A gaze into the crystal ball

Biomimetics in the year 2059

I. C. Gebeshuber, P. Gruber, M. Drack

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    43 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Biomimetics is a field that has the potential to drive major technical advances. It might substantially support successful mastering of major global challenges. In the first part of the article, the current state of biomimetics is reviewed, and goals and visions of biomimetics are presented. Subsequently, possible biomimetic scenarios to overcome the major global challenges, as indicated by the Millennium Project, are envisaged. Those of the 15 challenges (sustainable development, water, population and resources, democratization, long-term perspectives, information technology, the rich-poor gap, health, capacity to decide, peace and conflict, status of women, transnational crime, energy, science and technology, and global ethics) where biomimetics might provide relevant contributions are considered in more detail. The year 2059 will mark the 100th anniversary of Part C of the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science. By this time, some of these challenges will hopefully have been successfully dealt with, possibly with major contribution from biomimetics. A new Leitwissenschaft and a new type of 'biological technology' are emerging, and in biology more and more causation and natural laws are being uncovered. In order to estimate the fields of biology from which technical innovations are likely to appear, the amount of causal knowledge is estimated by comparing it with correlational knowledge in the respective fields. In some fields of biology, such as biochemistry and physiology, the amount of causal laws is high, whereas in fields such as developmental biology and ecology, we are just at the beginning. However, sometimes ideas and inspirations can also stem from nature when the causations are not known. The biomimetic approach might change the research landscape and the engineering culture dramatically, by the blending of disciplines (interdisciplinarity). The term 'technoscience' denotes the field where science and technology are inseparably interconnected, the trend goes from papers to patents, and the scientific 'search for truth' is increasingly replaced by search for applications with a potential economic value. Although the trend in many scientific fields goes towards applications for the market, a lot of disciplines will stick to the traditional picture of science. An open question left to the future is whether the one development or the other (technoscience or pure science) is an advantage for the future of humans. In the subsequent section, the article gives information about organizations active in biomimetics. It shows the relevance of biomimetics on a global scale, and gives reasons for promoting transdisciplinary learning. Increasing interdisciplinarity calls for novel ways to educate the young. Brian Cambourne's 'Conditions of Learning' theory is recommended in this respect. This dynamic and evolving model for literacy learning comprises the concepts immersion, demonstration, engagement, expectations, responsibility, employment, approximation, and response. Each of these conditions supports both the student and the teacher in their discovery of learning, helps provide a context within which to learn, and creates an interactive and dynamic experience between the learner and the content. In the year 2059, researchers and developers who routinely think across boundaries shall successfully implement knowledge in solving the major challenges of their time!

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2899-2918
    Number of pages20
    JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C: Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science
    Volume223
    Issue number12
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009

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    Biomimetics
    Crystals
    Biochemistry
    Crime
    Physiology
    Mechanical engineering
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    Information technology
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    Keywords

    • Biomimetics
    • Causation
    • Emerging fields
    • Future studies
    • Global challenges
    • Physical biology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Mechanical Engineering

    Cite this

    A gaze into the crystal ball : Biomimetics in the year 2059. / Gebeshuber, I. C.; Gruber, P.; Drack, M.

    In: Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C: Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science, Vol. 223, No. 12, 01.12.2009, p. 2899-2918.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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