  It's a network of agents acting as relays. 

The critical nature of hub agents and the difficulty of altering an aligned network is reviewed. 

The nature of and exceptional opportunities created by platforms are discussed. 

Finally an example of aligning a VDS is presented. 
value delivery systems
which Jacob reviews in developing his classification of 'good ideas'.  The
This page looks at schematic structures and their uses.  It discusses a number of examples:
  • Schematic ideas are recombined in creativity. 
  • Similarly designers take ideas and rules about materials and components and combine them. 
  • Schematic Recipes help to standardize operations. 
  • Modular components are combined into strategies for use in business plans and business models. 

As a working example it presents part of the contents and schematic details from the Adaptive Web Framework (AWF)'s operational plan. 

Finally it includes a section presenting our formal representation of schematic goals. 
Each goal has a series of associated complex adaptive system (CAS) strategy strings. 
These goals plus strings are detailed for various chess and business examples. 
strategic nature
of
Plans are interpreted and implemented by agents.  This page discusses the properties of agents in a complex adaptive system (CAS). 
It then presents examples of agents in different CAS.  The examples include a computer program where modeling and actions are performed by software agents.  These software agents are aggregates. 
The participation of agents in flows is introduced and some implications of this are outlined. 
agents
poses extra challenges than network alignment and platform leverage however.  As Geoffrey Moore highlights for high tech markets the penetration of an adaptive niche requires a chasm be crossed.  The value delivery system will only develop in phases: 
  1. The idea must provide a significant opportunity to an accessible 'artisan' visionary who can align the other local agents and trade risk for the potential of the vision relative to the innovator's competitors.  But even with the first stages of delivering the vision realized the chasm must be crossed.  Initially with a bridgehead that can subsequently sustain an invasion of the broad niche. 
  2. The bridgehead across the chasm leverages the first stage deliverables re-packaged for a concrete opportunity of limited nature that is clearly beneficial (and of little risk) in solving a widely experienced day-to-day problem of a pragmatist buyer.  
  3. With the leverage of an
    This page reviews the catalytic impact of infrastructure on the expression of phenotypic effects by an agent.  The infrastructure reduces the cost the agent must pay to perform the selected action.  The catalysis is enhanced by positive returns. 
    amplifier
    , such as Jacob's platform, and additional deliverables from further stages of the vision deployment, the idea invades the majority of the niche, and becomes good. 
  4. Moore completes the penetration with deliverables packaged for the laggard late majority buyer.  
Johnson's slow hunch is also significant.  However, the problems of integrating signals into a model of the environment are considerable.  Johnson argues for the need for integration between agents.  CAS theory suggests development is a phase during the operation of a CAS agent.  It allows for schematic strategies to be iteratively blended with environmental signals to solve the logistical issues of migrating newly built and transformed sub-agents.  That is needed to achieve the adult configuration of the agent and optimize it for the proximate environment.  Smiley includes examples of the developmental phase agents required in an emergent CAS.  In situations where parents invest in the growth and memetic learning of their offspring the schematic grab bag can support optimizations to develop models, structures and actions to construct an adept adult.  In humans, adolescence leverages neural plasticity, elder sibling advice and adult coaching to help prepare the deploying neuronal network and body to successfully compete. 
and especially adolescence in humans supports the transition from a juvenile configuration, dependent on parents and structured to learn & logistically transform, to adult optimized to the proximate environment.  And it is staged encouraging the adolescents to escape the hierarchy they grew up in and enter other groups where they may bring in: fresh ideas, risk taking; and alter the existing hierarchy: Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates & Paul Allen.  It marks the beginning of Piaget's formal operational stage of cognitive development.  The limbic, autonomic and hormone networks are already deployed and functioning effectively.  The frontal cortex has to be pruned: winning neurons move to their final highly connected positions, and are myelinated over time.  The rest dissolve.  So the frontal lobe does not obtain its adult configuration and networked integration until the mid-twenties when prefrontal cortex control becomes optimal.  The evolutionarily oldest areas of the frontal cortex mature first.  The PFC must be iteratively customized by experience to do the right thing as an adult.  Adolescents:
  • Don't detect irony effectively.  They depend on the DMPFC to do this, unlike adults who leverage the fusiform face area.  
  • Regulate emotions with the ventral striatum while the prefrontal cortex is still being setup.  Dopamine projection density and signalling increase from the ventral tegmentum catalyzing increased interest in dopamine based rewards.  Novelty seeking allows for creative exploration which was necessary to move beyond the familial pack.  Criticisms do not get incorporated into learning models by adolescents leaving their risk assessments very poor.  The target of the dopamine networks, the adolescent accumbens, responds to rewards like a gyrating top - hugely to large rewards, and negatively to small rewards.  Eventually as the frontal regions increase in contribution there are steady improvements in: working memory, flexible rule use, executive organization and task shifting.  And adolescents start to see other people's perspective. 
  • Drive the cellular transformations with post-pubescent high levels of testosterone in males, and high but fluctuating estrogen & progesterone levels in females.  Blood flow to the frontal cortex is also diverted on occasion to the groin.  
  • Peer pressure is exceptionally influential in adolescents.  Admired peer comments reduce vmPFC activity and enhance ventral striatal activity.  Adults modulate the mental impact of socially mean treatment: the initial activation of the PAG, anterior cingulate, amygdala, insula cortex; which generate feelings of pain, anger, and disgust, with the VLPFC but that does not occur in adolescents.  
  • Feel empathy intensely, supported by their rampant emotions, interest in novelty, ego.  But feeling the pain of others can induce self-oriented avoidance of the situations. 
will contribute to this.  Johnson shows how errors can break down limiting assumptions, and cross functional reviews can highlight errors.  He explores the form of associative structures described in the common place, a format of note book where multiple areas of interest were recorded, described and cross referenced over a period of time.  Steven Johnson explains how the idea of a common place book inspired Tim Berners-Lee's design for the world-wide-web.   book.  However, the impact of
This page reviews the inhibiting effect of the value delivery system on the expression of new phenotypic effects within an agent. 
alignment
is not stressed. 
The agents in complex adaptive systems (CAS) must model their environment to respond effectively to it.  Samuel modeling is described as an approach. 
Samuel's strategies for modeling the unknown
are not raised as significant contributors to the highly
Walter Shewhart's iterative development process is found in many complex adaptive systems (CAS).  The mechanism is reviewed and its value in coping with random events is explained. 
iterative
nature of learning and rational decision making. 

While we agree with Johnson's view of evolution his proposition that engineering is different seems at odds with the rest of Johnson's message.  Engineering likewise involves tinkering.  When viewed as a CAS we see more clarity generated by highlighting its similarities to other evolved systems than the orthodox focus on the differences.  


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This page looks at schematic structures and their uses.  It discusses a number of examples:
  • Schematic ideas are recombined in creativity. 
  • Similarly designers take ideas and rules about materials and components and combine them. 
  • Schematic Recipes help to standardize operations. 
  • Modular components are combined into strategies for use in business plans and business models. 

As a working example it presents part of the contents and schematic details from the Adaptive Web Framework (AWF)'s operational plan. 

Finally it includes a section presenting our formal representation of schematic goals. 
Each goal has a series of associated complex adaptive system (CAS) strategy strings. 
These goals plus strings are detailed for various chess and business examples. 
Strategy
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This page uses an example to illustrate how:
  • A business can gain focus from targeting key customers,
  • Business planning activities performed by the whole organization can build awareness, empowerment and coherence. 
  • A program approach can ensure strategic alignment. 
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