Many of the tools that will help us build a regenerative future are not only currently available now, but have been for centuries. Emerging capabilities like: Extended Intelligence, generative design, programmable materials, shape-shifting structures, clean energy, and biodegradable components, will further augment our ancient abilities. A combination of traditional and experimental tools will guide humanity in assembling sustainable, adaptive, and regenerative systems to take care of our growing population.
Math and mechanics haven’t changed as much as their applications have. There is much to be gained from rediscovering the dexterity of long-established craft traditions that reveal the beauty of math and mechanics. We believe these traditions can offer an example of how to design patterns of connection through timeless techniques.
Like textiles, humanity’s societal fabric is a complex arrangement of interconnected patterns. To improve connections between strangers, much can be learned from studying how complex patterns in physical materials can be decoded, understood, and reworked into new practical applications.
The National Science Foundation recently funded a new five-year project called “What a Tangled Web We Weave” to investigate the mathematics and mechanics of knitting. This deft manipulation of yarn is an ancient technology with futuristic potential, and the lead researcher, Dr. Matsumoto, is compiling a knowledge base of different stitches and the ways to describe a knit’s qualities, like “emergent elasticity”. The stitch patterns Dr. Matsumoto’s team are investigating constitute a code that is more complex than binary, and results in much more malleable matter. Through an intersection of applied mathematics, nonlinear elasticity, materials engineering, and “soft condensed matter physics”, Dr. Matsumoto’s project is advancing understanding around “topological programmable materials”.6 The timeless techniques shown in this work reveal beauty not only in their assembling process but also in the resulting products. We feel inspired by the timeless tradition of knitting as an adaptable process that can integrate nearly endless varieties of materials. We sense a connection between learning to strengthen our skills at weaving together textiles and our human need for weaving together stories within our communities and relationships.
Scientific inquiries into ancient practices, allow for innovative interpretations of those practices. In terms of new practical applications for how topological programmable materials can be developed, perhaps the fusion of ancient stitch-work with emerging materials might enable clothing that’s wirelessly connected, with the wires stitched directly into the fabric. Taking a broader perspective, the ways in which we integrate digital layers of information into our physical reality, can benefit from increasingly seamless integrations. We are curious how low-tech skills like knitting might show us a wise way forward.
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- Healthy Habits
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- Economic Priorities
- Lessons Ahead