Where does novelty come from? The ability to innovate (i.e., to generate novel features or behaviors) is a defining characteristic of evolving and complex systems, and as such has been the subject―directly or indirectly―of many SFI-affiliated research efforts. Biological, technological, socioeconomic, political and cultural transformations all presuppose that at some point in time “novelties” occur. Are there commonalities in the underlying processes generating novelty across domains? The possibility that such commonalities exist, and that they can form the basis of a theory of invention based on these common features, has been the topic of several gatherings at the Institute since the Summer of 2013. The working group meeting intends to build on previous discussions so as to (a) sketch a formal description of the conditions, or system characteristics, generative of novelty; and (b) design a research agenda on the origins of novelty to be pursued by the working group and supported by SFI.
The working group meeting will be light on formal presentations with most of the gathering spent either in plenary sessions or small-groups discussions. Participants will be encouraged to engage with the following specific questions:
What constitutes novelty? How can it be recognized? Formally described? Quantified? Compared?
What are the necessary conditions for a system to invent?
What sort of formal description (theory of novelty) could be developed that would encompass invention cross domains?