THE BLOG
01/11/2011 17:59 GMT | Updated 01/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Planet Earth Plc Launches Its Latest Innovation

The design team at Planet Earth Plc gathered this weekend to launch the 7,000,000,000th new product in its 4.5 billion year history of innovative designs for its enduringly popular Homo Sapiens range.

The design team at Planet Earth Plc gathered this weekend to launch the 7,000,000,000th new product in its 4.5 billion year history of innovative designs for its enduringly popular Homo Sapiens range.

To impressed gasps from the assembled onlookers at the launch event, the latest Homo Sapiens model was announced as Danica May Camacho, a 'girl' (one of two common homo sapiens products) in the R&D business unit known as the 'Philippines'.

While some have been celebrating the arrival of the seven billionth person on the planet like teenagers gulping back Stella, pinot grigot and Jagerbombs with a wilful disregard for the impending and catastrophic hangover the next day, others are not so confident. In contrast, the United Nations chose to celebrate the symbolic event by arranging a meeting between Danica and 12-year-old Lorrize Mae Guevarra - the six billionth person, born in 1999 - and here at PAULEY HQ we've noticed a real sense of panic too.

The sustainability challenges the world now faces look daunting to say the least and, to some more pessimistic than me, entirely unachievable. War, pestilence, global warming and general chaos are the predictions from some of the most hard-line doom-mongers.

The number of mouths to feed and minds to fill with reality TV and increasingly mind-numbing pop culture is growing faster than ever. The planet's ability to keep pace with demand is being stretched like the old, crumbling elastic band I found down the back of the sofa last night.

Maybe it's because designers are an optimistic breed but when people make gloomy predictions about society's inability to cater for its huge population growth they continually ignore one thing - the ability of people and of the planet itself to innovate, adapt and create new solutions.

Just take the innovation analogy with the birth of Danica May. The big old factory that is the earth has been producing incredible innovations - human or otherwise - for more than 4.5 billion years. Its designs have been refined over such a long period that the results are elegant, beautiful, miraculous and most importantly, sustainable. I've always been an early riser but no matter what time I get up, I'm never going to claw back the head start that planet earth's design team has.

Admittedly, Homo Sapiens has been doing his best to mess with these solutions over the last few hundred years but there's still plenty to be optimistic about. Biomimicry, or 'copying nature', for those that prefer a more straightforward approach to the English langauge, is slowly inspiring more and more engineers to approach problems using the elegant and sustainable solutions found in nature. Instead of a brutal fuel-guzzling engine you get a silent, economical and super-fast eagle's wing.

The way termite mounds regulate temperature leads to more heat-efficient buildings. The shimmering reflectivity in butterflies' wings helps create new low-power digital displays that use ambient light to power mobile phone displays. You get the idea. Taking inspiration from the natural world is just one of the new ways humans are finding solutions to the problems posed by their own, huge, numbers.

Making connections between ideas, technologies and ideas is key to improving designs. As Steve Jobs explained, if he'd never dropped in on a calligraphy class while at college - despite it having no value then to his future career - he would never have known how to put beautiful typography and styling at the heart of his computers and, consequently, all the copycat computers that followed.

Joining the dots between diverse areas of science, the arts, philosophy, maths, entertainment and engineering is the key to overcoming the sustainability challenges facing the planet. There might not appear to be much connection between rice yields in the paddy fields of Vietnam and some esoteric piece of materials science research in a lab on the other side of the world but the people able to make these types of connections in the future will increasingly be the designers, innovators and engineers that generate radical and more sustainable ways of solving the world's problems.

By doing that, I'm certain we'll find new ways of delivering resources and information to the world's seven billion people faster, cleaner and greener than ever before.

In today's interconnected world, it's the ideas, energy and creative thinking that people bring to the world that will help it survive. The more ideas, connections, perspectives and cross-over links we have the better. To all those concerned that we reached seven billion Danica Mays so soon, I say we should look forward to the ideas that each one of the next billion might offer Planet Earth Plc.