Back to Nature…

By Avik Munshi
In conversation with Sakthivel Ramaswamy: on his work in the biomimicry field and his relationship with nature
1 August 2014

Mr Sakthivel Ramaswamy has been conducting some interesting workshops at our university lately and his work focuses on emerging areas in design and innovation fields,  we decided to get in touch and to know more about him and his areas of research and work.

Sakthivel is from an eminent family in Chennai and has always lived a life close to nature. It was during his final year at School of Interior Design, CEPT University that he finally decided to explore nature and got into a lifelong relationship with nature. This exploration began with his research on bio-mimicry* that led him to the insights of high tech equipment mimicking nature and finally back to nature itself. On graduating from SID, he received the Best Graduating Student and Best Thesis awards. Then he went back to attend his family business in heavy industrial fabrications; he not only brought design changes, but also learned engineering aspects and developed technical solution for fabricating stainless steel double curve profiles of nuclear reactor components. After a few years, to pursue his masters in Emergent Technologies and Design at The Architectural Association he went to London where he completed a project on fiber composite adaptive systems.

Mr Ramaswamy has given lectures about his work on biomimetics and fabrications at many design as well as engineering conferences and institutes, presented them at leading exhibits including India Design and Acadia; his work has been published by many publications and journals: Evolo and Urban Flux.  He has also done an Executive Certificate Program in Business Strategy and Innovation from MIT(Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Sloan School of Management, USA and a Certificate Course in Basic Pneumatics from Festo Didatics, India. After a long career in design, technology, business administration and bionics here is his opinion on some of our questions.


On Biomimicry

During my five years at design school I had heard a lot about inspirations from nature so I finally decided to learn about it myself. And after two years of research I knew a lot more than mere interpretation of nature. Biomimicry can be classified into stages of simulation, interpretation, integration, replication and emulation. It starts from merely observing, interpreting and developing forms, structures and systems of nature to replicating natural systems and finally developing cohesive systems better that try to compete with nature.

On advancements in replicating technology

Companies in pneumatics and aeronautics have developed interpreted forms of natural systems for performance efficiencies while some have developed them for just the “wow” factor necessary for marketing their other products.
But after going through all the research and conferences across the globe I believe now that all these are increasing our dependencies on manmade extracted from nature, hence it will take us nowhere but a step closer to extinction.

If this is not about advancement of technology then what is it about?

Our current technologies dependent on fossil fuels extract resources but dump waste back in nature and this has disrupted the ecological balance in the otherwise closed loop systems  of nature. Gaia’s theory describes earth as a self-sustaining organism and any factor threatening its survival will be wiped out, so we humans are threatening our own existence! Biomimicry is about learning, interpreting and developing sustainable technologies similar to the closed loop systems of nature where nothing is wasted like the food cycle. Under current circumstances of global warming “being less bad” is not an option!

 If its too late should we just shut down everything and move back to the primitive lifestyle? 

If that’s the ultimate technology then the option can’t be ruled out but we can accommodate certain changes that can reduce the ecological impact as well as the impact on ourselves. An example is toothpastes that contain fluorite! The pineal gland is responsible for human sensations. The fluorite from toothpaste affects the pineal gland in the brain and crystallises it, affecting the brain over prolonged use. A change in product towards eliminating calcium from the ingredients can help with the health concerns and we don’t actually need most of the products lined up on the store shelves.  

So how do we change the mindsets?

Today information is received from, your TV in the living room, radio in the car or youtube ads and most of these commercials do not directly target sale, but instead try to establish a trend: that using a specific product brings along a status. Many youngsters believe and follow specific trends as that is what the media caters to the generation, and very few challenge it. So the only way to counter this tendency is to market this ideology to set a new trend: adopting sustainable means is the new cool.

Last question: how do you think we can save our planet?

Not the planet but the human race from extinction. Today’s technology was beyond imaginable a century ago. Likewise within the next few decades we may succeed in developing sustainable technologies with zero or little ecological impact.
Like bio synthetic composites in a spider web which are five 
times stronger than steel, though such technologies are already in laboratories and out for medical use, scientists are looking forward in developing cost effective solutions for large scale production. And of course adopting a minimalistic approach and reducing our dependencies on technology is the best solution.


* Biomimetics or biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. Source: Wikipedia

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