Generative systems are technologies with the overall capacity to produce unprompted change driven by large, varied, and uncoordinated audiences. When generative systems provide a common platform, changes may occur at varying layers (physical, network, application, content) and provide a means through which different firms and individuals may cooperate indirectly and contribute to innovation.
Depending on the rules, the patterns can be extremely varied and unpredictable. One of the better-known examples is Conway's Game of Life, a cellular automaton. Other examples include Boids and Wikipedia. More examples can be found in generative music, generative art, and, more recently, in video games such as Spore.
In 2006, Jonathan Zittrain published The Generative Internet in Volume 119 of the Harvard Law Review. In this paper, Zittrain describes a technology's degree of generativity as being the function of four characteristics:
- Capacity for leverage – the extent to which an object enables something to be accomplished that would not have otherwise be possible or worthwhile.
- Adaptability – how widely a technology can be used without it needing to be modified.
- Ease of mastery – how much effort and skill is required for people to take advantage of the technology's leverage.
- Accessibility – how easily people are able to start using a technology.
- Digital morphogenesis
- Emergent behavior – Phenomenon in complex systems where interactions produce effects not directly predictable from the subsystems
- Generative adversarial network – Deep learning method
- Generative music – Music that is ever-different and changing, and that is created by a system.
- Generative art – Art created by a set of rules, without human intervention.
- Generative grammar – Theory in linguistics
- Generative science – Study of how complex behaviour can be generated by deterministic and finite rules and parameters
- Generativity – Term originating in psychology to describe a concern for the next generation
- Zittrain, Jonathan (May 2006). "The Generative Internet". Harvard Law Review. JSTOR 4093608.
- Robin Teigland; Dominic Power (25 March 2013). The Immersive Internet: Reflections on the Entangling of the Virtual with Society, Politics and the Economy. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 205. ISBN 978-1-137-28302-3.
- Zittrain, Jonathan (Jonathan L.), 1969- (2008). The future of the Internet and how to stop it. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-14473-4. OCLC 289029003.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- A talk on generative systems by Will Wright and Brian Eno for the Long Now Foundation
- The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it; Yale University Press (2008)
- Early generative computer graphics by Herber W. Franke
- Generative Systeme by Benedikt Groß and Julia Laub
- Bugworld - a generative vermin installation by Philipp Sackl, Markus Jaritz & Thomas Gläser