Not so much a dissertation . . . I am developing an ontology to compare biology and engineering, eventually to enable the solution of engineering problems using solutions suggested by biology. The basic concept is to define design problems in terms of trade-offs a form of definition available both in engineering and in biology. Many solutions are already available in engineering (via TRIZ). The presentation will be an open demonstration and exploration and discussion of the ontology (currently with the editor Protege).
Julian Vincent is a biologist who got taken up by materials science, biomimetics, engineering, and sustainability, the one leading inexorably into the next. He regards his 40 years in academia (first as a zoologist in Reading, then as a mechanical engineer in Bath) as his apprenticeship. He is currently trying to bring all these strands together into a model of biomimetics based on the concept that the evolution of organisms is an unbroken trail of pragmatic solutions to the problems of existence. This is expressed in an ontology that uses the Russian system TRIZ as a function-based guide to the identification of the Hegelian dialectic: thesis—antithesis—synthesis. Out of this will come - he hopes - a design guide that can direct technology into greater responsiveness to its immediate environment. Which is, of course, what genes do.