Innovation and The Evolution of the Economic Web

Fifty thousand years ago the global economy may have had a diversity of a few thousand goods and services, including fire, unifacial stone scrapers, hides, and so forth. Today, in New York alone, there must be over a billion goods and services. The global economy has exploded in diversity. The question is how and why has this explosion occurred?
The economy, as detailed a bit further below, is a network of complements and substitutes, which I will call the Economic Web. And like the biosphere, it’s evolution is substantially unprestatable, “context dependent,” and creates its own growing “context” that comprises its “Adjacent Possible.” The adjacent possible is what can arise next in this evolution. This evolution is “sucked into” the very opportunities it itself creates. Innovations into the Adjacent Possible drive this growth.
I do not wish to consider here the rich evolution of a single technology. Brian Arthur has brilliantly done so in his book The Nature of Technology [1]. Rather, I wish to discuss the evolution of the entire economic web, for as we shall see, goods and services create novel niches which invite the innovative creation of new complementary and substitute goods such that the web as a whole grows in diversity.


Innovation and The Evolution of the Economic Web
by Stuart Kauffman

Entropy 2019, 21(9), 864