006: Biomimicry: Looking to the genius of life for solutions
Pioneered by Janine Benyus, “Biomimicry” is a way of looking at nature and life as our mentors to find solutions for every aspect of life. Recommended resources include the 26-minute Biomimicry video on YouTube and the book.
[1:10] First read the book Biomimicry cover-to-cover in 1997. It changed my life. [1:20] Basic idea is that life has already solved all the complex design problems through 3.8 billion years of trial and error. [1:40] How would you make a super-strong adhesive underwater: non-toxic, biodegradable, self-assembling [2:00] Best shape for something strong and stretchy? [2:20] Cable stronger than steel and as elastic as rubber, Non-toxic, ambient temperature? [2:35] Resources: Biomimicry book and a gorgeous video on YouTube (Janine Benyus talking with nature photography) [3:10] What is biomimicry? Innovation inspired by nature. [3:20] The natural world has already solved any problem that we are trying to solve. [3:30] There are some 30-100 million species. In this diversity there is also unity. [3:50] Life’s operating instructions: how to be an earthling. Life’s principles (see below) [4:50] As a young species, consider ourselves as apprentices to masters. [5:00] Replace industrial chemistry with nature’s chemistry as an Apollo Project. [5:50] Organism make chemicals in and near their own body, so can’t afford high temperatures or toxicity. [6:00] Nature is good at making hard ceramics. [6:10] Example: mother-of-pearl inside of abalone shell using protein, with calcium and carbonate in seawater to self-assemble inspiring chemists to learn how to make hard ceramics without a kiln. [7:35] We can be humble apprentices learning from our biological elders. [7:50] This is a big shift from the egotistical view of thinking that we as humans have all the answers, know what’s best and can outdo nature. [8:00] If we can flip our thinking around, it makes our job easier because the blueprint is in front of us.
Life runs on current sunlight. (We run on ancient photosynthesis trapped in fossil fuels.)
Life does its chemistry in water as the universal solvent. (We tend to use very toxic chemicals like sulphuric acid.)
Life depends on local expertise. Organisms have to know the limits and opportunities of their places.
Life banks on diversity and rewards cooperation.
Life wastes nothing, upcycles everything and most of all does not foul its home.
Life uses a small subset of the periodic table: the safe elements. (We use all elements.)
Life uses low temperatures, low pressure, low toxicity. (We force elements to bond or break with high temperatures and pressures.)
The best ideas might not be ours. They might already have been invented.
As a young species, our best stance is to be apprentices to our biological masters.
Video Biomimicry with Janine Benyus
Published by TreeTV on September 11, 2015
Book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
Janine Benyus, originally published in 1997
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