50% height. 75% weight reduction — Image credit: David de Jong

A New Nature

Machines + nature. They will blow your mind.

Have a look at the objects above. They show a world that’s coming which we don’t quite recognise, or entirely understand. As it evolves from left to right, it looks more like an alien artefact but is also strangely ‘organic’.

This is how artificial intelligence, working together with humans, discovers a design for a metal joint that is lighter and stronger than a human designed version. The structure does not make logical, structural sense to us humans. But it is better. Half the size and 75% lighter. It probably couldn’t come from the mind of a human alone and yet it is familiar.

When machines design with humans to discover optimal forms, I find it fascinating how they look more and more ‘natural.’

Autodesk’s generative design tools are helping humans design incredible structures like the ones above. This TED Talk from Maurice Conti will take you on an inspiring journey through what is possible.

Each one looks like a bone structure or a plant. And it seems to be because it is simply the most optimal structure. The structure evolves inside the machine.

AI is also sneaking up on sacred ground. The impossible task of a human-like imagination and creativity. Surely, this is one area that humans will always reign supreme? It is not looking that way. Google already has a whole project to explore this called Magenta. We’re seeing pianos jamming with humans, machines composing pop songs and writing screenplays. Early days yet but it is quite impressive. There is even an Australian startup with a mission to build a superhuman pop star.

Exponential change through technology gets even more powerful as trends compound each other.

  • IoT sensors attached to cities, vehicles, people, etc detect something.
  • Machines design/discover ‘improvements’.
  • 3D printers ‘grow’ the design.

Here is a taste with a new bridge that will be ‘grown’ in Amsterdam soon.

A visualization of the MX3D Metal technology 3D printing a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam. Image credit: Joris Laarman for MX3D

I wonder if, one day, cities will evolve ‘naturally’ and grow themselves so that they work best?