Cooperate AND compete, not just one or the other

Some great ideas from Bruce Sterling's blog:

Many people have abstracted principles of how nature designs. The following list is what I consider the distilled combination of those enumerated by Janine Benyus, Michael Braungart and William McDonough, Kevin Kelly, Steven Vogel, D'Arcy Thompson, Buckminster Fuller, Julian Vincent, Dee Hock, and my own limited experience. Explanations and attributions follow the main list.
  • Waste = Food
  • Self-assemble, from the ground up
  • Evolve solutions, don't plan them
  • Relentlessly adjust to the here & now
  • Cooperate AND compete, not just one or the other
  • Diversify to fill every niche
  • Gather energy & materials efficiently
  • Optimize the system rather than maximizing components
  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts--design for swarm
  • Use minimal energy & materials
  • "Don’t foul your nest"
  • Organize fractally
  • Chemical reactions should be in water at normal temperature & pressure

Vogel's mechanical-engineering-specific principles (summarized):
  • Nature's factories produce things much larger, not smaller, than themselves.
  • We use metals, nature never does
  • Nature makes gradual transitions in structures (curves, density gradients, etc.) rather than sharp corners.
  • We make things out of many components, each of which is homogeneous; nature makes things out of fewer components but they vary internally.
  • We design for stiffness, nature designs for strength and toughness.
  • Our mechanisms have rigid pieces moving on sliding contacts, nature bends/twists/stretches.
  • Nature often uses diffusion, surface tension, and laminar flow; we often use gravity, thermal conductivity, and turbulence.
  • Our engines are mostly rotary or expansive, nature's are mostly sliding or contracting.
  • Nature's engines are isothermal.
  • Nature mostly stores mechanical work as elastic energy, sometimes as gravitational potential energy.


Tim said…
He missed a couple:

- Someone will always need to be better than everyone else, and so will change the design to achieve that effect.

- Nature has had 3 billion years to perfect its designs; we have had 5000.

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