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Zipf’s, Heaps’ and Taylor’s Laws are Determined by the Expansion into the Adjacent Possible

Zipf’s, Heaps’ and Taylor’s laws are ubiquitous in many different systems where innovation processes are at play. Together, they represent a compelling set of stylized facts regarding the overall statistics, the innovation rate and the scaling of fluctuations for systems as diverse as written texts and cities, ecological systems and stock markets. Many modeling schemes have been proposed in literature to explain those laws, but only recently a modeling framework has been introduced that accounts for the emergence of those laws without deducing the emergence of one of the laws from the others or without ad hoc assumptions.

This modeling framework is based on the concept of adjacent possible space and its key feature of being dynamically restructured while its boundaries get explored, i.e., conditional to the occurrence of novel events. Here, we illustrate this approach and show how this simple modeling framework, instantiated through a modified Pólya’s urn model, is able to reproduce Zipf’s, Heaps’ and Taylor’s laws within a unique self-consistent scheme. In addition, the same modeling scheme embraces other less common evolutionary laws (Hoppe’s model and Dirichlet processes) as particular cases.


F. Tria, V. Loreto, V.D.P ServedioZipf’s, Heaps’ and Taylor’s Laws are Determined by the Expansion into the Adjacent Possible, Entropy 20(10) (2018) 752

Vito D. P. Servedio

Vittorio Loreto

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