Surprises in day 1

Sometimes its good to think of technology from society's point of view

The reason I chose Biomimetics for my Athens programme is because as a Biotechnologist I admire the complexity of the living system and the efficiency with which it works. Therefore, expecting an intensive technical session about Biomimetics, I was prepared for the first day. To my surprise, the first lecture by Ms. Caroline Nevejan was on an entirely different topic. For a minute I thought I may be in the wrong room. Though basically a technical person, since I have interest in the various aspects of human behaviour I was interested in the topic being discussed – “YUPTA(with You in relation to Place, Time and Action)”. The more I listened, the more did I realize that this is something we engineers miss out almost every time we come up with a new design. The exercise which followed helped me understand how much emotional factors go into a making a decision as simple as which food to eat. Though it made a lot of sense, I was still not sure as to how this plays a role in Biomimetic design.

The second lecture for the day was an introduction to the concepts of Biomimicry, by Dr. Jaco Appelman. During the brief introduction we were told about the dire need for more sustainable solutions to our current arsenal of tools and how systems derived from nature could lead to the development of a self-sustaining community. The ‘All waste is food’ philosophy, the CtoC approach and various other approaches to Biomimetic design were introduced. Most importantly, the importance of understanding the behaviour of society as a whole while developing a new design was emphasized on. When these behavioural aspects are taken into consideration, the new design will be welcome by the society and this will accelerate the acceptance of this design. Now, the first lecture made perfect sense and it was clear that it is essential to introduce certain minor material or immaterial factors which make people feel more welcome with the new design. These factors when cleverly chosen will play a key role in the acceptance of the new technology.

The lectures of the first day transcended the realm of science and emphasized on its influence in society. I now understand that it is not enough to focus merely on the technical aspects of a design but it is essential to take into account the factors that will make the design more appealing to society. To conclude, I would like to quote Sir William Osler “In Science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurred.”

James Shirley