The next world exists, 3.8 billion years old
We are invited - urged - to radically revisit our modes of operation, behaviour, consumption, development but also research and collaboration. This need to accelerate and change scale, to change times, will also require us to review our methodologies and our modes of collaboration and idea production, our ability to identify and grow the ideas of tomorrow... some of which are already here.
We must accelerate the transition, ecological and climatic, but also economic and social, in order to live again and survive, to adapt and change, more quickly. We need to grow innovative transition solutions, to change scale in order to change times, by combining our views and expertise, and by multiplying as never before the positive and reconstructive impacts of our actions.
With the Covid-19 crisis, we were reminded of the deadlines in a brutal way. For several years we have known that environmental and climate issues are no longer those of future generationsFor too long and too often we have abused the term, as if to get rid of these issues. In reality, in recent years, slowly but surely, these issues have come closer to us, both in time and space: it is no longer future generations but us today who are impacted, and these are no longer problems for distant countries, far from our daily lives, but for us, at home. We are not and will not be spared.
If we are not careful, we will have been the most ephemeral species on earth.
It is also the other great lesson of the crisis to realise that we are stakeholders in biodiversity, that to destroy biodiversity is to condemn humanity. When we have long been concerned about protecting biodiversity, some people thought that it was a matter of protecting landscapes, or at best the habitat of wild species, or preserving a heritage. Hopefully, this current crisis will make us realise that protecting biodiversity is about protecting ourselves, humanity. And this is for another simple reason, but one that has perhaps escaped us a little: we are a species, and like all species, we are mortal, not just as men and women, but as a community, as humanity. Poor homo sapiens sapiens, only 250,000 years old, and already in peril, when most of our contemporaries are several million, even tens or hundreds of millions of years old! If we are not careful, we will have been the most brilliant and so-called intelligent species, probably also the most pretentious and selfish, and finally the most ephemeral on earth! Life is all about dynamics and movement, nothing is fixed. The same goes for our own humanity, which must safeguard its destiny.
To save ourselves, we must cross from one shore to the other, leave the pontoon of a devastating but known and well-tried system, collectively suicidal but profitable and comfortable in the short term, for the unknown of a new land of the future, of a new time. We know this and we fear it at the same time. We are living in this particular moment when the proven need for a paradigm shift precedes the new paradigm itself. We have a future to invent, but if we look closely, that future is already here, around us and in each of us.
The principles of life shed light on the major constitutional and economic rules of the next world.
Life has existed on Earth for 3.8 billion years; it is both our past and our future. The model of sustainable development that we know we must invent already exists, all around us. Drawing inspiration from the genius of the living, at all scales, from the surface nanostructure of the Morpho butterfly wing with its structural colouring, hyper-hydrophobicity or thermal self-regulation qualities, to forest or coral ecosystems developing beneficial ecosystemic interactions, via the collective intelligence of insect colonies, bio-inspiration or biomimicry is an extraordinary way of reinventing our human societies. Sourcing in short circuits, not producing waste, building nourishing and resource-producing territories, being economical with energy and materials, not taking without preserving, favouring cooperation and balance... the principles of life are already enlightening us on the major constitutional and economic rules of the world to come.
Due to a series of favourable accelerators (growth in knowledge of living organisms, technological thresholds, societal expectations, reconsideration of our relationship between Man and Nature, environmental issues, the quest for innovations with positive impacts, etc.), biomimicry is developing rapidly. Bioinspired innovations are multiplying.
Companies and startups in the Biomim DeepTech 400 million according to the pre-study by New Corp Conseil to create Biomim'Invest). But beyond innovations and other future investments, the biomimicry approach is already paradigmatic in that it proposes a 180-degree change in our apprehension of living organisms, so that we no longer consider nature as a landscape or a holiday setting, but as a city of science, a model of ecosystemic resilience, or even an insect as the best startup in the world. CES Las VegasWe know that changing our perspective means changing our approach, reopening other fields of possibility. "We know that changing our perspective means changing our approach, reopening other fields of possibility. Drawing inspiration from the living, a model of technology, wisdom and resilience, means relying on the best and most powerful ally, Nature, to help us rebuild this famous "next world" which, in reality, precedes us. Biomimicry is first and foremost a cultural deeptech.
Tomorrow will be made of what we decide to grow from today.
The need to invent this future world did not start with Covid-19! Society has already been on the move for a long time, via associations, citizens' movements and also, of course, a good number of companies and research laboratories that have been working for a long time to find better solutions. The Covid-19 crisis is pushing us to accelerate, to change scale, not always to create ex nihilo. If biomimicry invites us to take a better look at living things, let us also take a better look at the pioneering society that has already embarked on this transition, and let us help it to grow. Not everything can be thrown away, tomorrow will also be made up of what we decide to make grow from today. Initiatives, innovations and transformations have already been launched. If tomorrow has to be reinvented, it has not waited for today to start.
This new world will also have to be based on research and scientific knowledge, which are considerable and growing exponentially, in particular through the development of international cooperation, and finally through the development of increasingly multidisciplinary, extraordinarily creative and productive approaches. Combining knowledge and perspectives gives us a better chance of seeing, understanding and imagining. It is first and foremost an effort to accept the other, another discipline, another way of working or understanding things, both academic and cultural. Research is under-valued and misunderstood, by the general public, but also by the authorities in charge, because it does not correspond to their curricula and thought programs. It must be revalued and reintroduced into the heart of the production system of the new paradigm. The strike power of human genius, which has been poorly exploited until now in the service of a system that has become obsolete, is now in a positive dynamic, seeking solutions for resilience, balance and global added value (economic, social and ecological). The power of research has never been so great, let's take advantage of it.
Everything that can contribute to inventing the next world must be revalued, everything that does not serve it must be reconsidered or even banned. We have had a certain genius for futility or destruction, why should we have less talent and genius for building, rebuilding and regenerating? Innovation is omnipresent and obsessive in us, it always has been. Over the last few decades it has been misdirected towards creating artificial and consumerist novelty, but today it is increasingly oriented towards improving overall performance and reducing our ecological, energy and climate footprints. Positive innovation, innovation with impact, are and will increasingly be the drivers of creativity in this next world.
Reversing the invisible hand, so that everyone, by seeking the collective interest, contributes to their individual well-being.
The industrial and technological revolutions were born of disruptive innovations (iron, steam, electricity, chemistry, oil, digital, etc.), and the next world will also be born of these disruptive, ecological, energy and behavioural innovations. But with one major difference: a single innovation, even a disruptive one, will not be enough; it is a decoy that must be forgotten. Even if a major innovation occurs in the energy sphere, the mother of all our challenges, it will not be enough on its own to change the world. Innovation will also have to be behavioural, sociological, political (management of the world), food (production and consumption) ... it is the confluence of transitional innovations that will create the world after, where each change, each novelty, each positive experiment will resonate with a global dynamic, will contribute to the movement and will benefit in return to grow itself.
This virtuous dynamic is also a change of economic paradigm, the "other invisible hand": if Adam Smith taught us in "The Wealth of Nations", in 1776, that each person, by seeking his or her own individual interest, contributes to the collective well-being, today we must advocate the opposite approach, where each person, by contributing to the collective interest, will promote his or her individual well-being.
Crossing silos, encouraging the hybridisation of ideas and talents to generate new ideas.
This transition, which we might better call rebirth or refoundation, will not be an adjustment of the past. Its urgency will also require more collective and multidisciplinary intelligence, revealing new ideas through the creative force of cross-views, but also reconsidering or deploying new solutions and alternatives ... sometimes already existing! Because, in reality, if this quest for the world beyond is a leap into the future, it is not a leap into the unknown. In fact, we already have many promising avenues that are just waiting to grow and this corpus is also a stimulus for creativity, to encourage creative hybridisation, when three good current avenues give rise to a fourth, innovative and composite hybrid. This genealogy of ideas then gives rise to a new branch, a new offspring, inspired by time and history.
Sometimes tomorrow is already born, and can grow faster if we take care to know each other well. This is also collective intelligence, which we can also call computational collective intelligence, combining observations, knowledge, data, projections and generation of new perspectives. Many alternatives for the future are indeed already ready! Many promising innovations are there, still in the research phase, or already being experimented with, or even launched on a small or large scale, here or there, or in gestation in heads that are just waiting to be able to express themselves, among project leaders waiting for partners and mentors, or even on bench tops ready to germinate and grow. These cocoons of innovation can blossom into a new future, provided we become the gardeners of that future. Today is already inspiring tomorrow.
Alain Renaudin, president and founder of NewCorp Conseil, ambassador of the Jacques Rougerie Foundation, founder of Biomim'expo.
This article was published in the special issue of Marine & Oceans magazine