Biomimicry and the future in the new Bohemian Grove

Workshop-ing biomimicry under the Redwoods

This weekend, a very uniqe event was taking place at the former Boy Scouts camping ground in Navarro, CA. The Outpost, an experiential tradeshow started by a group of friends who wanted to turn the convention hall trade show up on its head, reflects the model of the Bohemian Grove. An off-shoot of the San Francisco based men’s art club, the Bohemian Club, prominent figures in business, art, literature and science from around the world would gather in the Redwood forest for a few weeks during the summer. While the outfit of choice might be flannel and jeans instead of blazers and slacks, the spirit of idea-sharing and getting-to-know-you-ness is the most distinctive feature of the gathering. For The Outpost founders, the experiment seems to have proven concept and is building momentum.

Summer, 1967 at Owls Nest Camp. Around table, left to right: Preston Hotchkis, Ronald Reagan, Harvey Hancock (standing), Richard Nixon, Glenn T. Seaborg, Jack Sparks, (unidentified individual), (unidentified individual), Edwin W. Pauley.

This energy from the organizers and the atttendees made it a very exciting program to be involved in. For The Outpost flagship event at Camp Navarro, FAAR was invited to bring space to the camping ground. Looping in NASA Astronaut Yvonne Cagle, Superflex Tech co-founder Kate Witherspoon, and the other-worldly landscape photography of Reuben Wu, The Outpost organizers created a dream team for the discussion of “Biomimicry + The Future.” Through a 30 minute design sprint, we provided champion adapter examples to the each team, and challenged attendees to consider applications of their product or solution in the environments of Earth, Mars, and the ISS.

In the spirit of combining intellectual discussion with entertainment and fresh air, an interview with Yvonne served to bring down to earth the concept of space planning and training, and to inspire and challenge the participants going into the design sprint. (*The interview was recorded, so should be posted online here soon.)

We discussed the varying atmospheres of Earth, the ISS and Mars, and the respective effects on the body and the psyche. Yvonne shared about a new invention she is testing that helps to regenerate muscle after trauma or injury by turning inflammation into energy. As a summarizing point, we reflected on the concept of Earth as it’s own self-sustaining environment, or “mother ship,” and our bodies as an even more contained, self-sustaining environment. The two represent examples of how life has developed in service of life, and evolved over time to develop the complex systems that interact and feed each other. The multitude of living organisms that are critical to the balance of any given ecosystem are a prototype for our own understanding of technology in symbiosis with sustainability. Life is not only proof that it’s possible, but that it can be moving in its efficiency.

During the design sprint, teams were given examples from nature along with one or two characteristics of that animal or plant that could be leveraged for problem solving. With only 30 minutes, there wasn’t a lot of time to overthink things. And we ended up with some seriously innovative ways for biomimetic solutions to improve the quality of life of people through wearables, environmental management systems, scientific measurement tools, and apparel.

Seal whiskers; Elephant hearing (ears and feet, vibration)
Some highlights from the workshop results

We could have spent hours just discussing biomimicry and how to approach the process, from an educational stand-point, before even getting into the workshop phase. Hopefully there will be many more opportunities to bring awareness to different communities about the practice of biomimicry and its benefits, and also the opportunity that exists at this moment to be a part of the New Space Age. At FAAR we believe these two go hand in hand: that the answers to our questions of how to reach our most challenging milestones are out there in the world, for us to find.

Something about the format of the event that was especially enriching: the concentrated time, and proximity. The very nature of being on a camping ground, even one as sprawling as Camp Navarro, meant crossing paths with new individuals or familiar faces who were strangers on arrival. Those interactions not only developed into new friendships, but led to spontaneous and insightful conversations, an openness of spirit, and an opportunity to let ideas digest and continue of the course of hours and days.

In a way, Biomimicry + The Future reached more people throughout the weekend simply through our team interacting with hundreds of other attendees who weren’t at the workshop than we could have in a dozen sessions over two days. Conversations both challenging and enlightening have left the wheels turning for next year, and for other opportunities in between. Congrats to The Outpost organizers for a stellar event, and thank you for including FAAR in the lineup. Much gratitude all around.

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