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Billy Almon



My name is billy allman and I am a biology inspired storyteller and designer so I look at organisms in nature I get an understanding of how they innovate how they have an innovative and I look for opportunities to apply that to challenges at the human scale. Wow now I regret to say I I heard about you last year at the blackened design conference that goes on at Harvard Graduate School of design. You are on this panel with actually with two other people who've been on the show are Emelin Ciano and Jim Rome Harris. Yes so I know that the panel was about like equity and justice in technology and media. Remember you gave this example about a slime mold that I thought I was sitting in the back. Like wow that is really dope. How would you heard about the event before you spoke there? I've been trying to go to the event trying to attend the event since the first conference and my wife. Actually told me about opportunity when they started looking for speakers for the last conference so she actually reached out to them and said. Hey check out this guy named Billy Allman. You might be good for your conference and then they reach out to me with an inquiry about participating. Nice. Yeah I I mentioned before we saw record how your wife had. She reached out to me to like years and years ago about starting podcast. So that's dope that. She's been proactive in helping out like that. She's the most self actualized person I've ever met. It does wonders for my career. So I read where you refer to yourself as a bio mimicry advocate and practitioner. So of course I have to ask I feel like you probably get asked this on every podcast but what is bio mimicry? And how do you use it in your life? So bio mimicry comes from this term called biomet nieces which translates to imitate life and essentially. It's the idea of turning to nature for inspiration on how to solve problems if you think about the world in which we live in every single organism on this planet whether human or bacteria or mammals all of us have to deal with the same conditions of sunlight cyclical processes ebbs and flows in in resources competition. Environmental Factors that. Play into how we live our lives. And so when you think about the fact that we all experience these things and we think about the fact that a lot of these organisms have been around longer than we have. You start to see that. There's all of these existing methods and strategies for solving problems that exist in the natural world. And so what bio mimicry does is we study these organisms and then we find kind of the underlying tactic or strategy or function. That's at play at how these organisms are solving their problems. And then we apply that to parallel problems that humans face to give you an example. Velcro is an example of the Bio mimetic process at play the designer of Velcro. He was a Swiss gentleman who would take his dog for walks right and every time that he would come home he would find these little spherical seeds attached to the furthest dog so he took the seeds under his microscope and saw that there was these curly little hooks on the end of of each strand of the seed and he realized that this is a great way that this seed attached to animals curly little hooks and that became the inspiration for Velcro. So if you think about how velcro looks when you look at it up close. It's all of these little strands and curly strings on one side with I wish counterpart on the other so velcro came from the strategy of the C. Which is called a bird seed to attach to animals? In order to have the animals carry the seeds to locations where they might potentially grow. Oh interesting yeah. I've heard I've heard something about that with velcro now. Now there's I guess there's different types of Velcro. Now where the I guess the matting isn't as plush or the hooks aren't as deep but it is still based off of that same premise. Of of what you've seen in nature you're able to recreate that in like an industrial setting exactly so given that example like I feel like that's something we probably as kids just running around and field and stuff have like kind of instinctively picked up. You know you run around and you've got grass and all kinds of stuff stuck to your pants and your shirt and your hair or anything like that. When did you sort of I learn about bio mimicry? When did you? I know this was something that you were into. I actually came across by mimicry as result of Hurricane Katrina and by that I mean after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I was architecture student at Howard University at the time and after the storm hit and after the manmade disaster that followed there was a lot of students. Obviously not only at Howard but around the world but at Howard. There are a lot of students who wanted to do something. Just how can we help about five hundred students from how university drove down to New Orleans and to the Gulf coast to just find ways to volunteer to help during our spring break and singing? What took place up. Close had like the most transformative experience. It was the most transformative experience I've ever had. Just witnessing you know people who look like you people who look like me in the conditions that that that disaster left that community and so as an architecture student I was just curious like how do we avoid this from happening. How do we create spaces and communities where this event is not taking place and especially knowing that climate change is not going away that you know especially coastal cities and people In low income neighborhoods are going to be? The most affected are the most affected by climate change. How do we prevent these kinds of things from happening again? And in in trying to find answers to that question I came across this book called Bio Mimicry. Innovation inspired by nature which was written by a woman named Janine Banias and after I read that like everything for me change. It became my my design philosophy. Nice so once you learn the well hold on. Let me switch gears a little bit because you mentioned climate change and here in Atlanta. We have a Museum of design here and twenty twenty. The theme that they have for this year is the Year of climate change. Actually by the time this episode airs there will actually be an exhibit there about bio mimicry is titled Learning From Nature. The future of design was developed in collaboration with the Bio Mimicry Institute. I'm really interested in checking that out because I heard about that right around the same time that I was at blackened design and I was like I need to learn more about this because the examples that you were giving during that panel talk really kind of inspired me to think about what are ways. That designers could possibly use nature for design for technology for creating more equitable futures. Which will get to you know later on in the conversation but I wanted to to mention that. So let's switch gears here a bit because you talked about Howard University so I wanna go back a little bit further than that. Where did you grow up? I was a military Brat. Growing up my dad was in the army and my mom worked for the Department of Defense and so I was born in Germany. I think we move back to the states when I was gonNA say like one. Maybe two bounced around several states. Texas lived in Georgia. A little bit lived in Maryland before I went to Howard lived in South Korea and then back to Germany. So just all over the place which was a fun experience especially when you get to come across kids who have like friends that they've known since they were like in diapers. And you know I have a new best friend every two years so that was always a fun experience growing up with all of that travelling in like seeing the country seeing the world. How did that shape you creatively? Oh man made everything possible. It told me that there's more options than I think right away. And and it kind of had all these different flavors to you know the mix of how you can create something new by just introducing a new or different perspective on what you're trying to do. Does that make sense now? That makes sense because it's sort of like that added. You can't be what you don't see. Yeah so like the fact that you're able to see all of these different experiences different people different cultures etc like that all feeds into. You know just kind of who you are. Yeah and I gotTa tell you if there was one thing that really stuck out to me about the experience of all that travelling as a as a young kid was just the value of exposure. I mean like you say you don't know what you don't know once you're exposed to something it just reintroduce you to another level of possibilities right so I can't emphasize enough. How much exposure even in a lot of the work that I'm doing now. How big of a role that place.

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