Ingenious Principles of Nature

A deeper look into the book.

Published 2022

ISBN: 978-3-658-38098-4
ISBN: 978-3-658-38099-1 (eBook)

From the content


The content of this book – as obviously as the title points in one direction – is not intended to make you, dear readers, obsessed with nature. Even if the currentthreatening state of our basis of existence, the earth, and – closely connected to it – its richness of species or its interconnected biodiversity gives ample reason for many to long for a “return to nature.” But nature and technology cannot be separated! Therefore, in addition to natural phenomena, political, economic, and social phenomena also permeate the book chapters. On the other hand, what is wrong with remembering romantic verses like those in the “Abendlied” by Matthias Claudius, when we sacrifice forests that have grown over millions of years, as fundamental life-givers, for the sake of short-term filthy lucre and thus irrevocably destroy them?

The moon has risen,
The gold stars are shining
In the sky bright and clear;
The forest stands black and silent,
And from the hills rises The white mist wonderful.

Matthias Claudius (1778)

For today’s dancing lords of mankind (see Chap. 8) around the golden economic “calf” of the earth and its increasing destruction, Matthias Claudius likewise holds ready in the fourth stanza a wisdom which, related to catastrophic forest conditions in the eighteenth century, is not dissimilar to today’s:

We proud human children
Are vain poor sinners
And don’t know much at all;
We spin air webs,
And seek many arts,
And get further from the goal.

The insight that runs through this book is:

As ingenious as the principles of nature may seem to us, their forward-looking practical application in our living and working environment around the globe is a political issue.

Our gaze is directed towards the future, but without leaving out the past and the present, and this raises two central questions:
In view of the fact that everything on our planet has limits, but that these limits are transgressed in such a selfish way by the human species and have led and continue to lead to catastrophes of the greatest magnitude, the first question arises:
How can this harmful activity be stopped? In other words: How can human reason be steered in the direction of sustainable development and the branches of life on which we sit be treated with considerably more respect, even though we are already in the process of sawing them off, in part with relish?

Examples of these local and global disasters visible to everyone in all walks of life are:

• Plastic-polluted oceans and resulting fish kills, as well as harmful microplastic particles incorporated along the food chain to humans
• Economically driven monocultures are partly responsible for the fact that former fertile land areas are now permanently barren, devastated and destroyed
• Increasingly poisoned air to breathe, due to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2), methane (CH4), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter, especially in urban areas, and consequently increase in circulatory diseases
• Cheap but “tasteless” food produced by industrial mass production; clear trend towards a “throw-away society,” not least due to industrialized “obsolescence” or planned installation of wear parts with a short service life
• Global climate change is clearly demonstrated by devastating, sometimes surprising effects in many areas of our social life and work.

Politicians, as representatives of the people or state leaders, publicly present themselves as capable of action and concerned about the common good of the citizens. CEOs of national and multinational companies publicly emphasize their generous commitment through “declarations of self-commitment” to the protection of nature and the environment in the market, to the welfare of the workforce and customers. However, all of them are internally prisoners of their organizational structure, in two ways. On the one hand, there is an extraordinary lack of necessary adaptability in an ever-dynamic, networked, and increasingly complex environment. For decades, this has been expressed primarily through entrenched and rigid hierarchical structures, in which senior executives live up to the Peter Principle* (Peter and Hull 2015).
*The Peter Principle, original from 1970, named after Canadian teacher Laurence J. Peter states,

“In a hierarchy, each employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”

On the other hand, these actors are characterized by a specific lack of selfreflection. This is not infrequently coupled with short-term, routine causal or monocausal success strategies, which ultimately fall victim to the dynamics of the environment. This is easily recognizable by the fact that socially burdensome consequences of various kinds, which occur due to a lack of change of perspective, mask the desired solutions for success. In sum, this juxtaposition leads to more burdensome effects than beneficial progress for our basis of life and work.

Asking for specific examples? Here are three dominant ones:

• The strengthening and realization of the socially so extraordinarily important education sector for all native and immigrant citizens of Germany has been on the drip of politics for decades, with minimal progress, whoever forms the government. But this does not prevent politicians of all stripes from proclaiming year after year with full fervor an “educational republic” of Germany. The opposite of an “uneducated republic” is shown with great regularity.
• The population has been drifting apart for years into a few rich or superrich on the one hand and an unacceptable overwhelming majority of poor and existence-threatened people on the other, and so far the actors in the political arena have not come up with any goal-oriented sustainable solutions, except for occasional, highly lazy compromises. On the contrary! It seems that the social kit in society is becoming even more fragile at an accelerated pace. The far-reaching consequences of this policy would be disastrous.
• Politicians are fatally playing a risky game of aftercare for their population, often in close cooperation with industry, although risk prevention is the real order of the day. This policy is clearly recognizable in the handling of climate change (see below), which still a fanatical but powerful minority of climate deniers in politics and the fossil energy industry with their new tools fake news do not see or do not want to see.

Aftercare politicians recognize the seriousness of the situation too late due to their often static viewpoints and lack of change in perspective from emerging social problems. The child has fallen into the well, so we are trying to bring it up again. It would be better if it had never fallen in in the first place! What kind of elected politicians are these, who without a well-founded politicians apprenticeship, passed by qualitative and quantitative examination criteria, feel qualified to make far-reaching decisions about millions of citizens, without well-founded, effective feedback control mechanisms? Anyone who, as an acting politician, has sworn to avert harm from the people and practices the opposite, often accompanied by enormous consequential problems and consequential costs, has missed any justification for exercising the profession. He should go or be gone! What the Austrian alpinist and extreme climber Paul Preuß (1886–1913) formulated as the six principles – in particular the sixth – for safe climbing, also applies in a figurative sense to today’s people in a position of social responsibility (italic additions refer to people acting in the present):

Among the highest principles is the principle of safety (sustainability). But not the spasmodic correction of one’s own insecurity (lack of self-reflection) achieved by artificial aids, but that primary security which should be based in every climber (every leader) in the correct assessment of his ability to his will.

In view of the incontrovertible fact that, according to all scientific findings – actually, common sense is enough if we take a clear look at our immediate and wider environment – “business as usual” will not lead to any sustainable beneficial progress for the majority of people, the second question arises:

Which paths or detours do we have to take consistently in order to learn to understand the complex and highly complex interrelationships of our previous proposals for solutions better than we have been able to do so far? In addition to this, we can also ask: Do any role models exist that can guide us to find ways out of the self-created chaotic conditions of coexistence on our planet?

Literally at this point, we encounter with our thoughts, our creative impulses, and our intelligence, the long-established ingenious principles secured by the highest quality control, the fundamental properties of nature. It is these that have ensured the progress and survival of existences for billions of years up to the present, and for about a quarter of a million years that of Homo sapiens, the wise man.

The actual purpose of this book is to consult the ingenious principles of nature for our man-made problems in order to create desirable strategies for sustainable, resilient, and fault-tolerant products, processes, and organizations. This book is the last of a trilogy (Part 1: Systemic Bionics, 2015; Part 2: The End of Indulgence, 2018, both Springer, Wiesbaden), through which runs the common thread of a postulate that, with the title, and especially with the subtitle of this book, expresses the core of our necessary thinking and acting on our limited planet Earth.

Until far into the future, there is no adequate alternative to our evolution on Earth. Therefore it is not only an imperative of reason but a fundamental question of existence for all living beings on our planet to make use of the ingenious principles of nature. Their perfect, evolutionary interaction – also with inanimate nature – has led to the fact that our present “technical,” “organizational,” “economic,” and “social” services have come into being and that per se superior nature-compatible services are available free of charge.

We humans are readily capable of, and already on our way to, destroying and annihilating this evolutionary treasure of immeasurable wealth with all our might in the shortest possible time. In any case – with probability bordering on certainty – the progressive process of evolution, on its intricate and interconnected developmental paths, will skillfully adapt and evolve in the emerging Anthropocene and humanoid age – whether with or without human intervention is of little importance!

The unchallenged fact that we, as part of evolution, have so far been able to preserve our native earth as the very basis of life, to fulfil our manifold goals and desires, and to realize progress of unimagined proportions, despite minor and major opposition, seems in many respects to be seriously endangered. It is, in the literal sense, a struggle for existence. A significant – if not the most significant – driver of this struggle is climate, or climate change.

Numerous results of scientific investigations impressively explained connections between politicians, industrialists of the fossil energy industry as “climate deniers” on the one hand and the proponents of climate change on the other hand. They show the concentrated power for the domination of opinion that is taking place. Worth mentioning are the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Hans Joachim Schellnhubers’ work from 2015 on “self-immolation” in which he highlights the “fatal triangular relationship between climate, man and carbon,” or that of climate researcher Michael E. Mann and cartoonist Tom Toles “The Madhouse Effect,” German: Der Tollhaus Effekt (2018).

Are we already at a threshold with our Earth where perhaps the crossing of a multitude of complexly interconnected, so-called tipping points* leaves no door open for us to use the ingenious principles of nature for our continued existence – significantly more sustainably than before and perhaps for the last time?
* Tipping points are critical points or moments on often linear lines of development at which, due to feedback effects, further development takes a completely different, usually accelerated and destructive course. A return before the tipping point then seems impossible.

Our evolutionary further development and climate change, which many people can recognize and sometimes painfully experience, are inextricably linked. Nature with its ingenious principles is a strong driver of progress on our Earth. Deniers of climate change in conjunction with people who cultivate a creationist** mindset, which is directed against evolution and thus also against the ingenious principles of nature, will not change anything about this.
** Creationists believe in the literal interpretation of the biblical creation story and deny Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which places our evolution by natural selection on a broad verifiable foundation.

With this book, I would also like to address all those who are not, or not yet, committed to sustainable progress on the only basis of life we have. There are many ways to do this:
• Through personal commitment to a way of life that is compatible with nature
• As part of an initiative against environmental and nature destruction
• As a loud mouthpiece against political and economic ignorance with shortsighted misguided thinking and acting, such as the denial of indisputable facts
• And last but not least, by looking at the ingenious forms, structures, techniques, optimal strategies, and skillful fault-tolerant organizational processes that nature provides us free of charge for our adapted use of progress Nachtigall and Wisser 2015 and 2013, respectively; Küppers 2015; Blüchel and Malik 2006; Malik 2007; Küppers and Tributsch 2002 and many others).

It depends on whether we are willing and able to decipher the still existing, unimaginably large treasure of helpful natural solutions and to use them for ourselves in a sustainable way. Ingenious natural principles with sustainable progress, proven over millions of years, are juxtaposed with man-made activities which – in terms of time, geologically speaking, virtually in the blink of an eye – are in the process of shaping and destroying nature and the environment in a way that is unworthy of life. How will we decide with our conscious and subconscious minds:

Do we reckon with nature or without it?

Part I The Inexhaustible Wealth of Evolutionary Adaptive Solutions

How Do We Get to Know Nature Better?

By presenting it in its wholeness or interconnectedness, at least as well as we understand it so far. We understand it only in its functional divergence and biodiversity similar to a blink of an eye in relation to our own lifespan.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest polymath, to whom even Charles Darwin paid homage, is remembered: Alexander von Humboldt. At the very least, however, Humboldt’s travel descriptions inspired Darwin in his own work, Origin of Species (Werner 2009, pp. 68–95). To Alexander von Humboldt go back the insights of “interactions” in nature, which we still largely lack today in solving our problems. Cycles and networks of effects, visualized using the example of an organism tree or a biocoenosis forest, show us life-sustaining interrelationships, which we humans destroy excessively and unreflectively with mindless growth compulsions and thus put our own survival at risk. Far-sighted problem- preventing thinking and action as opposed to short-sighted misguided thinking and action is therefore the central thread running through this book.

• Basic Principles of Nature: Survival in an Open “Cooking Pot”

We have been living in close cohesion among organisms for billions of years. As organisms we are “open systems”, which means: we use energy, substances and information from the environment and thus create order within ourselves. Finally, we give energy, substances and information back to the environment, only in a different form. The – by human standards – never- ending flow of solar energy is our only source of energy for life, the earth our only and finite source of raw materials. It should therefore require no discussion and be self-evident to treat our life-sustaining system Earth with care. The fact that this is happening less and less, and what consequences follow from this, we will learn by way of example in this chapter. It will also become clear that we can never win a “business as usual”, a fight against nature. The evolutionary pressure that has been at work for billions of years cannot even be unhinged en passant. This grown strength of evolution is therefore discussed in detail, from which it should be clear once again that the overriding goal is and must be to respect nature in our further development and to cooperate with it, instead of destroying it senselessly – due to short-sighted desires.

• Operational Principles of Nature: Universal Development Tools of Long-Term
Proven Biodiversity-Rich Management

This chapter describes universal developmental tools of nature that have been identified and are intended to show why nature’s biodiversity has impossible for us humans to penetrate, let alone fully grasp its effectiveness. Nevertheless, it seems to be easy for plants and animals in association to come to terms with the dynamics of the complex environment and to ensure their continued existence. Only one organism steps out of line: man. In his unfathomable overestimation of himself – to which the misinterpreted concept of the “survival of the fittest” still clings today – he exceeds the stress limits of natural biological-geological biotopes – with tools that consist of self-organisation, self-regulation with stabilising feedback, symbiosis and much more – they maintain their ability to survive and to develop further through ingenious networking, despite occasional setbacks due to environmental disturbances, in which not least humans are involved or even the cause. Evolutionary nature is more stable than one might think.

There are things you have to be an expert not to understand.

Hjalmar Söderberg (1869–1941)
Swedish writer

Part II Beyond the Exhaustive Wealth of Technospheric Maximum

• Ways Out of the Trap of Short-Sighted Technospheric Design Routines

Short-sighted, misguided development strategies are the vicious circles of a system, whether it occurs as part of nature, the economy, politics or society. In quite a few cases, they develop into repeated habit or routine loops with a high destructive potential, from which it is difficult to escape. The extremely complex dynamic development processes of nature have learned over billions of years to keep their partially occurring exponential growth devil’s circles – e.g. in pioneer plants – in check by system-stabilizing “negative feedbacks” or “angel’s circles” and skilful demarcation of boundaries. Viewed holistically, growth takes place sustainably and in conformity with the system. The situation is completely different in the technosphere with growth strategies. Their individual goals can be assigned to the keywords maximization of growth and profit, exploitation of resources, accumulation of consequences or short-term value creation, including not inconsiderable burdensome consequences for societies. Ways out of the vicious circle of habit loops and “cemented” routines are only possible if these are broken and replaced adaptively and dynamically by new routines with a sustainable effect. To this end, a large number of exemplary process sequences and functional principles exist in nature, the concrete applications of which in the technosphere are presented as examples in Chap. 7.

Part III Antagonist of Nature

• Fight or Perish!

The title of this chapter is challenging! In “Fight or Perish!” it is about nothing less than the survivability of our societies on earth and the enemies, the numerically small but powerful “masters of mankind”, who are still allowed to plunder the earth to their liking – without regard to human, animal and plant losses. Three, in the author’s view, thoroughly interconnected complexes are illuminated:

1. Konrad Lorenz “Eight Deadly Sins of Civilized Mankind”
2. The global foresight on the environment and
3. Noam Chomsky’s observation: why we must stand up to the masters of humanity.

They all show the absolute necessity to act instead of react, to bring our earth back into the state of an increasingly dynamic equilibrium. This must be done without the pernicious effect of “vicious spirals” initiated by ourselves, interacting “positive feedbacks” with their baleful destructive forces on organisms. Biocybernetics can help to contribute a lot to a sustainable progress, which is also accompanied by adapted growth, by increasing installation of “negative”, system-stabilizing feedback loops. This system-stabilizing effect is not limited to nature itself, for it is a master at it and needs no instruction from us humans!

Conversely, the more promising path would be to guide societal or economic, social and ecological processes, in their existing – often unrecognized – interconnectedness, towards goals through forward-looking resilient strategies and sustainable progress.

The best school in which a young person can learn that the world has a meaning is the direct contact with nature itself (Konrad Lorenz 1983).