Past Event

Complexity Group Seminar: Vittorio Loreto, Sapienza University of Rome - "Novelties, innovation and the adjacent possible"

Prof. Vittorio Loreto

Sapienza University of Rome, Physics Dept., Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Roma, Italy


Institute for Scientific Interchange (ISI), Via Alassio 11/c, 10126 Torino, Italy


Complexity Science Hub Vienna, Josefstädter Straße 39, 1080 Vienna, Austria

Title: Novelties, innovation and the adjacent possible


Creativity and innovation are key elements in many different areas and disciplines since they represent the primary motor to explore new solutions in ever-changing and unpredictable environments. New biological traits and functions, new technological artefacts, new social, linguistic and cultural structures, new meanings, are very often triggered by the mutated external conditions. Unfortunately the detailed mechanisms through which humans, societies and nature express their creativity and innovate are largely unknown. The common intuition that one new thing often leads to another is captured, mathematically, by the notion of adjacent possible, introduced by Stuart Kauffman.  Originally introduced in the framework of biology, the adjacent possible metaphor already expanded its scope to include all those things (ideas, linguistic structures, concepts, molecules, genomes, technological artefacts, etc.) that are one step away from what actually exists, and hence can arise from incremental modifications and recombination of existing material. In this talk I'll present a mathematical framework, describing the expansion of the adjacent possible, whose predictions are borne out in several data sets drawn from social and technological systems. Finally I'll discuss how games could represent a extraordinary framework to experimentally investigate basic mechanisms at play whenever we learn, create and innovate.  I'll present a few examples recently developed in the framework of the KREYON project (

Short bio:

Vittorio Loreto is Full Professor of Physics of Complex Systems at Sapienza University and Research Leader at the ISI Foundation in Turin where he coordinates the Information Dynamics group. He recently joined the Faculty of the Complexity Science Hub Vienna.  His scientific activity is mainly focused on the statistical physics of complex systems. In the last few years he has been active in the fields of granular media, complexity and information theory, complex networks theory, communication and language evolution, social dynamics. He coordinated several project at the EU level among which the project EveryAware (, devoted to enhancing environmental awareness in urban contexts using social information technologies. In this framework he has been developing new tools for web-gaming, social computation and learning. He is presently coordinating a Templeton funded project on "Unfolding the dynamics of creativity, novelties and innovation" ( He published over 180 papers in internationally refereed journals and chaired several workshops and conferences. He was the vice-chairman of STATPHYS 23, the 23rd International Conference on Statistical Physics.




31 May 2017 16:00 - 17:30


INET Oxford

Eagle House, Walton Well Road, Oxford, OX2 6ED

Complexity Economics