The emerging science of biomimicry promises inventive breakthroughs in nearly every field of technology and design. So, maybe the best question to ask is: What would nature do?
The practice of biomimicry requires community, not just with other organisms, but with people in other disciplines. We need to bring together fields of study that have been kept separate. As it stands now, we educate biologists to learn how life lives. We then educate different sets of people to find out how we should feed ourselves, power our society, make our materials, and run our businesses. I’ll call these people the engineers, for want of a better word: people who design human systems. So we have the biologists and the engineers, and, very sadly, few people get to work in the fertile crescent between those two intellectual habitats. Yet the rest of nature revels in these in-between places. In fact, some of the most fertile habitats on Earth are estuaries, where freshwater and salt water come together.
Yet cross-disciplinary encounters are beginning to happen in field after field. Cell biologists, for example, now realize that every cell in our body is, in a sense, a sophisticated computer, responding appropriately to signals and information from enzymes, antibodies, antigens, and so on, which attract or repel one another, scan one another and then hook together. Computer scientists are starting to take note of this, and it may lead to a whole new paradigm for computing, because what our computers can’t do very well right now is pattern recognition, and what living molecules do so well is pattern recognition, adapting, and learning.