Elon Musk declares Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid

October 6, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk, CEO and co-founder of Tesla , has made clear his company is willing and capable of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid from the ground up. “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world,” said Musk, “but there is no scalability limit so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the Puerto Rico government, PUC (Public Utilities Commission), any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico.” Most of the island’s power grid was destroyed and there is already discussion of rebuilding infrastructure to be more sustainable and resilient. This future-focused approach seems custom-fit for Tesla. In response to Musk’s offer , Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello tweeted, “Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.” Tesla has already begun deploying its Powerpack energy-storage technology in Puerto Rico to bring critical infrastructure, such as emergency response centers, back online. The Powerpacks are paired with solar panels to provide sustainable, resilient on-site power generation and storage. The mission to reenergize Puerto Rico would involve similar technology but on a massive scale. Related: Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia As Musk mentioned, Tesla already has experience building small-scale energy infrastructure using solar panels and Powerpacks on islands including Kauai and American Samoa. However, challenges remain. Although this modern infrastructure may be more resilient, it may still largely depend on power lines, which can be damaged by storms, and physical components like solar panels and wind turbines, both of which were damaged on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria. Further, the people of Puerto Rico and their government may be more focused on surviving what has proven to be a very grueling recovery than reinventing their energy infrastructure. Nonetheless, proactive thinking now may very well lead to a more resilient Puerto Rico in a future filled with superstorms . Via Electrek Images via Tesla

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Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

October 2, 2017 by  
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Tesla just announced that the world’s largest battery installation is about halfway finished. The 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia will be the largest system connected to an energy grid. This massive undertaking was inspired by a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who could not believe that Tesla was able to install its grid-tied battery systems as quickly as it claimed. Musk, confident in his company’s work, promised to install the world’s largest battery bank in 100 days or the State of South Australia would receive it for free. The clock is now ticking. After accepting the challenge, Tesla participated in a competitive bidding process to unlock a $115 million renewable energy fund from the State of South Australia , which has suffered disruptive blackouts in recent summer seasons. After estimating that the world’s largest battery bank would cost $32.35 million, excluding labor costs and taxes, Tesla was awarded the contract in partnership with the French company Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Wind Farm on which the battery bank is being built. Musk made clear that the negotiation phase did not count towards the 100 days deadline. The stakes are high; if Tesla fails to complete its task within 100 days, it could suffer a loss of $50 million or more. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Last Friday, Tesla officially announced the start of its 100-day challenge, though it would seem that the company gave itself a bit of a head start. The battery bank, which is being built at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada , is nearly halfway complete as is the installation of batteries into the bank. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” said Musk at a kickoff event, seeming to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. If any company is up to this kind of challenge, one based on a bet between billionaires, it’s Tesla. Via Ars Technica Images via Tesla

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Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

This living hammock is an incredible seat made of soil-less plants

October 2, 2017 by  
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Ever imagine swinging from the trees in a hammock made of plants? Spanish artist Ainhoa Garmendia is making the fantasy into reality. Her Naturalise installation features a hammock made out of soil-less living plants woven into a sturdy fabric. The piece is a statement that calls to fight our contemporary throw-away culture in favor of something lasting and living. “We are very used to short-life objects. We were taught that recycling is good, when the real solution is just not to produce waste. We take advantage of plants’ benefits, while they have many structural and functional characteristics to be applied when they are still alive” said Ainhoa Garmendia in an interview with Inhabitat. “Naturalise is a verb, an action and a process of creating objects that keep growing and are alive” explained the artist added. To realize Naturalise Ainhoa Garmendia chose Tillandsia Usneoides (known also as a Spanish Moss), a plant that needs no soil to grow and requires little water. Its long, soft fibers are a perfect medium for the hand weaving realized by the artist herself. The Naturalise hammock can be seen as a metaphor. The suspended in-air object made of plants, a typical earthly material, embodies an idea of reconnection with nature, bringing the idea of sustainability and eco-awareness to a new level. Related: Asif Khan creates spectacular furniture with flowers The Naturalise living hammock was first showcased in Milan at “I see colors everywhere” exhibition at La Triennale di Milano curated by the clothing brand United Colors of Benetton and Fabrica communication research center fore Milan Fashion Week 2017. + Ainhoa Garmendia Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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Paris banned all cars for a day to highlight pollution issues

October 2, 2017 by  
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Pedestrians and cyclists cheered yesterday as Paris closed all of its streets to cars. The government held a Car Free Day and the streets filled with bikers, walkers, and roller-bladers instead of smog. Paris held a Car Free Day in 2015 and 2016 as well. But this was the first time they extended the boundaries to include the entire city . From 11 AM to 6 PM local time, cars were asked to stay off the streets – with exceptions made for emergency vehicles, taxis, and buses. The Paris City Council hosted Car Free Day, together with collective Paris Sans Voiture , or Paris Without Car, which is behind the city-wide car-free idea. Related: Activists Show What it Would Look Like if Bikes Took Up as Much Room as Cars Pollution from cars is often an issue in France’s capital – the Associated Press said mayor Anne Hidalgo was elected after promising to slash air pollution and cut traffic . The government’s statement on the day said one of the Car Free Day’s objectives was “to show that cities can and must invent concrete solutions to fight against pollution” coming from road traffic. They encouraged people to travel by scooters , skates, bikes , or walking . The symbolic event also brought results. The government said Airparif Association conducted independent measurements during the Car Free Day using sensors and a bicycle outfitted with measuring instruments. They saw “an increased decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels along major roads” and “access roads to the capital.” Meanwhile, the Bruitparif Observatory looked at noise with the help of 11 measurement stations. They saw sound energy decreased 20 percent on average, as compared against a regular Sunday. Via Paris and Associated Press/NBC News Images © Henri Garat – Mairie de Paris

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Tesla nears halfway mark with world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

October 2, 2017 by  
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Never one for small talk, Tesla announced that one of its most significant projects, apparently the world’s largest battery installation, is just about halfway finished. The 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia will be the largest system connected to an energy grid. This massive undertaking was inspired by a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who could not believe that Tesla was able to install its grid-tied battery systems as quickly as it claimed. Musk, confident in his company’s work, promised to install the world’s largest battery bank in 100 days or the State of South Australia would receive it for free. The clock is now ticking. After accepting the challenge, Tesla participated in a competitive bidding process to unlock a $115 million renewable energy fund from the State of South Australia , which has suffered disruptive blackouts in recent summer seasons. After estimating that the world’s largest battery bank would cost $32.35 million, excluding labor costs and taxes, Tesla was awarded the contract in partnership with the French company Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Wind Farm on which the battery bank is being built. Musk made clear that the negotiation phase did not count towards the 100 days deadline. The stakes are high; if Tesla fails to complete its task within 100 days, it could suffer a loss of $50 million or more. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Last Friday, Tesla officially announced the start of its 100-day challenge, though it would seem that the company gave itself a bit of a head start. The battery bank, which is being built at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada , is nearly halfway complete as is the installation of batteries into the bank. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” said Musk at a kickoff event, seeming to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. If any company is up to this kind of challenge, one based on a bet between billionaires, it’s Tesla. Via Ars Technica Images via Tesla

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Tesla nears halfway mark with world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

Dozens of Japanese cities and towns quietly go off-grid

September 19, 2017 by  
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Dozens of cities and towns in Japan have quietly shifted from traditional utility-based grid power system to a more local, resilient model of generating and storing energy where it is used. After significant damage caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, many Japanese municipalities rebuilt to be more equipped for the 21st century through the country’s National Resilience Program. The Program offers 3.72 trillion yen ($33.32 billion) in funding each fiscal year to be distributed to local communities seeking to become more self-reliant and locally empowered. “Since Fukushima , there has been a gradual elaboration of policies to realize that kind of local autonomy, local consumption paradigm,” said Andrew Dewit, a professor of energy policy at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. Although the Resilience Program was designed for recovering from and adapting to natural disasters, it has blossomed into a powerful tool in the fight against climate change . “At the time of the Great East Japan earthquake, we couldn’t secure power and had to go through incredible hardships,” said Yusuke Atsumi, a manager at HOPE, a utility created to service this new localized energy model. Under the old system, a “blackout at one area would lead to wide-scale power outages. But the independent distributed micro-grid can sustain power even if the surrounding area is having a blackout.” Related: Japan’s new mushroom solar farms produce sustainable energy and food In its recovery from the earthquake , which destroyed 75 percent of its homes and killed 1,100 of its residents, the city of Higashi Matsushima constructed micro-grids and decentralized renewable power generation that currently allows the city to produce 25 percent of its power needs without tapping into the main grid . Additionally, the city has installed batteries capable of storing enough energy to run the city for three days without access to the grid. “We are moving towards a day when we won’t be building large-scale power plants,” said Takao Kashiwagi, renewable energy luminary who serves as head of the New Energy Promotion Council and designed Japan’s first smart city . “Instead, we will have distributed power systems, where small power supply systems are in place near the consumption areas.” In light of the program’s success, the Japanese government seeks to increase funding for the Resilience Program by 24 percent in the next fiscal year. Via Reuters Images via Save the Children Canada/Wikimedia ,  DepositPhotos , and Pavel Ahmed/Flickr

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Scientists develop tiny robots that drill into cancer cells to kill them

September 5, 2017 by  
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Tiny new robots are proving to be life-saving tools in the fight against cancer. As first reported in the journal Nature , scientists at Durham University in England, in collaboration with researchers at Rice and North Carolina Universities in the United States, have developed nanomachines that are capable of drilling into cancer cells, killing them within minutes. These light-activated nanobots, the size of a molecule, move so rapidly that they can burrow through cell linings of cancer. The researchers found that in order for the nanomachines to function effectively, they need to spin two to three million times per second in order to not be inhibited by objects (or what is known as Brownian motion, or the erratic movement of tiny particles in fluid.) When triggered by ultraviolet light, the nanobots begin to spin, allowing them to cut through cancer cells either to destroy the cell or create space for the delivery of beneficial drugs. “These nanomachines are so small that we could park 50,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair, yet they have the targeting and actuating components combined in that diminutive package to make molecular machines a reality for treating disease,” said Dr. James Tour of Rice University. “For many years I never had envisioned the nanomachines being used medically, I though they were way too small, because they are much much smaller than a cell, but now this work has really changed my thoughts.” Related: Nanotech Robots Travel Through Blood to Turn Off Tumor Cells According to Dr. Robert Pal of Durham University, these micro cancer slayers may be well suited to target those cancers that are resistant to existing chemotherapy. “Once developed, this approach could provide a potential step change in non-invasive cancer treatment and greatly improve survival rates and patient welfare globally,” said Pal. After initial experiments on microorganisms and small fish are completed, the team will advance to rodent subjects, then eventually clinical trials on humans if prior results are positive. Via Yahoo News Images via Dr. Robert Pal/Durham University and Tour Group/Rice University

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Why Los Angeles has started to paint its streets white

August 22, 2017 by  
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Though it lacks the humidity of East Coast heat, Los Angeles still burns. The City of Angels is one of the only places in the United States where heat-related deaths occur regularly during winter. This public health hazard is only expected to worsen as climate change gains strength over the next decades. Located in a desert valley and dominated by asphalt roads to facilitate its car culture, LA is extremely vulnerable – and, fortunately, innovative. The sprawling cityscape of nearly 4 million people (over 13 million in the metro area) has begun to paint its streets white, in hopes of using the color’s natural heat-reflecting properties to lower the temperature and make LA a healthier place to live. Los Angeles, and many other cities around the world, suffer from what is called the urban heat island effect, in which the dense infrastructure and activity of the city generates and traps heat beyond what might normally be expected based on the region’s climate . To combat this effect, Los Angeles is covering its streets with CoolSeal, a light-colored paint that has already yielded positive outcomes. “We found that on average the area covered in CoolSeal is 10 degrees cooler than black asphalt on the same parking lot,” said Greg Spotts, the assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services for San Fernando Valley, one of the hottest spots in Greater LA. Related: Restorative Healing Gardens take over a concrete garage rooftop in L.A. LA officials hope that cooler streets will result in cooler homes, which in turn keeps energy costs and health risks low. “Not everyone has the resources to use air conditioning, so there’s concern that some low-income families will suffer” if something is not done to counteract the rising heat, said Alan Barreca, an environmental science professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. “The [cool-treated] pavement would provide benefits to everyone.” The coating, which costs $40,000 per mile and lasts for seven years, will be applied to streets in a pilot program before it is applied citywide. Its future looks bright. “We’ve done things over and over again that people said couldn’t be done,” Spotts said, “and this time is no different.” Via Washington Post Images via  Giuseppe Milo/Flickr (1)

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New images show progress on the next world’s tallest building

August 22, 2017 by  
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New images of Santiago Calatrava ‘s Dubai Creek Tower have emerged, showing construction progress on what is expected to become the world’s tallest building. Developer Emaar Properties released site photos and video of the 2.3 square-mile complex, which is designed to eclipse the height of the Burj Khalifa by at least 300 feet. Emaar Properties and Dubai Holdings joined together to build the new complex in Dubai, which will feature a 3,045-foot tower designed by Calatrava as its centerpiece. The tower requires laying record-breaking 236-foot deep foundation piles capped with 1.59 million cubic feet of concrete. Related: The world’s tallest tower just broke ground in Dubai The tower, inspired by the lily flower and mosque minarets, will feature a 68-mile array of supporting cables, a 360-degree observation deck and a Hanging Gardens of Babylon-style floor. It broke ground last year, but the developer still hasn’t confirmed the completion date. According to previous reports, the project is expected to be ready in time for Dubai Expo 2020 . + Santiago Calatrava + Emaar Properties + Dubai Holdings Via Archinect

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INTERVIEW: Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker on how biomimicry can improve happiness and creativity in the workplace

July 12, 2017 by  
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If you’ve ever admired the work ethic of an art colony and wished you could apply those principles to your company, you’ll do well to check out Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker’s newest book. In ‘TEEMING: How Superorganisms Work to Build Infinite Wealth in a Finite World,’ Dr. Woolley-Barker describes the many ways companies can learn from animal societies, as well as sensible ways to to apply those principles. A combination of sociobiology, biomimicry , and organizational theory, this book is a practical yet entertaining guide on how to make organizations of all scales thrive – in a sustainable way. Read on for our interview with Dr. Woolley-Barker – and enter our raffle below for a chance to win one of 25 copies of TEEMING: How Superorganisms Work to Build Infinite Wealth in a Finite World ! a Rafflecopter giveaway Inhabitat: Can you talk about your background and what inspired you to write this book? Woolley-Barker: When I started writing it, I was really struggling––there was never enough time, enough money, enough hope. I’d lost a daughter, a husband, a business, my self-respect, my career, and I had three little boys to care for on my own. Some friends of mine got me to try one of those 21-day meditation series. It’s not typically my kind of thing, but I figured I might as well. The first day began with this goofy mantra– “I come from a place of infinite abundance” or something like that. But then the guide talked about sunlight and cosmic stardust streaming down. As a botanist, that clicked for me. Sunlight is the source of most of the value on Earth––plants use it to create sugar, and every animal lives on plants or other animals that do. At the end of the meditation, I thought––“I’m going to write a book about this. Infinite abundance is real” and immediately started writing. I scribbled 50 pages longhand on the spot, and TEEMING was born. The second day made no sense to me at all, and I quit the program, but I kept on writing. I’ve been into biology my whole life, and that’s one of the themes of the book––if you follow your childhood passions, you can do what you love for a lifetime. I studied Botany as an undergrad, backpacked the Hawaiian backcountry, the California redwoods and mountains and deserts. Bob Trivers, who kind of invented Sociobiology––the science of social evolution––was one of my first mentors, and I instantly knew that was what I wanted to study. I got my PhD in Biological Anthropology at NYU, studying baboons in Ethiopia. I was into the relationship between behavior, social structure, and evolutionary change in primates––our relatives. Then my career took a major detour. 12 years, 3 kids, some medical and economic trauma and one divorce later, I found myself trying to get back in the workforce. That’s not easy to do––science doesn’t wait around for you. I was obsolete. Somehow I managed to get work as a corporate facilitator, doing sustainability and executive coaching, and I was always fascinated in the biological anthropology of innovation, organization, cooperation, leadership, and sustainability. Once a geek, always a geek! One day, I was driving down the freeway and a piece played on the radio about something called biomimicry—innovation inspired by nature. I had a full religious epiphany. That was it. I read everything I could, networked with anyone who seemed vaguely connected, and helped out with the San Diego Zoo’s foray into the subject. I started writing a blog, BioInspired Ink. I did an incredible biomimicry workshop in Mexico, got certified as a biomimicry professional through Biomimicry 3.8, and was among those earning the first Masters degree in Biomimicry from Arizona State University’s Biomimicry Center, where I’m now an adjunct. Today I mostly work as a Biomimicry Consultant, helping companies develop biologically-inspired solutions. We look for deep patterns––strategies that stand the test of time––and help translate them into workable solutions in everything from material science to automotive design, packaging, cosmetics, medical devices, business models, algorithms, cybersecurity—and everything else. If you can ask ”how would nature do it?” I can probably find some surprising innovations for you to play with. Inhabitat: A major focus of your book is “superorganisms.” What is a superorganism? Woolley-Barker: Superorganisms are colonies of genetically distinct individuals that work together as one creature––like ants or honeybees. Different workers specialize in different tasks, the same way our skin cells and neurons do. Every colony has a dedicated caste of reproductives, and the rest support them in that. No individual can survive and thrive alone, but together, the colony does all kinds of complex tasks––like building, farming, hunting, fighting, or gathering. All of them are aligned around future success for the colony as a whole. Basically, if it takes a village, it’s a superorganism. Humans are superorganisms too. We all have different jobs and personalities, and contribute to society whether we’re reproductive or not, and we can’t survive on our own. I mean, if you go all the way back to growing the beans, how many people did it take to get your latté this morning? Or the clothes on your back? As a primatologist, I think of humans as “ant-like apes”––with little iPhone antennae. Inhabitat: What are some surprising or favorite discoveries you’ve made about the animal kingdom in your research for TEEMING? Woolley-Barker: Nature is crazy. Set it loose and check on it in 4 billion years, and you’ll find 30 million or more unbelievable designs. You’ll never get bored studying it, that’s for sure. I mean, platypus? Go home evolution, you’re drunk. Octopuses blow my mind. They are about as smart as baboons, but they have little brains about the size of a lizard’s. The rest of their neurons are in their skin, along with photoreceptors like the ones in our eyes. Basically, they are inside-out brains covered in cameras. They can even pass a Mirror Self-Recognition Test, which is the test biologists use for sentience. They let the animal get to know itself in the mirror, then anaesthetize it and put a dot of paint on its forehead (or genitals for dolphins, because they’re into that). Most animals get aggressive when they wake up thinking they are looking at a competitor. But some do something totally different: chimps pick their noses in the mirror, dolphins check out their privates, and elephants and magpies try to wipe off the dot. Octopuses feel their forehead. Picture that for a second and try not to laugh. The most mind-blowing thing is the fungal networks underground. They are like a subterranean brain, sensing our footfalls and everything that goes on nearby. Nearly all the plants on Earth depend on them to gather water and fertilizer, move sugar from parent trees to shaded seedlings, and to deliver chemical alarms when insects attack. Scientists have found that the fungi will move specific nutrients long distances to feed one particular tree while ignoring others around it. These guys are literally farming our world. Maybe they see us as irritating pests, who knows? Inhabitat: What’s a common mistake or challenge that modern companies face that’s addressed in your book? Woolley-Barker: Darwin has been paraphrased saying it’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change. That’s true for companies as well, and yet we design them like machines, filled with standardized, rigid cogs. Thinking happens at the top, doing at the bottom. Departments and jobs are fixed and static, and management has to penetrate many layers to tell the front lines what to do––and then the front line information has to filter all the way back up to the brain. We’ve designed all the adaptability right out of our organizations. Living things aren’t like this––life organizes as it goes, sensing and responding to change in the moment. Of course, most living things don’t work together that much, as they are just out to maximize their own reproductive fitness (though that usually requires cooperation because everything is connected). They don’t have much in the way of specific goals either. We can’t work this way because it‘s too slow and random. Companies would go broke. But ancient superorganisms societies have worked together on complex, specific goals for 500 million years. They know how to find the sweet spot between bottom-up chaos and top-down control to compound their wealth from one generation to the next. They know what works. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. How do they do it? For one thing, they don’t rely on hierarchies to adapt. Hierarchies in nature are used to prevent change. A hierarchical system of cells stops cancer cells from proliferating in our bodies, and separates signals from noise in our brains. Hierarchies are important—but they aren’t the right structures for adapting to change. As hierarchies grow, the costs of management rise, along with the risk of error. Decisions get bigger as you move up the chain of command, and the number of people making them gets smaller. The most powerful managers are those furthest from the frontlines—and they are overwhelmed with meetings because all the report lines converge. Vertical just doesn’t scale. It’s a recipe for instability, and you have to constantly restructure and issue more top-down directives to keep things standardized. We call it quality control and Standard Operating Procedures, but they prevent each of us from taking effective action in our sphere of influence. We feel powerless, and disengaged––70 percent of workers don’t really care about or even like the work they do. We live for the weekend. We all know we could do things better if we had the decision-making authority to do it. What a miserable waste of our creativity and intelligence. Superorganisms have a lot of unexpected lessons to teach us about leadership as well. Every ant and honeybee team has a “leader,” but they don’t give orders. There is no single leader either—one-third of all ants act as leaders. Their role is to gather information and distill it into patterns, which they spread among and across teams. They provide the social glue that knits bottom-up local information into a global vision. They also nurture the colony two most important assets––diversity and independence. Without those two things, the colony can’t access collective intelligence or swarm creativity, which are essential to nimbly responding to changing conditions. Without them, the colony will go extinct. Inhabitat: Do you have a favorite biomimicry principle for improving happiness and creativity in companies? Woolley-Barker: Other superorganisms build their compounding wealth with infinite things—sunlight and carbon, diffuse specks of water and nutrients, complexity, diversity, connection, and trust. Their teams grow from the edges out, in modular, self-managed units that seek and respond to opportunity and risk on the front lines, and they leverage symbiotic partnerships to unlock value. They focus on their shared purpose, build with infinite stuff, and spill the value they create out into the larger ecosystems they inhabit, feeding the life that feeds them. That’s regeneration––my favorite principle. As for individual happiness and creativity, superorganisms have a great recipe for it. They self-organize, and every individual simply does whatever it thinks is best at that time. The thing that keeps the system working is shared purpose, mechanisms of trust and mutual accountability, an ethos of sharing and fairness, diversity and personal independence, transparent information flows, and careful distributed prevention of the parasites who are always trying to deceive and steal from them. No meetings, targets, bosses, or performance reviews. Inhabitat: Your book is aimed at companies, but do you think the lessons from TEEMING could be applicable elsewhere? Woolley-Barker: Absolutely! TEEMING isn’t just a new way to do business. I think of it as a new way to organize our entire global society as we adapt to a finite Earth. Networks are built from the bottom up, one person at a time––individual hearts and minds have to connect to one another to make this kind of change. So it’s useful on every level, every time we interact with each other. Really, it’s an old story, and one that only a superorganism would tell––Stone Soup! You probably remember it. A hungry stranger enters a starving village, and knocks on doors to beg for a meal. The people hide in their homes, miserable behind their closed doors–– no one will share. Finally, the stranger makes a fire in the town square, takes a pot from his pack, pulls some water from the well, and puts it on to boil. Then he adds a simple stone. A few curious children come out to see what he’s doing. “I’m making Stone Soup,” he says. “You’re welcome to join me. But it needs a little something.” They bring little things—an old potato, a shriveled carrot—and their parents come too. Soon, a delicious aroma fills the air, and everyone can smell the soup. All who shared eat, everyone who trusted is full. That’s how superorganisms thrive in landscapes of scarcity that exclude other species. They pool tiny scraps of value that aren’t worth the effort for other creatures, like splinters of wood, bits of chopped up leaves, specks of pollen, and molecules of water and fertilizer. We’re superorganisms too, and it feels natural to us. It’s the way we work best. Inhabitat: Do you have another sociobiology topic you’re itching to write about? Woolley-Barker: I’m fascinated by parasites, which all superorganisms are plagued by, because a colony offers a juicy collective target, and because the colony relies on trust. Parasites try to penetrate superorganism networks through deception and mimicry. For instance, there’s a spider that mimics the scent of ant larva. When an ant comes across it, it picks up the spider and takes it down to the larval chambers, where it devours the young. Other ants practice slavery—another kind of parasitism. They raid the colonies of closely related species, and steal their eggs, putting them to work for themselves. Some species can’t even eat without these slaves. Parasites are everywhere, trying to get in, but superorganism societies have been evolving protection and detection mechanisms for hundreds of millions of years. We have a lot to learn in this department––our social media networks are pretty much wide open to predators right now, and we readily spread fake news to serve others at our expense. The same is true for cybersecurity and airport screening. The answers are already out there. + TEEMING: How Superorganisms Work to Build Infinite Wealth in a Finite World Images of leafcutter ant , elephants , octopus , people at work , bees , and parasite via Depositphotos

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