French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes appeared in the seventeenth century, taking away much of humanity’s superstitions of the time. He planted the seeds of rationalism and that truth in science and medicine comes only through something we can prove and see without a doubt. So all the mysteries of humors in the body and mercury in retrograde affecting our livelihood were cast aside, forcing the western world to adapt a new system of thinking and behaving.
We thrust that kind of pattern thinking onto our natural world and plants and animals stopped talking to us. And so we classified them, and put nature to our use.
So emotions about our physical state in medicine became taboo (a recent physician I spoke with told me to stop being so emotional!) and we dissociated our emotions from our body. That was until the 1950s and a Hungarian-Canadian physician Hans Selye started getting attention by science and medicine about how stress affects our health. And today it is well accepted by the medical community that stress affects a person’s physical well-being, manifesting in diseases and disorders if not managed well.
We see the effects of stress on our planet as well. We see it in our forests and our oceans. But unlike humans, with our estimated 7000 different languages we haven’t translated a single spoken language of nature. And it’s a problem. We are dumping pesticides on our fields and the oceans’ coral reefs are dying. Today’s technology from drones, sensors and inspection cameras like SBI borescopes (compared to endoscopes for nature) can be applied to software in areas like machine learning and artificial intelligence to start to develop a deeper language for nature.
Many books have been written about the secret language of trees (see The Hidden Life of Trees), and that they, like us, also communicate stress from climate change, drought, pest infestation, like we do from our cities when we start to feel uncomfortably hot. Trees use chemical cues, and physical ones to speak with each other and the world around them. Some sources have gone so far as to say that trees store memories in their root systems in their trunks, and continue to feed their offspring and ecosystem information even decades after they have died.
We see that Israel is so good at technologies like drones, and sensing devices in military applications. Israel is also great at water technology and agriculture, having had to learn at a young age how important it is to be self-reliant. But if you look to industry all of the new technologies from Israel seek to solve very specific human-centric needs. What we need are technologies that can speak for nature, for the sea, for the trees, for the animals, without any specific agenda from our part. Seeing nature as purely a resource we should quantify and then maximize to our benefit, is what has gotten us to our modern world problems, and they are not small. The world is bathing in a sea of chemicals and plastic. Species extinction of plants and animals is no laughing matter, yet we all continue on with life as normal.
The startup I founded called Flux is working on a solution to uncovering the hidden languages of nature. We are using the Israeli approach in using less to see more, using AI, machine learning and algorithms. Reach out if you think this your calling too.