The relationship between the sharing economy and natural systems
There has been a shift in how we view our relationship with the natural world. In 1941 a Swiss engineer was one of the first to pay close attention to the burrs his dog picked up while walking. Under a microscope he examined the structure of these and copying these in the lab developed Velcro (a portmanteau of velours = velvet and crochet = hook).
Seeing what we can learn from nature is not new, what’s changed is the wholesale embrace of this concept as a standalone industry. Biomimicry (Bio = life, mimicry = copy) can be studied in universities, is a recognized subject area for academics and informs a suite of sectors like engineering, architecture and manufacturing. I’ve touched on previous examples of biomimicry products before.
The sharing economy, whilst not a discipline like Biomimicry is also having its zeitgeist moment as we live through a perfect storm of natural resource shortages, the digital revolution and rethinking ownership. This latter concept is brought to life when you consider a washing machine. Do you really want to own a washing machine? Or in fact do you need clean clothes.
If you mash the sharing economy and Biomimicry together what do you get? There are interesting examples that already exist:
- Swarm theory and autonomous driving
- The anternet and managing digital interactions
- Zero waste systems where waste = food rather than a byproduct
We have a lot to learn from nature, but perhaps the most important is to remember we are nature. When we internalise this then we can begin to innovate in a truly natural way.