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					Chapter 10

Adjacent Possibles

        Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you'll be able to see farther.
                                        John Pierpont Morgan

        I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist.
                                        Max Lerner

        If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the
        passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the
        possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so
        fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!
                                         Soren Kierkegaard

        Possibilitizing is overcoming while you're undergoing.
                                          Robert H. Schuller

        The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the buts you use today.
                                           Les Brown

Since the homology of the “shining city upon the hill” which moved John Winthrop and the Puritans, the
allure of possibility has been a prominent part of American culture. Our bookstores are filled with “how-
to” and “self-help” guides. Our children are told by countless celebrities that anything is possible, and
often the celebrity’s rags to riches story makes this seem very real. (Recall that a successful story is one
which allows the listener to picture his/herself in the story -- what can be more seductive than picturing
yourself a success?) America and Europe have a thriving motivational speaker business whose
practitioners exhort their listeners to live up to their potential and that great possibilities are within
sight. The popular management books which fill the shelves of airport bookstores tell managers that
their road to success lies in taking better advantage of the manifold possibilities stretched out before
them if only they would see. Possibility is a resonating American homology.1

The Webmind story is one of the belief in possibility. Ben Goertzel believed in his ability to see the AI
potential through to success. Lisa Pazer and Andy Siciliano believed in Ben’s belief. The technical staff
working for Ben believed in Ben, his ideas, and his belief. The investors …. But as Thoreau warned us
many years ago, “if you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. That is

         This is not the place to discuss the millions of Americans for whom this statement may not be true. Their
absence in this text does not mean the authors are unaware of their many needs and problems.

       Chapter 10                                                                                                1
where they should be. Now put the foundation underneath them.” But when it came time for that
foundation, Webmind could not deliver. All attention was on the castle in the air.

The housing bubble proved to be a similar tale. Based upon the belief that housing prices could only go
up, it was reasonable to lend money with nothing down to those who could not afford what they were
buying. After all they could sell it again for more than they paid. The bankers, brokers, realtors, buyers,
sellers, public officials all believed. Regulators based their activities on the same beliefs. And in the end
the castle had no foundation. The mid-air edifice crashed. Spectacularly.

Many entrepreneurs can tell similar stories. The possibility of the castle is the allure. It is the vision.
Our linear based MBA style teaching suggests that what needs to be done is to work backwards from the
vision. But, as we must now point out, working backwards from a vision of a castle in the air is literally
“top-down.” Foundations, however, must be built from bottom up (even if one starts with the sides,
under each side is a partial bottom and it comes first). There is much disappointment in America when
the dreams of castles hit the reality of the missing foundation.

Up to now in this book, we too have discussed castles in the air. While experienced coherence is our
focus, both the book itself and the lessons which managers and academics can take away from it, consist
of castle like ideas (coherence, emergence, resonance, affordance, dialogue). This chapter begins to fill
in the foundation. Its key lies in recognizing and attending to an important homology: while the
possibility space may be large, what matters is the adjacent possible. Getting this homology to resonate
is the foundations. Emergent coherence cannot go anywhere if the afforded adjacent possibles are
incoherent. Ascribed coherence cannot lead to coherent next actions if the afforded adjacent possibles
are incoherent. The path away from stasis is through adjacent possibles. Not visions. Not goals. Not
plans. Adjacent Possibles.

The concept of adjacent possibles was, to our knowledge, first explored by the complexity scientist
Stuart Kauffman (2002) in the notebooks, talks, and ruminations which led to his book Investigations.

        The adjacent possible consists of all those molecular species that are not members of
        the actual bar one reaction step away from the actual. … Note that the adjacent possible
        is indefinitely expandable once members have been realized in the current adjacent
        possible, a new adjacent possible, accessible from the enlarged actual that includes the
        novel molecules from the former adjacent possible, becomes available. … Other things
        being equal, the total system wants to flow into the adjacent possible…. The adjacent
        possible is just that set of unique novel objects, not yet constructed, it can be
        constructed from the current set of objects in a single construction step. We in the
        limited world we can think of the technologically adjacent possible from any actual. An
        economy might flow persistently from simple primitive objects into the adjacent
        possible, building up ever more complex objects…. Is there a self-regulating mechanism
        which dictates our rate of entry into the technological adjacent possible? Consider this:
        why does an innovation and get itself introduced, because someone thinks he or she can

       Chapter 10                                                                                          2
        make money introducing that innovation. But if the person or firm making the
        innovation and introducing it to the global or village markets faced a product lifecycle
        that was so very rapid that neither they nor others in the economy could absorb the
        innovations and make livings, the firms in question would go broke. We will only broach
        the technological adjacent possible at that rate which we can make a living doing so.
        We gate our entry into the technological future. ... It is a further plausible hypothesis
        that the rate of exploration of the adjacent possible endogenously converges to the rate
        that is maximally sustainable.

What Kauffman leaves out of his thinking, but which is crucial, is that it is not possible for a human or an
organization made up of humans to survey and render judgments about all of the adjacent possibles
which may be available at a given moment. If this were possible, then, like the impossible but
“complete” code book, the pathway to achieving a given vision would be knowable. Working backwards
would merely be a computational problem. But, life has not granted us the tools needed for such

Enter Bad Heuristics

The multitude of adjacent possibles available to us at a given instant can perhaps be taken as a hallmark
of complexity. As we have already quoted JC Spender: “the degree of complexity present is the extent
to which our efforts at reduction have failed.” In truth we do not go through life overwhelmed by the
apparent complexity continually confronting us. Instead we make choices about what to deal with,
what to see, and what questions to ask.

        The lay view of complexity identifies that complex systems have: many parts;
        many types of relationships between many types of part; emergence of new
        structure de novo; poor predictability; non-linear behavior to the point of chaos. But
        if complexity is to be a material issue, then the above characteristics take on a
        muddled meaning. The problem is that nature does not prescribe systems for
        the scientist; rather the scientist must take responsibility for definitions and
        boundaries. Some decisions as to these matters are more useful than others, but
        none are prescribed for the investigator by nature. If it is the decision of the
        observer that determines what is complex about a system, then complexity must
        be a normative, rather than material, issue. Instead of going for complex
        materiality, we assert that complexity is normative, something that is identified by
        an agreement. Complexity is the ultimate semantic argument. If one has a
        paradigm, then the system is simple; perhaps complicated, but still simple rather
        than complex. If one does not have a paradigm for it, then the system is complex.

       Chapter 10                                                                                         3
       Paradigms are essential for science, and are in a sense the end product of it.
       They inform scientists as to how to look at the world in a way that has currency
       and relevance. Kuhn (1962) identifies that paradigms represent agreements
       as to what is significant, what are useful tools and what falls within accepted
       vocabulary (competing paradigms are pejoratively accused of using jargon). In
       negative, but still insightful terms, a paradigm is a tacit agreement not to ask
       certain questions. Paradigms tell their adherents how to address certain
       aspects of experience of the world as it is observed. Complexity, then, arises
       when there is no paradigm, when critical decisions are left unmade. The point of
       studying complexity is to turn it into something simple. (Zellmer, Allen, &
       Kesseboehmer, 2007)

The role that Zellmer et al assign to paradigms for scientists is fulfilled for the rest o f us by what
are known as heuristics. Heuristics are rules of thumb, educated guesses, or intuitive judgments
we use to simply how we proceed through life. We tend to refer to heuristics as “ common
sense.” Heuristics work because they do indeed simplify how we see complexity.

      Chapter 10                                                                                     4
Managers of organizations have roughly a dozen heuristics2 which they seem to apply over and over

    1. Apparent Truth

        Events are observed to occur with some repetition. The repetition appears to be predictable
        within some measure of probability. Further reoccurrence thus confirms the apparent truth of
        whatever predictions have been made. “I was right before, so I will be right again.”

    2. Correlation is Causality

        Similar events foreshadow similar successive events. Similar events or states have similar
        causes. Like events emanate from like causes.

    3. Similarities Extend

        Similarity gives foresight to further similarities. It is possible to balance out dissimilarities such
        that similar things are comparable, even in properties so far not perceived. The expected is thus
        addable to the perceived.

    4. Purpose Dictates

        Things happen for a purpose. Thus functions in similar systems may be understood as sub-
        functions of the same higher system, and can be thought to serve the purpose of the higher

    5. Single Explanations Govern

        If one can identify a “major factor” in creating an end, that factor can be treated as independent
        regardless of the cluster of other factors with which it has co-occurred.

    6. Randomness Holds

        The world is composed of independent random events whereby the law of large numbers and
        Gaussian distributions (the “bell curve”) hold.

    7. Events are Observer Independent

        When making judgments involving any of these dozen heuristics one assumes events are real
        and are not observer dependent.

        List has been modified from Weidmann, 2005, Taleb, 2006 and Rozensweig, 2007

      Chapter 10                                                                                            5
    8. Halo (Non-)Effect

        Success is reflective of present practices and not of past history.

    9. Learn From Success Not Failure

        By studying what the successful have done, one can learn to succeed. Studying the failed will
        only lead to failure.

    10. Second and Third Order Effects Can Usually Be Ignored

        They are too difficult to understand anyway.

    11. Bad Data can be Overcome by More Processing

        That is what statistics is all about, isn’t it?

    12. I am an Okay Sample of One.

        The best sample is the one you know the most about and the one you have the best access to:

Most of the time, these heuristics serve us well. Thus, following the logic of the heuristics themselves, it
is reasonable to rely on them. (If they work well most of the time, they will repeat. Thus, they must be
causal, and extend even into areas where we have not yet applied them. They are, of course, revelatory
of our basic understanding of the world. etc.) And, rely on them we do.

The result is that when we encounter an event or a situation or a context, most of the time we will
process that event, situation, or context making use of the heuristics above. Much of the time that will
be fine. Some of the time, it will be dead wrong.

Right or wrong, the heuristics serve as the mental models against which we make predictions about
what to do, and how to deal with the possibility space we encounter. The mental model serves up
homologies not only by reacting to options in the possibility space, but also by how much effort we put
into scanning that space and in how much attention we give to the items which do not get scanned.

Adjacent possibles only matter if we perceive them as adjacent, or if relevant events result from their
occurrence (and thus cause us to perceive and attend to them). It is difficult to react to what is not
perceived or attended to at least in some manner. Which leads to a few additional heuristics to be
applied after the fact:

       Chapter 10                                                                                         6
    13. Ask: What did I miss?

        What items should I have perceived or attended to which missed my scan?

    14. The Golden Rule is Narcissistic

        Doing unto others what I want for me may have overlooked what they want for themselves.

    15. Correlated Events Are Not Random

        This means that the law of large numbers and of Gaussian distributions (bell curve) do not apply.

    16. Mistaken Reifications Happen

        Have I treated a process or a context as if it were a concrete object? Have I tried to create a
        mathematical law out of a set of observations? Have I mislabeled weak signals as noise?

The adjacent possibles we see in retrospect, after applying these last four heuristics, often vary greatly
from the possibilities we perceived and attended to when relying on the first twelve.


The technical name for the possible actions and uses we perceive (and attend to) in a given situation,
context, or event is an affordance. More definitional work on this concept will be provided in Chapter
10, but for now what matters is that the universe of adjacent possibles, which we have some ability to
engage with or not, is limited by the affordances we perceive, recognize, and attend to. A given
situation (context, event) may present affordances to others or us which we do not perceive. In that
lack of perception lays a route through a different set of adjacent possibles.

A chair for instance affords the opportunity for sitting. Sitting is thus an affordance of the chair. But, in
other situations chairs may have very different affordances: the sitting surface can be used as a place to
hold or store things, the sitting surface can be used as a ladder, a chair can be wedged under a door
knob to prevent the door from opening, two chairs with a board across the top can form a primitive
scaffold, a chair can serve as a place holder (perhaps when tipped in around a table or when placed in
the middle of a valued on street parking spot), the back of the chair may serve as signage, the color of
the chair may serve as a color sample, and the list goes on. It would thus be incorrect to assert that THE
affordance of a chair is for sitting, which would otherwise have been a reasonable conclusion given the
first twelve heuristics above.

Affordances in their application typically are cued and not coded. They are situation and context
dependent. Their perception and being attended to is a function of the mental state of the observer

       Chapter 10                                                                                          7
and not a direct quality of the item or situation offering the affordance. To the extent that affordances
limit the actionable range of adjacent possibles, some portion of that limitation is thus a result of the
mental state of the observer.

Because affordances are cued it is important to look at semiotic properties which allow the affordance
to be perceived and attended to. Semiotic properties are those qualities of an item, event, situation, or
context which function as a sign or symbol triggering or evoking meaning in the mind of the observer.
Unfortunately, the first twelve heuristics above tend to relegate semiotic properties into the
background. Nelson, Stolterman and Krippendorf would argue that the consideration of semiotic
properties is part of the design way and thus is a critical task for managers and leaders.

To expose those considerations requires a reversal of attention. One must ask what is it about item,
situation, context or event x that has cued meaning y for me. In that question lies the key to further
exploration of affordances and adjacent possibles. And, in asking that question, one moves from the
first twelve heuristics to include more of the final four.

This reversal is not a normal part of our discourse. It requires an explicit exposure of a special kind of
enabling relationship -- what is it about the observed item, event, context or situation which allows one
to recognize that it affords affordance x. It was Husserl who introduced the notion of fundierung relation
(found in most of the translations as “foundation,” c.f., Smith and Smith, 1995 and Rota, 1997) for the
purpose of naming the relationship embodied in an enabling “medium.” In architecture, Christopher
Alexander referred to this relationship as the “quality without a name.” Husserl’s term fundierung is
more general, and can be used with respect to almost any function. Fundierung is a relationship
between function and the enabling facticity. For example, the use of a pen to write is a function. This
function is related to the pen and its components by a fundierung relation. In our example, the facticity
is the pen and the components (plastic, ink, tip, etc.) that make it. This relationship between facticity
and function is not reducible to any other kind of "relationship." Facticity plays a supporting role to
function. The pen is the facticity that lets the writing function be relevant. What we care about is the
writing function, and most of the time function alone is relevant. Nevertheless, function lacks
autonomous standing: take away the facticity and the function disappears with it. It is often difficult to
recognize that what matters, namely functions, lacks autonomy. We typically try to reduce functions to
facticities that can be observed and measured. The absurdity of this reduction can be realized by the
notion that no amount of staring at this object as an assemblage of plastic, metal, and ink will reveal
that the object we are staring at "is" a pen, unless one’s previous familiarity lets the user/observer view
the pen through the facticities upon which it is founded (c.f. Rota, 1997).

If we are going to discuss what it is about x that allows us to see affordance y, we need to be aware that
our use of words also has a fundierung relationship. Our need to name the fundierung of an affordance
usually results in the use of metaphor for labeling purposes. Here is where trouble can occur. Word
choice can be a medium that allows the next situated activity to have meaning (Greeno and Moore,
1993). Thus the language we use to articulate the fundierung of a particular affordance may trigger a
different affordance. The only way to create awareness of such is to stop and be careful in one’s

      Chapter 10                                                                                         8
articulation and to ask the other observers of that articulation to keep their attention and focus on the
initial affordance and not on the metaphor used to label its fundierung.

An example may illustrate the problem. The following story was told by David Pogue, a technology
columnist for the New York Times:
       It was early in 2005, and a little hackware program called PyMusique was making the
       rounds of the Internet. PyMusique was written for one reason only: to strip the copy
       protection off of songs from the iTunes music store.

        The program's existence had triggered an online controversy about the pros, cons and
        implications of copy protection. But to me, there wasn't much gray area. "To me, it's
        obvious that PyMusique is designed to facilitate illegal song-swapping online," I wrote.
        And therefore, it's wrong to use it.

        Readers fired back with an amazingly intelligent array of counterexamples: situations
        where duplicating a CD or DVD may be illegal, but isn't necessarily *wrong.* They led me
        down a garden path of exceptions, proving that what seemed so black-and-white to me
        is a spectrum of grays.

        I was so impressed that I incorporated their examples into a little demonstration in this
        particular talk. I tell the audience: "I'm going to describe some scenarios to you. Raise
        your hand if you think what I'm describing is wrong."

        Then I lead them down the same garden path:

        "I borrow a CD from the library. Who thinks that's wrong?" (No hands go up.)

        "I own a certain CD, but it got scratched. So I borrow the same CD from the library and
        rip it to my computer." (A couple of hands.)

        "I have 2,000 vinyl records. So I borrow some of the same albums on CD from the library
        and rip those."

        "I buy a DVD. But I'm worried about its longevity; I have a three-year-old. So I make a
        safety copy."

        With each question, more hands go up; more people think what I'm describing is wrong.

        Then I try another tack:

      Chapter 10                                                                                       9
  "I record a movie off of HBO using my DVD burner. Who thinks that's wrong?" (No hands
  go up. Of course not; time-shifting is not only morally O.K., it's actually legal.)

  "I *meant* to record an HBO movie, but my recorder malfunctioned. But my buddy
  recorded it. Can I copy his DVD?" (A few hands.)

  "I meant to record an HBO movie, but my recorder malfunctioned and I don't have a
  buddy who recorded it. So I rent the movie from Blockbuster and copy that." (More

  And so on.

  The exercise is intended, of course, to illustrate how many shades of wrongness there
  are, and how many different opinions. Almost always, there's a lot of murmuring, raised
  eyebrows and chuckling.

  Recently, however, I spoke at a college. It was the first time I'd ever addressed an
  audience of 100 percent young people. And the demonstration bombed.

  In an auditorium of 500, no matter how far my questions went down that garden path,
  maybe two hands went up. I just could not find a spot on the spectrum that would
  trigger these kids' morality alarm. They listened to each example, looking at me like I
  was nuts.

  Finally, with mock exasperation, I said, "O.K., let's try one that's a little less complicated:
  You want a movie or an album. You don't want to pay for it. So you download it."

  There it was: the bald-faced, worst-case example, without any nuance or mitigating
  factors whatsoever.

  "Who thinks that might be wrong?"

  Two hands out of 500.

  Now, maybe there was some peer pressure involved; nobody wants to look like a goody-

  Maybe all this is obvious to you, and maybe you could have predicted it. But to see this
  vivid demonstration of the generational divide, in person, blew me away.

                                                                       (Pogue, 2007)

Chapter 10                                                                                          10

Pogue’s story is one of being very explicit about fundierung -- where every method of producing a copy
is exposed for discussion and not hidden in “make a copy.” What he discovers is that to the young
people in his audience the very label “download it” has its own meaning. If he had asked “so you steal
it,” his audience would have indicated an awareness of wrong doing. But, the label “download it”
carries no such pejorative, regardless of the situation the downloading is occurring in. The use of the
label shifted the discourse and clearly altered attention. If Pogue’s example is to be generalized, the
recording industry needs to find another label for the copying and sharing activity that they believe to
be wrong, since the very words used to describe it - “copy”, “share”, and “download” - trigger
permissive beliefs amongst young people. (To us it also illustrates very powerfully that the discourse is
backwards. The recording industry has languaging problems with those on the receiving end of the
sharing. Perhaps its attention needs to be focused to those who enable the sharing. What might be the
reaction to the word “uploading”?)

To young people obtaining a copy of some desired media (movie, song etc.) is an adjacent possible.
They all seem to have friends who have that adjacent possible as an affordance.

Analogies and Metaphors as Affordances

Dialogue about adjacent possibles tends to be metaphorical. For example, group activities usually
require some degree of communication and co-ordination. As a manager one attempts to guide the
group through the meaningful adjacent possibles while proceeding through the activity. As noted above
this guidance may require discourse about fundierung, and in doing so will trigger the use of metaphor.

Ehernfeld (2003) provides us with an explanation for how we make use of analogy and metaphor in
thinking about the adjacent possible.

        Learning, innovation, paradigm change, thinking out of the box, and so on, take place,
        first, by grabbing onto a metaphor that dissolves the problems that have stymied action.
        Then, if the actor is comfortable in the metaphor, she or he begins to look for rules that
        allow analysis, design, and practical action. If these rules come from the source of the
        metaphor, we say that “learning by analogy” has occurred. But analogy is not necessary
        for the second step; rules can be invented by independent observation and deduction.
        Anytime, however, that theory is used to create new rules, analogy is out on the playing
        field. Analogy is a practical notion that compares two cases and suggests an alternative
        way of addressing the situation facing an actor in the first case, based on the
        presumption that the same rules apply as in the second case. Analogy is a kind of map
        and is useful for solving normal problems by transforming the situation confronting the
        actor to another, familiar scene. Metaphor is a figure of speech that is suggestive and
        transformative. It is not a map as is an analogy. It enables a problem solver or artist to
        escape from the rules that constrain routine action, that is, acts that take place within

     Chapter 10                                                                                       11
        established cognitive and cultural beliefs and norms. In contrast to analogy, metaphor
        does not assume the often erroneous logic that if things are alike in some sense, they
        are alike in others. As noted, metaphors are only suggestive. A metaphor is never wrong
        or incorrect; it is only useful or not. An analogy may be objectively false. Analogies are
        often used prescriptively and can lead to false conclusions and mistakes in practice.

The questions to be asked when dealing with analogical approaches to the adjacent possible have to do
with the first twelve heuristics above. The recognition of a similarity does not necessarily carry forward
to extension of belief in other similarities. The attribution of an affordance to an item, event, or
situation is meaningful only in conjunction with consideration of the context of the observer. To reify an
affordance in the absence of observer and context is a mistake. Such reifications can lead to the neglect
of adjacent possibles or the assertion that a possibility has much more adjacency than it does.

Consider the AI (artificial intelligence) belief that the mind and a computer can be mapped together.
This is the source of Ben Goertzel’s WebMind fantasy and the scourge of many a software start-up. The
“taste test” preferences of thousands where “New Coke” won did not create an adjacent possible for
the product -- indeed it probably obscured the success which could have been had from the introduction
of another non-Coke named cola. The analogy between lending a friend a CD and “lending” a digital file
has led to the copyright wars of the past decade, while the analogy between “people who like x” and
“other people who also like x” has become the basis of the social networking phenomenon of the past
few years. When advertisers attempted to exploit this latter analogy the backlash was loud and
immediate. The seeming adjacent possible was dependent upon a non-existent wormhole.

Ascribed coherence with its retrospective category membership test is another source of misplaced
analogical beliefs and repetitions of the first twelve heuristics above. By retrospectively examining for
fidelity in category membership (a is coherent with category b to the extent which it satisfies the
membership criteria for the category) and failing to examine the situational differences which may
surround entities sharing a common label, ascribed coherence allows managers to assert the uniform
applicability of best practices regardless of context. The failures of adjacency from such applications are
the foundation of many a business mistake.

Let’s go back to our real estate list:

            1. Both buyers and sellers look at the newspaper ads and drive around looking at yard
               signs. When buyers are ready to actually make a purchase and when sellers are ready to
               actually put their house up for sale, they will contact a realtor -- often from a sign in a
               yard, driving by the office , who they met at an open house or from a referral by a friend
               or neighbor.

                The Industry has attempted to create many varieties of the newspaper ad and yard sign.
                The analogy is that an ad is an ad. There are companies who push direct email
                marketing and others who push the mailing of postcards and flyers. Then there are

     Chapter 10                                                                                         12
         those who work on the analogy that what matters is the newspaper’s content -- so there
         are companies who create special realtor newspapers, magazines, television shows, and
         Internet sites and shows which feature content around which realtors can place ads.
         Still others believe that by modernizing the yard sign with links to the Internet or to
         video or to the driver-by’s cell phone that they will make an impression. Technologically
         all of these are adjacent possibles.

         Few in the Industry stop to consider that the buyers want to know what is for sale, what
         does it look like, what condition is it in, and how much does it cost. Those who have
         considered this have created web sites focusing on just that information. Most realtors
         have problems with these sites; “they steal business.” As a result, a whole new industry
         known as lead generation has arisen to help realtors deal with visitors to these sites. The
         intermediation between buyer and realtor is a difficult issue for the real estate agent
         industry. There is no working analogy for someone who gets in the middle between the
         buyer and the agent. The closest the industry has is the role of “greeter,” but greeters
         are not well paid and have extremely limited control over the client/agent relationship.

     2. The buyer needs the realtor to get access to the data in the MLS and to get access to
        houses on lock boxes. Only realtors have access to the data needed to properly price or
        compare homes. The rest of the data which is out there is bad, dated, or just wrong.

         One analogy is the realtor as provider of the data. Those who buy into this analogy have
         set up web sites and even mobile phone displays as alternative means to get the data
         out to end users. The opposite analogy is that of the realtor as the guardian of the data.
         Those who buy into this analogy tend to dish out data piece meal or dish out old out
         dated data, relying on the idea that the buyer will come to the realtor for real up to date
         data. The believers in each of these analogies have little use for the believers of the
         other analogy.

         Similarly there are those who believe that an analogy for the physical experience of
         visiting a home is better than merely words and a price. These agents provide
         photographs, virtual tours, interviews, interactive web sites, etc for a prospective buyer
         to use. Others believe that the only use for this kind of material is to get the prospective
         buyer to actually visit the house. The analogies of provider versus guardian hold.

     3. If a buyer takes more than six weeks to make up their minds and make an offer, he or
        she is not serious and should be written off as a “lookie-lou.”

         The underlying image is that of a mind made up, and thus one is shopping for a known
         desired item in a store. But, Internet buyers may take from 6 to 18 months from first
         contact to purchase. The analogy is not that of a mind made up, but of a mind exploring.

Chapter 10                                                                                        13
                If the prospects are exploring instead of shopping nearly all the adjacent possibles

            4. Most buyers are liars and are working with multiple agents at the same time.

                Given that the average Internet buyer is working with 2-3 agents, the question is not
                “am I being lied to” but “how can I be the one who is used for the ultimate transaction?”

            5. Buyers need to be able to picture themselves as living in a home. Thus, if the seller is
               physically present and/or the house is overwhelmed by the seller’s presence (in the form
               of too much idiosyncratic stuff and/or family pictures,) there will be too little “room” for
               the buyer.

                The goal is for the prospective buyer to be able to tell stories about living in the home
                under consideration. New media options such as virtual tours and virtual redecorators
                are available to help the prospective buyer do this. The more that this home becomes
                one of the buyer’s adjacent possibles, the more likely is an offer being made.

During the housing bubble, the belief that prices would always rise created many a strange affordance.
It was okay to make a loan which could not be afforded because the underlying collateral would, of
course, go up in value enough to cover the risk. It was okay to require no money down, to allow no
documentation for a loan, or to encourage “flipping” for much the same reason.

Moving On

Emergent coherence is an experience within a possibility space. The coherence is triggered by a
resonance of homology or schema based on homology concerning prospective actions. The prospective
actions which are perceived to be next available within the possibility space are the adjacent possible. It
is the affordances of the situation or context which makes the adjacent possible possible.

Chapter 10 (this chapter’s adjacent possible) explores the idea of affordances in more depth.

     Chapter 10                                                                                         14

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