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Static versus Dynamic
by Jan Sand
2007-10-08 09:56:08
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Both birds and airplanes fly, both automobiles and horses move with speed across the ground. But there are essential differences. No one has ever seen an airliner try to perch in a tree without dire consequences and no one would dispute that there are places on rough terrain where a horse moves more easily than an automobile. But I doubt many people would enjoy a transatlantic ride for eight hours or longer perched on the back of a large bird no matter the dearth of leg room on the average current airliner.

But one of the essential differences between animals and many other organic structures and the devices created by current technology is that human structures are essentially static while living architecture is, to an overwhelming degree, dynamic.

There are a few fighter aircraft that can shift the angle of their wings for more efficient flight characteristics and can fold them for storage on aircraft carriers but they cannot approach the structural economy and the flexibility of the wings of birds which provide not only lift for flight but thrust for propulsion in combinations that donate manoeuvrability utterly out of reach of human aircraft.

Human aircraft and ground vehicles are essentially static shells with minor dynamic elements to control airflow or ground mobility. Within their severe limitations they can be extraordinarily beautiful but there is no comparison in visual delight with living creatures. This is, of course, an unfair comparison since aircraft do not perform cunning actions like laying geometrically perfect eggs or feeding worms to their engine mechanics.

But human structural inflexibility extends beyond vehicles. Although even the most primitive human civilizations were forced to use local materials to protect themselves from the climate animals were naturally equipped with sufficient fur and feathers to keep themselves alive and warm. Humans stole these protections to create fur garments but these, of course, became static and dead once they were removed from live animals and had to be renewed as they wore out. Theoretically genetic engineering could modify human skin to grow sufficient weather protection to be comfortable and even fashionably beautiful with exotic individual coloration.

Current studies of bioluminescence might even make light part of the designs. This would negate the easy appearance change that humans now delight in and probably would appeal to only a small sector of humanity. Nevertheless it would confer a sense of being totally at home in the climactic elements of our native planet and permit modified humans to live without the necessity of housing. Cities as they are today could disappear replaced by parks and forests bearing sufficient fruit and other edibles for adapted humans to live freely in the open with a minimum expenditure of energy and little or no damage to the ecology. Naturally (pun intended) there would be a massive cultural change in basic life style.

Architecture today basically consists of rigid inorganic shells with elaborate plumbing and energy and communication systems fed by huge networks of various pipe matrices and energy and communication cables that require elaborate and expensive and continuous maintenance. There is no doubt that a modern housing or commercial complex is a technological marvel but it is another example of human static structures.

Humanity is approaching dynamic design in its extraterrestrial interplanetary probes that automatically unfold after initial launch to spread solar panels and various communication devices. When the probes have reached distances of even the closer planets it is no longer practical for hands-on control of these sophisticated devices as the speed of electromagnetic radiation is far too slow for instant control. Therefore the probes have required the development of very complicated autonomous systems. It should be not too far in the future when these systems become inexpensive enough to be used in common household devices. I have read that Bill Gates' house is equipped with some of them. But architecture in general still has a way to go. There are ballpark stadiums that have movable roofs but this innovation is still very uncommon and not used elsewhere.

Although some architectural units like Wright's Guggenheim Museum and airplane hangers have very special applications a very large number are mere honeycombed shells that could be designed much more flexibly. Commercial space could be (and probably is) comprised of flexible open bays with provisions for inserting walls and communication lines so that a business conceivably could purchase or rent more area in a building as it becomes available and needed and walls inserted or moved as required. The same could be done for habitable units as a family expanded or contracted or could afford less or more space. Automatic walls and connections could be programmed into a building so that the building itself would have some sort of computer controlled adjustable system.

Quite a bit further in the future, when technology gets a better handle on genetic control, trees could be modified to grow into habitable complexes with organic waste disposable systems and even fresh food supplies grown in cabinets and integral energy and communication complexes but that's still quite a ways beyond the near future.

A final note should be made to human inter social complexes in reference to this subject.

Historically, societies and religious organizations were noticeably inflexible in their structure. As societies progressed towards modern times the rigid monarchies and social structures became modified towards democracies where the controlling elite were no longer fixed for life but were required to be elected and changed by regular elections, thus gaining much in social flexibility. There remains a plethora of totalitarian states today but there is hope they can be modified. In general a plutocratic infiltration into the democratic system has frustrated a good deal of the flexibility but the potential remains and is not totally eliminated. Religious organizations, in contrast, remain in a somewhat more despotic state backed up by their rather stubborn petrified doctrines which, in general, accede to very little if any modification of their agendas.

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Asa2007-10-08 10:01:44
It is with excitement I await future developments, especially ones inspired by the animal world.

Only recently there was the report of scientists who were making a climbing suit based on the ability of spiders.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-08 11:36:21

For a different point of view of what is asserted in the last sentence of the above piece see Hava Tirosh-Samuelson's article "Facing the Challenges of Transhumanization" in Global Spiral via above link. For author's credentials click on authors.

Thanos2007-10-08 22:59:04
You reminded me Shakespeare’s words from Hamlet …how wonderful man is. I agree that human is one of the great mysteries and we know so little about human brain. Telepathy is just in the beginning of investigating and you are right that we have no idea in what changes these evolution will lead, still I'm looking forward for them as well.

Jack2007-10-11 23:14:46
What has proven to work in the plant or animal kingdom certainly offers much with which we can learn. I enjoyed how you suggest the possibilities of using trees to help reduce waste, with a bi-product of Oxygen. This would be the ultimate in recycling. Very good!

You are also correct, in that many religions remain rigidly in place. Traditions of men are hard to break. Petrified indeed from centuries of immobility, much like a statue. However, consider that some change would be good, some would be bad. Married to the status quo, sadly many never find out.

I have seen some religions change and focus on helping (Southern Baptists are the most generous in humanitarian aid) and some bad (Jim Jones and the self-inflicted suicide). Particular things in religions are a governments best friend and can bring benevolence to society (Romans 13). It will always be a good law, even if petrified, thing to do "Thou shalt not murder".

Sand2007-10-12 00:24:11
I find it annoying that a universal drive in humans to act well towards each other is claimed by many religions as only possible because of their doctrines whereas it is evident in a very large number of people merely as basic human nature.
One must be careful about the definition of "murder" as it is not only sanctioned but also demanded and praised in many social actions in war and legal administration.

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