Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 25, Issue 3, 2021

Laetitia Van den Bergen, Robin Van den Akker
Pages 434-450

Biomimicry and Nature as Sympoiesis
A Case Study into Living Machines

Formulating how biomimicry relates to nature has been crucial to ‘deepening’ its theory. Currently, an autopoietic model of nature dominates the literature. However, advances in the natural and human sciences have demonstrated that autopoiesis does not adequately explain complex, dynamic, responsive, and situated systems. This article draws on Beth Dempster’s (1998) characterisation of ecosystems as sympoietic, that is as homeorhetic, evolutionary, distributively controlled, unpredictable, and adaptive, and on Donna Jeanne Haraway’s (2016) critique that entities do not pre-exist their relationships. We argue that using sympoietic processes of becoming as our model, measure, and mentor impacts biomimicry’s practice and relation to sustainability. Taking John Todd’s Living Machines as a case study, we explicate how sympoiesis unfurls autopoiesis. By integrating advances in the natural and human sciences into the philosophy of biomimicry, we address the limitations of the autopoietic model and provide a more comprehensive and adequate model of ‘nature.’