Thursday, October 23, 2008

Plant that walks on its roots

This development makes me quite happy. Plantbot, as this hybrid little device is called, is the latest creation of The Play Coalition, a designer trio who like to let their creativity roam freely.

It makes me happy because for it shows the simple beauty of pure being in an interesting way. Plants often escape our attention in our media-saturated information-overloaded visual-focus-demanding lifeworld, but they embody a lot of wisdom, and this technology elegantly externalizes that. All a plant needs is light, it is in a sense an embodiment of light reception because it completely adapts to the supply of light. A tree grows towards the light, minimizes structure and maximizes receptive surface in order to optimize its efficiency. Of course domesticated plants face entirely different light supplies than those in the environment for which they biologically evolved. And this solution is exactly what liberates the plant and gets it one step closer to successful survival in a planet that could well become fully technologically metamorphosized by man.

Also it is interesting because it is quite a direct extension of a plant's roots, in McLuhanesque terms. But an extension with an individuating bias, and in this it follows most contemporary technologies, which is a bit of a shame. I would like to see complementary technologies that do not individuate, but rather connect things globally. This is a bit more difficult to see, because it would be a lot more calm and holistic, and we are conditioned to be short-sighted and focus on our direct perceptions and whatever seems to look most interesting in a certain place and at a certain time. But in principle it's easy. To take this example; the plant can find more light by individually, locally adapting, but it could also, if given the channels, get light from a plant that already has enough from the environment that plant is in, and selflessly shares what he can miss. Plantbot, in that negative sense, is egoic luxury for plants. But despite my usual criticism it's still a great, fresh development.

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