Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Technology and organic nature are seemingly locked in a battle to the death, and it is not yet clear which will come out on top. At the moment, technology has the upper hand, and many environmentalists foresee the ultimate demise of nature. But nature may have a winning trick up its sleeve yet, a deadly virus, say, that puts the kibosh on humankind. Or humans could self-destruct in a nuclear holocaust.

Any sustainable future will have to be a synthesis of natural and artificial. Technology and organic nature must converge. The very distinction between natural and artificial will be erased. This may not be the future you want or I want, but it is the only viable option.

To this end, technology must become green, and wild nature must yield to design.

Try to imagine, if you can, a technology based not upon resource consumption but upon information. Try to imagine a technology based on organic principles of natural selection, feedback, distributed processing, and recycling of resources. Try to imagine nature not as a wilderness, but as an artifact of human artistic design.

What would the fusion look like?

On several occasions I have taken note here of the British artist Andy Goldsworthy, who approaches a natural-artificial fusion from the side of nature. Less well known is Tara Donovan, who approaches nature from the artificial.

To create a sustainable future -- for humans and non-human nature alike -- we must be able to imagine it. Artists like Goldsworthy and Donovan can be our teachers.

Untitled, 2003. Ace Gallery Los Angeles. Styrofoam cups, hot glue.

(See also Robert Frenay's Pulse: The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things.)