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Evolution: a simple explanation

Evolution describes our collective learning journey, from being excited by novelty to becoming bored by ubiquity.
 

Think of any invention - fire, electricity or the Internet.

 

They were once a huge thing. They sparked humanity's imagination.

 

But today, they generate little excitement.

 

The "potential" value has been harnessed; we know what to expect. These things have become predictable and our minds are occupied with more thrilling innovations to contemplate.​

The concept of Evolution has four phases which we use to share our assumptions and expedite knowledge exchange::​

  • Genesis - things in this phase possess significant potential but lack practical use today. They are highly experimental, even theoretical, such as space travel or teleportation.
     

  • Custom-build - some individuals can create solutions that work, but there is limited predictability, leading to highly diverse solutions.
     

  • Product - a solution has a name and a description, and it generally performs as expected.
     

  • Commodity - something is so mundane that you prefer not to contemplate it. Think of electricity.
     

Evolution can be confusing

Let's use an example - a wheel.

A bicycle wheel

Chances are, you've thought of something like a car wheel or a bicycle wheel – objects with which you're very familiar.

However, the term 'wheel' doesn't refer only to this physical object. It also encompasses, beyond its formal mathematical definition, a concept associated with it: a round object that reduces friction by rolling.

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The image above, courtesy of historyanswers.co.uk, demonstrates the evolution of a wheel as a concept, and while individual implementations changed over time, the concept remained the same.

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The concept remains stable over many wheel generations. This graphic is AI-generated.

An individual material object does not change over time, except perhaps from wearing down or becoming flat when you actually need to drive.

 

However, the underlying need addressed by the concept (moving things with less friction) is being met in increasingly sophisticated ways.

 

Learning to differentiate what a thing does from what it is becomes an important skill. 

The concept of Evolution is impossible to grasp without this separation.

How to use Evolution?

It is a good start to use the concept of Evolution to calibrate your focus.

 

Commodity things have their potential already explored. It is very difficult to make them significantly better - because it is a numbers game - large scale requires a big investment. Usually, it is far better to adopt existing solutions instead of sticking to custom ones.

Things which are in the custom-built space have some potential value that can be explored - and there is some real value that can be found there. 

 

Building your unique value while using standardised components it the way to go.

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