Whenever someone uses the phrase “adjacent possibility” to refer to something that may not be possible now but will be given the realization of one intermediate possibility, I’m inclined to try and picture something like a big bike wheel with lots and lots of spokes continuing outward from the center for a long, long time. Where we are right now can be construed as an “origin” of sorts, so the metaphor makes some degree of sense in that particular manner. The infinite distinct things that could happen right now or that could happen because of what we do right now are, logically, extensions of the present in the way that spokes are extensions of the center. So far so good with this metaphor. But let’s keep going. Each spoke would have to have another center attached to the end of it, right? For every action or inaction (meaning for every spoke) there is a result, meaning that this metaphor would have to include additional centers at the end of each and every one of the infinite spokes. And then each of those centers would need more spokes with more centers and so on and so on. My question is at this conundrum. At face value, it doesn’t seem difficult to arrive at the assumption that there are infinite possibilities. The notion of infinity spokes, each leading to infinity more spokes forever and forever until the end of time certainly doesn’t lend itself to any sense of finiteness. But if there are infinite possibilities, shouldn’t that mean that everything is possible? And I do mean everything. Not just outlandish stuff like “ghouls and goblins rise from the graves and launch their own Super PAC,” but stuff that fundamentally challenges our most basic understandings. For example “the fabric of spacetime turns orange.” Maybe that’s a bad example because there isn’t actually any “fabric” (as far as we know), but couldn’t there be? It’s a possibility, meaning that it’s gotta be on one of the spokes I talked about.
I hope I’ve made my point clear so far. With my bike spoke model (which, by no coincidence, has a very close resemblance to the model that was used in the presentation), it seems that there’d be nothing that’s impossible. Even if we limit the number of spokes that a given center can have, then, eventually, you’d still arrive at any possibility you wanted. You’d just have to pass through more centers. So that’s the issue that I take. Everything is possible in this model. Paradoxes, mutual exclusivities, and even logic itself could be (respectively) resolved, coincident, and altered.
So that’s my problem with this whole “everything is possible” thing. Even if that’s not what he meant, it’s still the logical conclusion of the model that was used in the presentation. Everything. This may be the proverbial hill on which I have to die, but I will not concede that this is true. Some things are just impossible. Some are impossible because of logistical concerns (flying to the sun in half a second? Can’t happen because it’s faster than the speed of light) while others are impossible by definition. And the model that seems to be used most commonly to describe the “adjacent possible” seems to imply otherwise.
That’s my two cents.