The old & the new: a scientific paper explores how waves of novelties collide (and survive) against evergreens

Every field of human activities is characterized by the emergence of novelties: a new song, a new movie, a new book, a new Twitter hashtag, and so on. The introduction of a new idea expands the possibility to explore newer concepts and, once introduced, this new idea has to compete with other concomitant ideas. Only some of them will stand out from the crowd, while the vast majority will never become known enough within the population, destined to fade into oblivion.

In a new paper published in PLOS ONE, Waves of novelties in the expansion into the adjacent possible (LINKhttp://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0179303), a team of scientists including ISI Foundation Research Leader Vittorio Loreto (Sapienza University), ISI Associated Researcher Francesca Tria (Sapienza University), ISI Researcher Bernardo Monechi and former ISI Researcher Ãlvaro Ruiz-Serrano (University of Southampton) aims at a comprehensive explanation of how waves of novelties manage to hold out against the concurrence of established old ideas in technological, scientific and artistic production.

Researchers first quantify this phenomenology by empirically looking at different systems that display innovation at very different levels (Last.fm, Wikipedia, Twitter, GitHub...). In all these systems surprisingly similar patterns emerge as the non-trivial outcome of two contrasting forces: the tendency of retracing already explored avenues (exploit) and the inclination to explore new possibilities. These findings are naturally explained in the framework of the expansion of the adjacent possible, a recently introduced theoretical framework that postulates the restructuring of the space of possibilities conditional to the occurrence of innovations.

“Waves of novelties in the expansion into the adjacent possible”, Bernardo Monechi, Ãlvaro Ruiz-Serrano, Francesca Tria , Vittorio Loreto. PLOS ONE, June 8, 2017. Link: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0179303