Biomimicry (noun) - the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.
Hello, I’m Laurie, a mobile app developer, and this is my first Flexy blog post, I hope you enjoy it.
I see myself as a futurist, so you’ll read a bit of interesting thoughts about the future in this article. But mainly this blog post is about something I find fascinating and that is the concept of Biomimicry.
Occasionally I notice patterns in nature, or any system really, and then later I see patterns in other places, sometimes completely unrelated to the system the original pattern belongs to, that are quite similar or actually exactly the same thing when you study it down to its original inner-core-mechanism (if that’s a word, if not, then it’s now a word - mine).
This is what’s called biomimicry and I think that all the big technological advancements we make - they are just new, human, re-creations of natural things/processes that does still exist or did exist in the past (unfortunately due to human influence a lot of natural processes have been heavily detrimented, if not destroyed).
Sounds like a crazy idea? You be the judge. There’s lots to talk about regarding the topic of biomimicry but in this article I want to try and explain some of my thoughts about object-oriented programming principles and how they can be regarded as being an example (at least according to me) of biomimicry in action.
Biomimicry is sometimes purposefully used as a primary driver for technological advancement, i.e. scientists decide to study the natural behaviour of a complex biological (natural) system that they have seen and then use that research in a scientific/technological project or a design of an application. You can find many examples on The Biomimicry Institute’s website.
Interestingly enough sometimes it works the other way around: sometimes it happens that teams of scientists think they have designed something original, only to find later that the same concept/pattern exists in nature. Sonar and Radar are good examples of this phenomenon. These scientific “inventions” that depend on the use of a natural process called echolocation first started with the polymath Leonardo Da Vinci who started studying the travel of sound through water in 1490. After the sinking of the Titanic, scientific interest arose in locating things underwater and the first patent for an underwater echolocation-detecting device was obtained in 1913, long before Zoologist Donald Griffin published his studies on the use of echolocation by bats in 1944. Before that, echolocation was thought to be an invented process. Later on we also found out about other animals using echolocation as a means of locating things and navigating, dolphins being the other prime example. I foresee things like this (biomimicry in reverse) happening more in the future as technology grows together with the continuing study of biology, nature and animals. Or maybe this is all the result of the two fields of studies synchronizing in a way. But the concept of synchronization I will talk about in a future blog post.
Sometimes I think we are subconsciously doing biomimicry all the time when making new things. There’s actually a saying for this: There’s nothing new under the sun. Maybe all we are really doing is rebuilding the world as we know it, just using artificial means. If you want to take this further into philosophy, one can extrapolate and mix this thought into the debate of Free-will (can a decision be made based on zero previous occurrences and zero influences?) vs Determinism (all decisions are made because of previous decisions that have been made). Maybe everything is deterministic and we don’t actually have free will and biomimicry is evidence of this. I’m not sure whether that’s the case, but it could be, and I like thinking about that.
Coding, for me, is a great example of biomimicry in action even if we don’t fully realize this yet. When you create a coding project (any program, be it an app or a website, or anything) from scratch, it’s like building a world from the ground up.
The realization of this is massive - it leads one to some interesting futuristic thoughts - like for example, when will we build the digital brain? Will we be able to upload our consciousness into the cloud one day (Black Mirror San Junipero style), thereby making us effectively immortal? Can we recreate worlds with the same nature principles that apply on this planet, Earth (which is still the only planet in the whole universe that we know can sustain life - sometimes I think we are the first planet in the history of the universe that has achieved this, but maybe that’s a topic for another blog article).
Also an interesting thought: there are a lot of future worries about Earth and human over-population happening, and countless books with a dystopian-earth plot. What about this solution: probably the biggest purposeful biomimicry project that will exist - i.e. rebuild the world (Earth) virtually.
A future vision: an over-populated earth - how do we solve this? Easy, put people in underground bunkers, fully hooked up to medical appliances that will keep them biologically alive, but also hooked up into a computer where they live in a virtual world with enough space for everyone - but one that follows the same nature laws we are used to, because we have recreated them using a programming language.
Did I just describe the plot of The Matrix? Ha, I think I did, but without the nefarious machines (my opinion on The Singularity varies from time to time - I think if there’s always a switch to turn something off, it will never be able to happen, so no, there will be no The Terminator style dystopian future). There’s also a recent book that was a best-seller called Ready Player One (soon to be a Steven Spielberg blockbuster), which shows some of the dystopian future visions of over-population. For those who haven’t read it, check it out, it’s quite fun (especially if you are an 80’s kid, because of all the 80’s pop culture references in the book).
Here are some examples of my thoughts regarding programming and biomimicry (specifically I list some principles of object-oriented programming, which is my speciality - I’m mostly a Java guy).
interfaceas a blueprint for a
Object, serving as a “base” or “engine” or the “DNA” for something. These abstract constructs contain various methods describing the behaviour of the engine of the object.
protected. See the similarities? Also another thing in programming is a mutator method, a method that changes the behaviour of an object. Mutation is a natural thing that happens in life and causes changes to some living thing’s natural behaviour. We have this in coding as well (well it’s forced mutation, but like I said we create a world from scratch).
So there you go, those are my thoughts on how we are recreating nature by artificial means, through the use of some core abstract programming principles. Hope you enjoyed some of my insights (feel free to disagree with me, I like people disagreeing with me).
If you enjoyed this article and maybe want to discuss some of these things, contact me on my site, laurcode.com or email me.