Boats and Banana Trees as Energy Systems
As our technologies advance at an ever faster pace the distinction between human made technologies and natural "technologies" is increasingly difficult to delineate. Natural technologies have demands and trajectories. And so do our human made technologies.
"Sometimes we should surrender to technology's lead and bask in its abundance, and sometimes we should try to bend its natural course to meet our own. We don't have to do everything that the technology demands, but we can learn to work with this force rather than against it. To do that successfully we need to understand technology's behavior."
Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants
I grew the banana tree in the photo from a cutting just outside my back door and I've been able to follow the growth of the tree, the development of the flowers and eventually the fruit on a daily basis. The bunch of fruit appears to be just bursting with energy ready to be put to other purposes. All of this has happened in a process of capturing, storing and finally dispersing energy.
We can make an analogy with our boats. At a fundamental level we can view our yacht as a technology that interacts with energy in three ways;
Firstly as a propulsive force (capture), secondly as a store of energy in various forms, and thirdly as a collection of technologies that consume the stored energy in the functioning of the yacht.
How efficiently and effectively the yacht collects, stores, and makes use of the available energy can be the foundation for the work that evolves the design.
At work we are constantly at risk of becoming absorbed in a particular detail or features at the risk of failing to be mindful of its relevance in the context of the whole.
Visualizing a yacht as an energy system is a way of stepping back to asses the whole in the same way an artisan steps back to asses the overall unity of the work in progress.