Looking at BioMimicry from an Architect’s Viewpoint: Eight Pillars of BioMimicry Synthesis

The purpose of this post is to establish, at least in my mind, if not otherwise, what the minimum features of a design philosophy should be that uses biomimicry principles. I do this in 8 key elements of what I believe true ‘biomimicry’ will look like.

An acquaintance of mine told me the story of his ‘in-house’ rejection by the company he had been hired by. This acquaintance, whom we will call, ‘Scott’, had been on the team that developed the drug which, when administered within the right time frame, was capable of dissolving blood clots in the brain when a person was suffering from a stroke. The medicine that his team originated save my father-in-law’s life and his recovery has been nothing short of amazing. ‘Scott’ had been hired by a new company that was seeking to determine the inhibiting factor that keeps spinal cords from growing back together after having been severed.

From Scott’s recollection, the company had been working on the problem for between seven and fifteen years, and had just received funding for another level of permutations of testing and research. ‘Scott’, a newcomer to the company, looked at the problem and said, essentially, “Why don’t you do this, and this and this…” He tested his results, and after only having been at the company a few months, ‘Scott’ found the answer the company had been working for over 1.5 decades to solve.

You would think that Scott’s boss would be extremely happy and gratified that this newcomer had solved the ‘riddle’ that had been sought for so long. Instead, to his amazement, his boss didn’t believe the results. Competitors didn’t either. ‘Scott’ met with opposition on multiple fronts. But, his conclusions proved to be true and his discovery was accurate. His boss later acknowledged that the conclusion was right. However, the discovery served to show how the research… even the truth… doesn’t matter as much to some in the scientific community as keeping the ‘machine’ going by way of funding, regardless of the progress or lack thereof that was made in a certain area or discipline.

Whether it is Galileo addressing the rotation (or lack thereof) of the planets and sun around the earth, or ‘Scott’ confronting the ‘world view’ of the scientists he was around via his discovery, entrenched worldviews seem to have a long and hard death, especially if they are well funded.

I am interested in bio-mimicry because of the overarching view of its analysis of the world and taking application of the design principles we see in it and applying them to the things that we do. I am not primarily interested in the so-called ‘wonder’ of the alleged millions of years of ‘nature’ ‘s R&D into things that work. Why? Because I believe that it is dishonest and hypocritical to use the ‘doublespeak’ as it concerns biomimicry or any writing – to wit, they speak of the millions of years of time that it allegedly took for things to get to the way they are, but their underlying worldview is irrational and inconsistent. They appropriate terms used for ‘design’ and ‘intention’ – as though time*chance was an actual person doing something, but view the whole driving force as something that is completely naturalistic – not governed by intelligence but by the non-entity they call ‘chance’ or ‘chaos’… both of which are human ways of (chance and chaos) describing causes that are beyond our ability to fully comprehend at the time.

The example I go back to is that of flipping a coin – we say that it is chance which ‘selects’ the side that the coin lands on, but in reality, if we took the same coin and applied the same pressure to it in a vacuum with a coin tossing machine that was calibrated to provide the same wind resistance, speed , momentum, thrust, etc., the coin would land on the same side each time. Our universe is predictable. We didn’t have to guess which direction the sun would rise from this morning. The term ‘chance’ is a term we use to describe the complex amalgamation of forces that result in one or another options. Hence, ‘chance’ is a non-entity which, should we desire to apply creative and intelligent terms to it, results in our using language in an irrational and possibly deceptive way. My belief is that any type of design that exists necessitates a designer, thereby alleviating the problem of ‘design-speak’ mentioned above.

Here are the principles I believe we should keep in mind when attempting to use Bio-Mimicry as a design oriented point of departure:

  1.  Aesthetics without purpose is ‘eye-candy’; not Bio-Mimicry
  2. ‘Green’ without considering the ‘green’ (cash) is wishful thinking; not Bio-Mimicry
  3. Truncated Value Propositions are not Bio-Mimicry
  4. Misplaced Value Propositions are not Bio-Mimicry
  5. Bio-Mimicry is testable
  6. Bio-Mimicry is based on a whole-hearted affirmation of the intelligence that guided the design of the object under consideration; not blind chance multiplied by millions of years.
  7. Bio-Mimicry must be translated into a form
  8. Bio-Mimicry should not be based on a quasi-mystical synthesis of ‘feel-good’ pseudo science. Rather, it should be based on observable truth.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing more about each one of these pillars, and maybe even expanding the number of pillars if necessary, so that you will be able to see how an accurate form of bio-mimicry will add to quality while decreasing potential losses.

Leave a Reply