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How to Emulate Life’s Genius: Introducing Biomimicry

How to Emulate Life’s Genius: Introducing Biomimicry

Have you ever noticed the most effective and efficient human creations are modeled from nature? From buildings designed like termite mounds to self-healing buildings developed using bacteria in the concrete; biomimicry is phenomenal approach to solve problems in a sustainable way.

Biomimicry (also known as Biomimetics) was coined by Otto Schmidt in the 1950s and describes the transfer of ideas and analogues from biology to technology. [1] It is the imitation of models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. Biomimetics and biomimicry derive from Ancient Greece: bios (life) and mimesis (mimetics) is imitation or to imitate.

Using nature to solve problems

Nature has already solved our problems for us. It is up to us to discover how. Nature is a fascinating source of inspiration. It demonstrates how every organism is unique and how it is able to adapt to its own environment. [2]

“Nature is imaginative by necessity and has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with today.” – Janine Benyus

Nature is able to respond to its own needs and find solutions that work. In doing so, nature evolves and lasts through countless generations. Furthermore, biomimicry can be applied to completely transform the way we operate, conduct business, and even communicate. Let’s take a look at how biomimicry can be applied on three levels: [3]

  1. The natural form of organisms are used for inspiration. For example, mimicking the structure of a seashell leading to stronger buildings.
  2. Natural process leading to more sustainable materials. For example, mimicking chemical processes such as photosynthesis.
  3. The ecosystem. For example, mimicking the functional principles of an ecosystem.

Run an organization like a redwood forest

Jay Harman writes in his book The Shark’s Paintbrush, that a business should be run like a redwood forest. Harman informs us that a mature forest is a fully self-sustaining producer of diversity and abundance. He says that,

“Many businesses function more like an invasive weed, where their strategy is to spread rapidly into an area, lay down shallow roots, and use more than their share of local resources.”

Essentially, we overwhelm and destroy our habitat. In her book Biomimicry, Janine Benyus outlines how we should run our company like that of a redwood forest. In the image below, I have outlined her thought process for running an organization like a redwood forest.

    Benyus describes ten key ways to operate like a forest in order to create conditions conducive to further life.

    1. Use waste as a resource.
    2. Diversify and cooperate with other species to fully use the habitat.
    3. Gather and use energy efficiently.
    4. Optimize rather than maximize.
    5. Use materials sparingly.
    6. Don’t foul your nest.
    7. Draw up instead of down on resources.
    8. Remain in balance with the biosphere.
    9. Run on information.
    10. Shop locally.

    Examples of biomimicry

    Let’s take a brief look at some examples of biomimicry in action.

    Gecko tape

      The bullet train

        Cement like corals

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          Passive cooling in buildings

            Self-healing buildings

              Harvesting fresh Water

                A paradigm shift in how we think

                Biomimicry offers us a unique way to see and solve problems. For example, by examining a forest, we find that a forest is actively communicating.

                “Biomimicry is basically taking a design challenge and then finding an ecosystem that’s already solved that challenge, and literally trying to emulate what you learn.” – Janine Benyus

                Similar to how the internet operates, fungal connectivity is taking place between plants. Yet, like the internet, it is also susceptible to cyber-crime, terrorism, and even warfare. [4]

                So, why not examine cyber-crime by examining the threats of fungal connectivity? How could we do this? By using biomimicry as a problem-solving methodology. Let’s take a look at how this could be accomplished.

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                  Biological strategies and inspired ideas

                  AskNature.org is a powerful and free resource to use to explore biomimicry. It offers a way to find biological strategies, inspiring ideas, and resources to problems using nature.

                  For example, let’s say we want to find solutions to cyber security. By simply typing “cyber security” we are presented with unique strategies using nature to solve the problem (see image below). One such strategy is to look at how glands in Sea Hares secrete two compounds protecting the organism from predators by reacting together to create an unpalatable mixture of hydrogen peroxide and organic chemicals. Let’s take a quick look at how this could work with cyber security.

                    Step #1: Clearly define the challenge we are trying to solve

                    Improve cyber security vulnerabilities.

                    Step #2: Search for biological analogies and/or metaphors

                      Step #3: Determine whether the problem is related to form, function, or ecosystem

                      Form follows function (hence, form always comes before function). Think of form as the design of a building, where function is how we use the building.

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                      Step #4: Ask what plant, Animal, or Natural Process solves a similar problem most effectively

                      Using AskNature.org I was able to find the following potential solution: Sea Hare or Sea Snail.

                      Step #5: Map-out the biological model

                        Step #6: Design a solution

                          Using an abstract len, we could potentially use the sticky ink secretion of a Sea Hare as a cyber security protection concept that sticks to dangerous cyber intrusion and completely prevents it from infecting the network/system/device.

                          When we look to nature for solutions to contemporary problems, we find that biomimicry provides us a fascinating and unique way to truly improve everything around us. It offers us an opportunity to redesign everything in existence. In essence, biomimicry brings about answers because it forces us to ask the right questions.

                          Reference

                          [1] Julian Vincent, Olga Bogatyreva, Nikolaj Bogatyrev, Adrian Bowyer, Anja-Karina Pahl: Biomimetics its practice and theory
                          [2] Rasha Mahmoud Ali El-Zeiny: Biomimicry as a Problem Solving Methodology in Interior Architecture
                          [3] SlideShare: Biomimicry Civil Engineering Applications
                          [4] Timewheel.net: Plants communicate using an internet of fungus

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                          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

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                          Last Updated on June 1, 2021

                          7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

                          7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

                          “Busy” used to be a fair description of the typical schedule. More and more, though, “busy” simply doesn’t cut it.

                          “Busy” has been replaced with “too busy”, “far too busy”, or “absolutely buried.” It’s true that being productive often means being busy…but it’s only true up to a point.

                          As you likely know from personal experience, you can become so busy that you reach a tipping point…a point where your life tips over and falls apart because you can no longer withstand the weight of your commitments.

                          Once you’ve reached that point, it becomes fairly obvious that you’ve over-committed yourself.

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                          The trick, though, is to recognize the signs of “too busy” before you reach that tipping point. A little self-assessment and some proactive schedule-thinning can prevent you from having that meltdown.

                          To help you in that self-assessment, here are 7 signs that you’re way too busy:

                          1. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Took a Day Off

                          Occasional periods of rest are not unproductive, they are essential to productivity. Extended periods of non-stop activity result in fatigue, and fatigue results in lower-quality output. As Sydney J. Harris once said,

                          “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

                          2. Those Closest to You Have Stopped Asking for Your Time

                          Why? They simply know that you have no time to give them. Your loved ones will be persistent for a long time, but once you reach the point where they’ve stopped asking, you’ve reached a dangerous level of busy.

                          3. Activities like Eating Are Always Done in Tandem with Other Tasks

                          If you constantly find yourself using meal times, car rides, etc. as times to catch up on emails, phone calls, or calendar readjustments, it’s time to lighten the load.

                          It’s one thing to use your time efficiently. It’s a whole different ballgame, though, when you have so little time that you can’t even focus on feeding yourself.

                          4. You’re Consistently More Tired When You Get up in the Morning Than You Are When You Go to Bed

                          One of the surest signs of an overloaded schedule is morning fatigue. This is a good indication that you’ve not rested well during the night, which is a good sign that you’ve got way too much on your mind.

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                          If you’ve got so much to do that you can’t even shut your mind down when you’re laying in bed, you’re too busy.

                          5. The Most Exercise You Get Is Sprinting from One Commitment to the Next

                          It’s proven that exercise promotes healthy lives. If you don’t care about that, that’s one thing. If you’d like to exercise, though, but you just don’t have time for it, you’re too busy.

                          If the closest thing you get to exercise is running from your office to your car because you’re late for your ninth appointment of the day, it’s time to slow down.

                          Try these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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                          6. You Dread Getting up in the Morning

                          If your days are so crammed full that you literally dread even starting them, you’re too busy. A new day should hold at least a small level of refreshment and excitement. Scale back until you find that place again.

                          7. “Survival Mode” Is Your Only Mode

                          If you can’t remember what it feels like to be ahead of schedule, or at least “caught up”, you’re too busy.

                          So, How To Get out of Busyness?

                          Take a look at this video:

                          And these articles to help you get unstuck:

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                          Featured photo credit: Khara Woods via unsplash.com

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