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Nature-Inspired Technologies as a Response to Global Challenges and Basis for a New Industrial Revolution

11 July 2019
Природоподобные технологии как ответ на глобальные вызовы и основа новой промышленной революции

The panel session ‘Nature-Inspired Technologies as a Response to Global Challenges and Basis for a New Industrial Revolution’ on 10 July featured a discussion that was attended by leading scientists from the Kurchatov Institute.

Doctor of Biological Sciences and Professor Raif Vasilov said the primary objective for developing nature-inspired technologies was to «bridge the gap between the bio and technospheres while minimizing damage to the natural environment». He said: «We are talking about introducing fundamentally new, nature-inspired technologies that do not cause damage to the world around us, but coexist with it in complete harmony and enable us to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere that has been disturbed by man. It truly is a planet-wide challenge».

The introduction of nature-inspired technologies raises many socio-economic and socio-humanitarian questions. First of all, resources. Vasilov said what we have here on Earth is all we have at our disposal, and if these resources are wasted, an environmental collapse could occur. «An equally important problem is waste. Nature has no waste. It is self-sufficient, and we must learn from it», the professor said. At present, up to 90% of material resources and energy around the world is used to generate waste and pollutes the environment. Vasilov said modern resource-saving and eco-friendly technologies need to be created to process solid, liquid, and gaseous waste. For example, biomass or carbon dioxide could be used to create a biofuel. «We should force nature to work for mankind without disturbing it and create a fundamentally new technological base of nature-inspired technologies, i.e. actually include technologies in the chain of closed resource turnover that exists in nature», Vasilov said.

Kurchatov Institute Vice President Oleg Naraikin, a scientist, doctor of technical sciences, professor, and a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, continued the theme of the impact of nature-inspired technologies. He said humanity is not fully aware of the impact such technologies have on civilization today. «When we talk about similarities with nature, we say that new technologies not only affect a person’s life, but also change the actual person. Having observed what nature does and how it does it, we have begun to utilize this knowledge and got the opportunity to intervene in the process of human evolution for the first time. These technologies may entail such consequences that are even difficult to imagine», he warned.

Nature-inspired technologies not only offer enormous positive prospects, but also serious negative aspects, for example the creation of genetically modified organisms. In this regard, Naraikin believes a new international system of control needs to be built to monitor the development of the technologies themselves, similar to the system that was built to monitor and restrict the use of atomic weapons.

«Right now, we are only at the initial stage of developing nature-inspired technologies, but we need to think in advance about problems resulting from their use. We need to pay serious attention to the threats and global challenges posed by these technologies», Naraikin said.