Ideas from nature
- Dinesh Bhattarai
- 1102 words
- 6 min
Nature is an evolution of billions of years. There are uncountable numbers of iterations it has gone through to reach its current state. As a result, it has accumulated many patterns. It has created many self-sustaining ecosystems. Many of the patterns we see in the nature are the result of optimizations and pruning. While advancing our technology, it is a good idea to look at nature and draw some inspirations.
We have many living organisms which work in different spectrum of various parameters. As a result they possess different capabilities than us. We could use these animals by augmenting them with technology or reverse engineer them to create new technology.
Advanced structures and surfaces
Termites are able create mounds that can maintain virtually constant temperature and humidity.
The arrangement of leaves in plants can provide ideas on better solar power collection.
Aquatic animals have smooth skin for efficient movement in water. Aves have hollow bone for efficient flight. Feathers and furs are generally hydrophobic in nature to keep animals dry.
We, as humans, have incorporated many of these ideas from nature to our our building structures.
Shape and Size
Our size is optimized for survival but limits us from doing many things. Say we can not enter small holes, fly up in the sky, climb on the walls, etc.
During disasters and rescue mission, there are many places which are too small or too dangerous to go for humans. We can use chip embedded insects and flies to go to such places.
Aerodynamic shapes of fishes and aves help them navigate water and air efficiently.
Strength and Speed
Many animals are stronger than us. Elephant's nose is far stronger even though it contains no bone. Its skin is also too strong to penetrate. Tigers, leopards are strong enough to pull large animals with their teeth. Ants can lift 5000 times their own weight1.
Cheetah is considered the fastest animal on land with its top speed of 16.8m/s2. Tigers have fast acceleration.
We lack flight capability. Our body size and weight forbids us from having wings. But we have already created tools for flight. We have gliders, helicopers, aeroplanes. And yet we are already working on flying cars and Jet packs. Yet we have challenge to be as efficient as birds like eagles and vultures.
Our aircraft wings are inspired from birds and bats.
Our vision are wonderfut yet limited in the frequency band they can see. We can only see a narrow band of light. We have night vision cameras which work on the infra-red band of light which is emitted by all hot objects. They are useful to see in the dark and will be useful while working in night.
Sunflowers can sense light and lean towards the sun.
Similarly, we can not hear ultrasonic and infra sound. Bats utilize ultrasonic sound for echo-location. Infra sound is useful to detech earthquakes. Elephants even use the infra sound to communicate with other herds345. Visually impaired can get better vision through echo location.
Reproduction, Aging and Growth
Bacteria reproduce fast. So do viruses. Viruses are found to adapt to adverse environments.
There are creatures that can live hundreds of years long. Some animals like jellyfish, lobsters, turtles and hydras. These animals use different techniques to live long and some of them are even immortal. We have many things to learn from them.
Some animals like deer can regrow antlers, starfish can regrow limbs, sea cucumbers can regenerate ething, lizards can regrow tails, spiders regenerate their limbs, flatworms multiply, spiny mouse repairs and regrows and sea squirt can regrows entire body from one blood vessel.
Even our liver can regrow from half its size if damaged. Our teeth grow twice. Our nails, hair, nose and ears(they don't actually6) grow till we die. We can study them to use the same trick when we lose our limbs.
Self regenerating and healing materials might be useful in other places like space exploration and colonization and using in infrastructure which we don't want to maintain and repair often. Our genetic study is progressing rapidly but we are yet to understand how to reproduce fast let alone understand how they do it.
Synergy is creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. Human body is a complex machine. You can't create a new human being by keeping all the ingredients in a vessel. All the other life forms are emergent complexities. We can see higher form of such synergy in ants, bees, pack of wolves, and many collaborations in humans. Our civilization has always progressed through collaboration but sometimes, we are fueled by ego and personal success so much that we forget the collective success and greater good. In doing so, sometimes, we destroy what we have been creating since the dawn of civilization. Humans are the most intelligent organisms we know, yet their stupidity is remarkable.
Our economy works in synergy. Our scientific community could not progress this far without synergy. Our literature is a form of synergy. We work on the work of previous generation to progress our civilization. We stand on the shoulder of the giants to see farther. Creation of new information is a synergy because you can create new information from information already available.
Idea sex is a wonderful concept in which healthy discussion of ideas can create a synergy, create a better idea. Idea sex creates a form of trust between people to have even more. Idea sex builds upon the collective brain and collective intelligence.
Organismic computing is one way of improving human synergy.