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Why Biomimicry? The Big Picture Part 1

WHY BIOMIMICRY?  EXPONENTIAL CHANGE

In 2014 Forbes magazine published an article on the “​Five Tech Trends that Can Drive Company Success​” (Forbes)
“​The ability to innovate is a driver of productivity, competitiveness and prosperity. Innovation requires entrepreneurs to rethink and adopt new approaches in their business, and embracing new technologies and manufacturing opportunities can distinguish you from your competition. But what are some powerful tech trends that will drive company success? What should you pay attention to? Here are five trends that if you haven’t embraced them yet - have the potential to transform your business.​”

They listed ​biomimicry​ as the #1 tech trend to drive company success:
We believe that the widespread adoption of nature-inspired solutions will catalyse a new era in design and business that benefits both people and the planet....Biomimicry represents the possibility of a revolutionary change in our economy, transforming many of the ways we think about designing, producing, transporting and distributing goods and services." - Forbes

The rest of the trends listed in the Forbes article were:

2. Additive manufacturing
3. Software
4. Big Data
5. Internet of Things


We know of these other tech trends as ​Exponential Technologiesdriving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Singularity University describes Exponential Technologies as “t​hose which are rapidly accelerating and shaping major industries and all aspects of our lives. They include artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR, VR), data science, digital biology and biotech, medicine, nanotech and digital fabrication, networks and computing systems, robotics, and autonomous vehicles.”​  The people behind Singularity University believe that “​the solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges lie at the intersection of these exponential technologies​." - Singularity University 

THERE'S NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

If you look through the list of Exponential Technologies - every single one of them is either directly or indirectly biomimicry, or integrally working with biology. For example:

Robots emulate human or other species capabilities (some interesting reading here)
Drones are like birds and dragonflies - some even directly mimicking these species.
Artificial Intelligence is literally copying aspects of human intelligence (but only the intelligence of the algorithmic mind, not the intelligence of the heart).
● The blockchain and digital platforms emulates the peer-to-peer value exchange systems within ecosystems and super-organisms that are driven by swarm intelligence.
● Nature’s nanotechnology is far more advanced than ours to date and has had millions of years of R&D behind it.
● The Internet of Things hardly compares to the central nervous systems and senses like our 5 senses or super-senses of other species.
Big data relies on data storage - DNA has been tested over eons to store vast amounts of data, stable at ambient temperature for 100s of 1000s of years. “​A few grams of biological media can replace a million sq-foot data centre.”​ - Moji Karimi, founder of CEMVITA. 1 Gram of DNA Can Store 1,000,000,000 Terabyte of Data for 1000+ Years. The weight of DNA needed to store the world’s data = 1kg.
Biotechnology is attempting to emulate evolution (but not with the vast amount of wisdom within nature that recognises the inherent interconnectedness of systems). Biomimicry solutions can in many cases outperform biotechnology solutions over the long-term (e.g. Forbes).
Solar panels (one of the exponential technologies within sustainable energy) hardly compare to the interconnected and optimised systems solutions of nature’s solar panels = leaves (life-friendly polymers that capture and store energy while sequestering carbon, breathing out oxygen, driving the water cycle, and building soil).
Additive manufacturing has been around for billions of years in nature - you were 3D printed cell-by-cell, as was almost every organisms within the natural world.

 

“​When we stare this deeply into nature's eyes, it takes our breath away, and in a good way, it bursts our bubble. We realise that all our inventions have already appeared in nature in a more elegant form and at a lot less cost to the planet.​” - Janine Benyus

THE FUTURE IS NOT TO BE PREDICTED BUT CREATED
According to the biological sciences, nature has had almost 4 billion years of experience in evolution, otherwise known as research and development. The difference between our technologies and nature's, is that organisms and ecosystems have figured out how to make their “technologies” in ways that continue to create conditions conducive to life and are well-adapted to life on Earth.

Do we want a 4th Industrial Revolution that mimics nature only superficially and replaces all of the wisdom of nature with smart ideas that aren't very wise? Our solar panels (while a vast environmental improvement on coal-fired power stations and nuclear energy) are made from rare and toxic materials, uses large amounts of energy to make - usually fossil fuel based (emitting carbon) and end up in a landfill when their life is over. Compare these to nature's solar panels (a.k.a. leaves) which are made from abundant life-friendly materials and readily available solar energy, using carbon as a raw material, breathing out oxygen and driven by evapotranspiration (contributing to the rain cycle), and when their life is over they end up as compost, building topsoil. The wisdom inherent in nature's "technologies" is that they contribute to, and are integrated with the whole system in beneficial ways, nourishing all of life. Our robots would be similarly made from mined and toxic materials, depleting natural systems and replacing living systems with technological alternatives. The same could be said for drones, and for AI. 

Instead of replacing life with technology at an exponential rate, and blindly trusting in technology as the solution to our challenges, what if there was a better way? What if we could leverage the benefits of these exponential technologies (as nature does), to design solutions that are integrated into the larger systems of life, and that are well-adapted to life on Earth? What if we didn't just mimic the genius of nature's technologies, but also the the wisdom of nourishing life and contributing to the wellbeing of all?  

It's not just the 4th Industrial Revolution that we need to respond to, but also the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, waste & pollution, unemployment, and many other socio-economic challenges. Each of these challenges was created by the previous three Industrial Revolutions. It's time for us to quiet our cleverness, contemplate whether the direction we are heading in is the one we truly choose, or whether there could be an alternative? What if this alternative was guided by wiser mentors - those organisms and ecosystems that have been around on Earth for millions of years - longer than humans and definitely way longer than the industrial revolutions. Our systems are failing and completely unsustainable, after a few centuries. While outside, a sustainable world already exists - in nature. The very thing we are depleting by our "revolutions" is the place that holds the secrets for a truly sustainable world, one where the technologies are just as awe-inspiring, but also humbling.

As we project the fourth industrial revolution and exponential technologies into the future of our world, what kind of future are we creating? Will it be an all technology urban dystopia future devoid of life? Or can we steer the future to one that merges the best of human intelligence with the best of nature’s genius and wisdom - to design and create futures that encompass technological miracles that also nourish all life? For example, like the bio-architect Vincent Callebaut's designs for the future of cities.​

 

The Biomimicry Thinking methodology and Biomimicry Life's Principles are skills and tools that enable all of us to design the products, processes and systems of the future, that are well-adapted to life on Earth, and that do integrate the principles inherent in the genius and wisdom of nature. 

As we realise the need to re-imagine, rethink and redesign all our systems, it’s clear that biomimicry is emerging as a core trend and critical skillset for effective choices - based on successful and proven strategies, blueprints and recipes that have been tested over eons to be safe from one generation to the next. The leaders of our world will be those with the capacity to integrate the wisdom of the natural world and translate nature’s genius as they respond to exponential change proactively, while leaving regenerative footprints.

There are already case studies of biomimicry applied to solar systems that are made from low-energy, life-friendly recipes (dye-sensitised solar cells), that could be made from carbon as a raw material (Novomer or New Light plastics) and that could be upcycled in a circular economy at the very least. We still have a way to go - in the way we design our entire distributed energy systems, in the way we store energy. How does nature do this in resilient, regenerative and diverse ways that continue to create conditions conducive to life- tried and tested over eons?

The contents of this biomimicry course will equip you with the big picture understanding, the practical skill-set and a new way of thinking to solve these kind of challenges of our time. So you can lead the necessary transformative innovation within your work and within your world.

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​The countries, communities, and companies that most closely [and] consciously mirror Mother Nature ... are the ones that are going to thrive in what I call the Age of Accelerations. I’m a big believer in biomimicry.”​ -Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

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