Why we should strive for natural instead of artificial intelligence.

Nature puts even the most “technological advanced” solutions humans have milkweedcreated to shame. There is endless sources of awe if you look around: from the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly to the shocking electric catfish to the overlooked incredibility of plants, animals, and insects to withstand winter completely outside without grocery stores or heaters or blankets.

For the past couple weeks my creativity class has been studying bio-inspiration and biomimicry. This means taking an up-close inspection of nature in the hopes of being inspired to produce more intelligent and sustainable designs. Teaching this unit always makes me walk a little slower in the park, stop and stare a little longer at squirrels scurrying about, and gawk a little wider at the spider web outside my window.IMG_2285

One day in particular I found myself sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan after a hike through the woods, amazed at the diversity in nature, aghast at her brilliance. I had just seen, oh I don’t know, 200+ species in a matter of minutes. It got me wondering, why are there so many different types of plants in one field, each with such varied designs? How can species adapt to live in such varied conditions as the sea, the desert, and the arctic? How can such delicate systems weather such severe storms and still thrive?

IMG_2541Everything in nature (including ourselves) is constantly impacted by an endless number of factors, micro and MACRO, temporary and permanent, minor and major. And to each of these factors we have to respond in little and big ways, for better or worse. It is our ability to adapt to these changes that allows us to survive. The best of us will push through these challenges and emerge stronger than ever.

After reading this book I became fascinated with the concept of resilience. It turns out resilience isn’t about being strong enough to weather any storm, it is about having a solid backup plan – or three – when things do fail. It isn’t about precisely perfect replications or flawless track records, its about keeping things just good enough to keep going. If we allow ourselves to be reshaped by the things around us, and embrace our environment instead of fighting it, maybe we will inch our way towards living more sustainably.IMG_2494

Nature has unique design techniques we would be wise to replicate, producing things that are simultaneously shockingly complex and surprisingly simple. Things that recycle themselves. Things that integrate seemlessly into a web of interconnected coexistence.  Is this due to intelligent design? Or sheer persistence and luck? Either way, nature is leaps and bounds ahead of our advanced, self-titled “artificial” intelligence. Natural solutions will always be more valuable than artificial ones.

We have a lot to learn from Nature. Every fall I watch as so much hard work from spring and summer falls to the ground, returned to the Earth, saving only the vital resouces for the harsher season ahead.  We may have learned to modify our environment beyond recognition, but we certainly haven’t figured out how to put it back together again when things fall apart the way nature so elegantly does.


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