Developing a Common Ground for Learning from Nature


The potential for tapping nature’s storehouse of solutions, solution pathways and systems’ principles has captured the world’s imagination, especially after the publication of Benyus’ Biomimicry, Innovation Inspired by Nature (1997). A growing number of proponents have been using biomimicry, biomimetics and biologically inspired design (B 3 D for short, pronounced “B-cubed-D”) in diverse contexts and employing a wide range of approaches. The language and cultural issues that challenge effective communication in the practice of B 3 D among experts in the biological and technological domains are well known. There are also communication issues within the B 3 D community itself, exemplified by the proliferation of terms used to describe what we do: biomimicry, biomimetics, bioinspiration, biologically inspired design, biologically inspired engineering, bionics, biognosis, bioreplication, biomorphosis, and so on. B 3 D is intended to represent the common elements underlying these diverse terms.
Proponents of B 3 D often adopt very different stances. Some are motivated by biophilia, a term coined by EO Wilson (1984) that refers to humankind’s “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. Some are keenly interested in sustainability, repairing society’s fractious relationship with nature and enabling “the possibility that human and other life will flourish on the planet forever”(Ehrenfeld, 2008). Others are seeking creative solutions for complex problems, with sustainability being one among multiple goals. While nature as the source of inspiration is common to all, B 3 D would benefit from a consensus on what B 3 D encompasses and what constitutes its ‘best practices’ in terms of methods and outcomes.
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