Writing is a journey. My writing started with my reaction to a modern myth – the idea of natural being better than artificial. I don’t hold the opposite view, but I wanted to challenge sloppy thinking.
There are natural things I don’t want near me, like scorpions, death cap mushrooms, arsenic, lead, botulism, malaria, Spanish flu. There are artificial things I’m happy to work with, such as wheelchairs, glasses, clothes, shoes, screwdrivers, hammers, tables. I’ll eat heavily altered food, like modern bananas, modern corn, modern carrots. Try searching for images of natural bananas. Or have a look below.
The distinction between nature and technology is useless, even harmful. It’s not clear a distinction is possible. The sun runs off nuclear fusion, so is nuclear power natural? What if technology advanced further, blurring the already porous boundary?
Nature provides food, water, air, a whole ecosystem, with buffering and protective feedback mechanisms making it resilient. Why can’t technology do the same? It doesn’t now, but how about the future?
I used existing ideas for nanotechnology to create my novel’s world, imagining machines carrying out the same tasks as trees, plants, or soil. Technology could provide a supportive environment. It might prove more capable than nature, allowing almost instant adaptation to changing surroundings. Asteroid impacts or volcanism caused immense extinctions. Recovery took nature millions of years, technology could sidestep those events.
Relying on nature imprisons life on one planet, a geologically active sphere, a magnet for future asteroids. Technology allows backups. We think of seeds as natural, for now there’s no technological equivalent. However, any sufficiently advanced probe landing on a planet might act as a seed, creating new artefacts on a barren surface, spilling out the ability to shape a fertile environment. It happens on Earth, why not elsewhere?.
Currently machines can’t replicate or repair themselves as biology can. However, technology improves faster than nature. Nature is always blind. It cannot plan ahead or anticipate unique events. Intelligence allows recording, allowing science and technology to learn from mistakes. Technology based life can work out how to replicate and repair itself. Not all life needs to be biological.
Technology isn’t better than nature. The two are differing sides of the same coin. Both involve atoms forming into molecules, both involve processes to alter themselves and their environments. Nature even uses batteries; the ATP Cycle is an example.
Nature provides inspiration for technological advance. Want to stick something to glass? This may help. Nature has achieved a lot (including us), though it’s taken over three billion years.
Arthur C Clarke once said sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. Perhaps sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from nature.