Connectedness, in Light of Biomimicry

February 23, 2018



Human intelligence is fundamentally different than that of other animals.  Non-human animals have “laser beam” intelligence; they can craft a specific solution to solve a specific problem. Humans have “floodlight” intelligence, which allows us to transfer solutions from one situation to another.


This  type of intelligence leads to “biomimicry”:  the ability to improve human life by observing what’s happening in the natural world.


A few examples:


  • Swiss engineer George de Mestral invented Velcro in 1941 after he saw how burrs from burdock plants became attached to his dog.

  • Researchers are working to reduce human reliance on fossil fuels by developing coatings for ships and submarines that mimic the ability of sharks’ skin to reduce drag.

  • Scientists have developed ways to chemically treat plastic and metal surfaces to achieve the “Lotus Effect”—allowing water to bead and roll off, taking contaminates with it.


Another aspect of biomimicry is how  human socialization patterns can mimic what’s found in nature.  Both humans and gorillas are high-order primates; distinguished from other animals by intense social lives and a desire for meaningful relationships  with a stable set of fellow primates.  (Other animals lack this need; for instance, migrating antelope may switch herds with nary a backward glance.)


But how many truly meaningful relationships can we maintain? The  British evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar says that number is approximately 150, which has nothing to do with our number of Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections.  Dunbar studied ancient hunter-gatherer societies to test the validity of his theory, and validation was what he found. Humans in those long-ago times consistently banded together in groups of about 150, whether they were in professional armies or farming communities.


Our brains, while big, do not have infinite capacity to process and manipulate information. The size of our neocortex—the part of the brain that is responsible for conscious thought, language, and other higher functions—seems to set a limit on the number of actual relationships we can keep track of.


Of course, our level of intimacy varies within those relationships; we are more invested in our family and lifelong friends than we are in our work colleagues.


Capturing  the impact those closest to you have had on your life is one excellent reason to create a memoir.  We are here to help. Please call us or reach out via our Contact page to schedule your free consultation.


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