The contributions of biomimetics

Biomimetics, as a concept and as a practice, represented an advance in the evolutionary theory of Darwin and vital contributions to the society to understand the limitations of the Anthropocene and articulate its overcoming.

Its origins lie in Lynn Margulis (1938-2011), who, with her work as a biologist, theorized about symbiogenesis, which explains how organisms tend to organize in consortiums: “‘independent’ life tends to come together and resurface as a whole at a higher and broader level of organization.” Margulis explains that the bacteria, which until the mid-twentieth century was a matter of interest only for medical bacteriology, are the architects of the complexity of the eukaryotic cell and the current refinements of the different organisms.

 

Biomimetics, evolution, and its contributions

What we can learn from the thesis of Margulis is that life is in a constant evolution and we can find in it the most relevant factors of cell regeneration and the development of organisms. Thus, substantial elements of the future of living organisms are uncovered, widening our vision of this field while, at the same time, equaling all forms of life without the dominance of one type over the others. Her theory is manifestly kind and respectful of biodiversity and the ecosystems which conform it.

 

Margulis’s theory sees life without dominancias of a type on others. It is kind and respectful of biodiversity.

 

Years later, Janine Benyus combined the foundational theses of the Biomimicry Institute, which has contributed significantly to the expansion of biomimicry applied to all disciplines. As it is said in the editorial review of her book, Biomimicry: “[Benyus] puts the name to this emerging discipline that emulates the designs and processes of nature (for example, solar cells that mimic leaves) to create a healthier and more sustainable planet. Since 1997, Janine’s biomimetic practice has evolved, and at the same time, through conferences and lectures, she has explained all around the world what we can learn from the genius that surrounds us“.

As the Institute website says, “in 2006, she co-founded the Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit dedicated to making biology a natural part of the design process. The Institute hosts annual global biomimicry design challenges on massive sustainability problems, mobilizing tens of thousands of students and practitioners through the Global Biomimicry Network to solve those challenges, and providing those practitioners with the world’s most comprehensive biomimicry inspiration database, AskNature, to use as a starting place”.

 

Thanks to biomimetics we will understand what we can learn from the genius that surrounds us, nature.

 

All these contributions have a common factor: nature, understood through the global concept of life, no matter it’s vegetal, animal or human. The importance of these metamodels is that it allowed us to observe and understand a new type of relationships based on a relational logic that has overcome the pure rational logic provided by the Enlightenment. The Newtonian vision and the theory of causality are no longer enough for us. To understand the new reality, based on complexity, we need these new vital models.

Byung-Chul Han expresses it very well: “the model of causality is not capable anymore of describing complex relationships. Organic life is subtracted from the causality and its relationships. In opposition to the inanimate and passive thing, the organism does not allow more than the external cause comes to affect it without its intervention. […] The peculiarity of the living consists in interrupting the external cause, transforming it and making something new begin in itself, for example, although the living one needs food, it is not the cause of its life. […] The living reacts with autonomy on the outside.”

 

Therefore, biomimicry becomes, not just an interesting model of approach to nature to extract elements of improvement of the conditions of human life, but also a way of thinking that ceases anthropocentrism and starts a fair and respecting way of understanding the lively ecosystems that all species have contributed to develop in our planet.

 

Biomimicry is equitable, respects the life and dignity of all species.

 

Seen this way, biomimicry is no longer just a source of inspiration for human activities, but a new concept that makes us understand that everything is alive and that we have to make a change to many of the models that we have assumed as unique that go back to the Industrial Revolution.

Some clear examples of this way of thinking are: changing the concept of antibiotics to probiotics. Or stop seeing bacteria and viruses as enemies instead of accepting them as part of our biology, a shared coexistence that must maintain its balance. Or stop thinking of "curing diseases" and start working towards preserving the health of the patient. In short, Live Life. Something that today makes necessary:

  • Contextualize human activity: text, context, and pretext.
  • Recognize the role of nature as a guide and mentor.
  • Biomimetics as a horizontal emerging discipline.
  • Expand the reach of perceptions and senses: open the body and mind.
  • Identify levels of awareness and intelligence.
  • Work self-knowledge for decision making.
  • Organize by functions.
  • Adaptation of bioestrategies.
  • Organizational processes based on Life Principles.
  • Etymology-derived learning: diversity.

 

Pere Monràs.
President of the Biomimetic Sciences Institute of Barcelona.