Saturday, 18 August 2018

Natural Factories

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Nature loves symmetry. I wonder why? Did all asymmetric ones die out?"

We have to consider various aspects while trying to develop a complex system. Take the example of a car. We first start by defining what features and qualities the final car needs to have. Then, we move to divide the car into logical subunits. We think about the design of each of these subunits and how they will interact with one another. The subunits should perform their tasks efficiently but also be economical to produce while looking aesthetically pleasing. We've to think about the energy source or fuel, rate of consumption, rate of recharge, wastes produced and how to eliminate, etc.

Once we're ready with this, we move on to develop a prototype, run various tests, iteratively improve the design till we reach a design that's meeting all the goals sufficiently.

We then proceed to mass produce them. This, of course, requires capital for land, factories, workers, machinery, etc. We should be able to store raw materials, we need processes and managers to ensure effective utilisation of said resources, etc.

As I sit in my garden pondering deep thoughts, I see a few bugs crawling about, flying about, feeding on leaves and other insects... These insects are fully developed units, capable of motion both on land and in the air. They consume energy but refill it as they run out. They're also aesthetically pleasing (debatable? Some of them are gorgeous)

But at the same time, there are no actual factories. Though there's fantastic engineering involved, they're factories by themselves.

I'd a small pot that had a plant in it. After the plant died, I just left it out in the garden. Some days later, I saw tiny mysterious plants of a different kind  sprouting out of it. Nature somehow finds ways of propagating life. Probably these seeds were in the soil already and were dormant, or they arrived through an external agent like an insect, animal or wind. But they did manage to sprout.

And that brings me to the final part of the thought. Is it possible for mankind to create engineering products like drones by making use of concepts that exist in nature? And if they're too complex to understand, can we bend existing "natural technology" to do what we want? I understand that this is not really new thought and that much of genetic engineering revolves around this. But the idea of developing newer kinds of self healing, self repairing, self regenerating units that can perpetuate themselves but also be programmed is amazing.

I'm sure that we will be able to purchase blank bees in the future that will provide API interfaces for custom programming. You will be able to transfer custom code and the bees will perform all the actions. The code can be transferred to the next generation as well. Of course, a mistake in the code will result in bugs containing bugs.

One of the other questions to think about is whether this is ethical. Is it ethical to have living creatures produced for the sole reason of serving mankind in a specific way. I immediately dismissed this thought thinking about the abattoirs in the world.

I hope that the future will be a time where man has developed material science to the extent that natural substances can be mimicked. These are also biodegradable and can work in swarms.

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