So I had another (possibly even, major) insight, recently… And, I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone else has noticed this particular factoid, before… (?)

…You ready…?

Here it comes.

Flow Theory = Evolutionary Theory … (!!!)

That’s actually a pretty big deal.

Wait… back up. So, what’s flow theory?

For that, see: StoryAlity #6B – Flow Theory, Creativity and Happiness

Anyway, and so… There is, of course (ever since: 1975), this great diagram…

Flow Theory - Csikszentmihalyi et al 1975

Model of the Flow State (Csikszentmihalyi et al, 1975, p. 49)

And, see many more great flow diagrams much like it, ever since…

But also – there is this one (below), from Jesse Schell’s great book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (2008, 2014). 

(I’m also, sometimes, a million-selling Game Designer & Writer. Long story.) 

But just look at the Flow Channel diagram, below.

This is amazing, so get ready for it…

The Flow Channel - Schell 2008, p 121

And so, now – think about… this:

When any lifeform exists – in its environment – it faces challenges… to its survival and reproduction…

(And in fact, sometimes also, to its current height/stage/level on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs “pyramid”, as well… it depends, what the lifeform is… humanimals are complex.)

And – when its skills are equal to (or, are greater than) the challenge,  it stays evolutionarily stable, more or less…

System and Environment

A System and its Environment – from: `Systems Theory as an Approach to the study of Literature’ (Sadowski 1999)

So for example, sharks (and – a shark, like all lifeforms, is: a system) haven’t changed (evolved / morphed) much, since their environment pretty much stabilized… millions of years ago…


But – as the environment changes, if the lifeform’s survival and reproduction skills are matched to that increased/new challenge, then it (the individual system, and also, the species as a system) stays alive… and also, it stays in, the flow channel…(!)

And – if for some reason, it finds itself above the flow channel, (namely if the survival challenges are greater than, its survival skills) – then, it not only worries – and gets anxious – and even, stressed… but, it also:

…goes EXTINCT-!!!

(See, not just individuals – but whole species, staying inside the flow channel, and thriving… or else – straying outside it, for whatever reason – and… going extinct ! )

The Flow Channel - Schell 2008, p 121

And conversely – if its skills (its: bio-psycho-socio-cultural adaptations to its environment) are overmatched to the challenges that it faces (to: stay alive), then it dips below the flow channel, and… it breeds like crazy..!!! And probably also, eats everything in sight.

But of course – if that happens, then, this overpopulation problem, or, population pressure [see Darwin and Malthus on superfecundity], will also change its environment – so that, it all becomes competitive again…!

So – here’s some predator / prey cellular automata. e.g., Like Sharks and Fish… (Think: Sharks [predators] = red, Fish [prey] = grey… or maybe, Wolves = red, Sheep = grey, etc…)

Predator / Prey Cellular Automata – by Krzysztof Gabis (2012)

So to be a shark (e.g. and, finding food, shelter, & not getting eaten yourself, and breeding), a shark’s skills (its adaptations, its behaviour) have to be roughly matched to the challenges of its environment.

(Same goes for, a fish. Or a wolf. Or a sheep… Or [insert any lifeform, here]…)


And… below is a web browser version of Planet Wa-Tor. …Try it! It’s kinda fun.

Wator Sim

So – what a cool self-regulating system, that all is.



As, a self-regulating system.

(And – here comes the flow channel diagram – yet again…

So, think of: a species – or even an individual – using its skills and adaptations, to: not-get-dead…

Getting dead would be High Anxiety – top-left, or Extreme Boredom, bottom-right)

The Flow Channel - Schell 2008, p 121

And – so, all of that is why, I believe:

Flow Theory = Evolutionary Theory.

…And, I still think, that was a pretty good insight…*

And so now, a Very Serious Question:

Has anyone else ever published this insight, before now?

(i.e., 15th August, 2017) …?

…If so, then they beat me to it. 😦

Or – if not – then, they didn’t 🙂

And, if you want to get into all this deeper, then maybe see also:

On Systems Theory & Evolution:

  1. StoryAlity #70 – Key Concepts in Systems Theory, Cybernetics & Evolution
  2. StoryAlity #70B – The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Capra & Luisi 2014)
  3. StoryAlity #70C – Systems Philosophy (Laszlo 1972)
  4. StoryAlity #70C2 – General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice (Skyttner 2005)
  5. StoryAlity #70D – The Evolving Self (Csikszentmihalyi 1993)
  6. StoryAlity #70E – On Human Nature – and Evolutionary Psychology

Also, in this wonderful book:

Darwins Dangerous Idea - Dennett 1995

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (Dennett 1995)

Dennett (1995, p. 172) talks about Conway’s Game of Life and cellular automata. Fascinating stuff.

*Aw man – I do love that AHA! feeling (the insight thing)… and, see Koestler’s The Act of Creation (1964) for more on all that.

Koestler 1964 - 3 x domains of creativity - The Act of Creation

Maybe see also, StoryAlity #6 – What is Creativity and How Does It Work?

– Comments, always welcome.

PS – And yes – I realize – one implication (of, many) of this, are that, things that are alive (particularly plants and animals) must therefore enter the flow state, pretty often

See also, my article:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2014). Flow Theory, Evolution & Creativity: or, ‘Fun & Games’. Paper presented at the Interactive Entertainment 2014 (IE2014) Conference, Newcastle, Australia.

…which has, yet another flow channel diagram in it! 🙂


JT Velikovsky, PhD

Evolutionary Systems Analyst

& High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie & Transmedia Researcher

& Human & Computer Creativity Researcher (& random humanimal)

The above is an extension of the research in my 2016 doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is reproduced here for the benefit of fellow bio-cultural scholars, and screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. 

For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is a million-selling Transmedia writer-director-producer. He has also been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild.

For more, see the Transmedia weblog: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Schell, J. (2008). The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2014). Flow Theory, Evolution & Creativity: or, ‘Fun & Games’. Paper presented at the Interactive Entertainment 2014 (IE2014) Conference, Newcastle, Australia.



One thought on “StoryAlity#146 – Flow Theory = Evolutionary Theory

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity#151 – Kubrick, Darwin and the monomyth in The Journal of Genius and Eminence | StoryAlity

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