Repairs: A Comparison Between Mechanical and Biological Systems
Evolution is the driving force in life’s relentless continuum. Heedless of an ultimate objective, it instinctively unveils “a highly optimized solution for the task at hand” (Stiefel, 2016). After witnessing such efficient and effective biologic mechanisms, humans began modeling tools, structures, and practices after evolutionarily successful systems. A camera lens, for example, mechanically mimics the biological function of a human lens. In fact, lenses demonstrate “how evolution and engineering [designed] superficially similar but intriguingly different structures (Stiefel, 2016). Both the camera and eye lens encounter interferences that hinder visual acuity, but due to the camera’s mechanical design, repair is less traumatic and more straightforward than restoring the natural biology of the human eye suffering a cataract.
When a camera lens experiences light interference, its man-made design permits repair with relative ease compared to its evolutionarily devised counterpart. A camera lens, like that of the eye, collects, reflects, and focuses light (Stiefel, 2016). Foreign agents or water vapor occasionally adhere and obstruct light refraction, creating blurry images until the lens is wiped clean. The camera lens exemplifies the human tendency to imitate outstanding biology in mechanics, but because “human engineers are not limited by biological constraints” their products are often simplified versions of organic systems (Stiefel, 2016). Cleaning a camera lens illustrates this principle as its uncomplicated repair avoids biological barriers while its automated design withstands small-scale impediments.
A healthy eye lens focuses light rays to refract upon the retina, but when natural complications, like cataracts, arise, repair requires demanding treatment. While water adhesion impedes visual clarity on a camera lens, fluids play a vital role in maintaining ocular function of the cornea and retina. Humans experience hindrance when proteins in the lens clump together and cloud normally clear vision, a condition known as cataracts (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Interference on a camera lens solely alters the appearance of a photograph, but obstruction of a human lens affects how humans respond and emotionally perceive optical stimuli. Cataracts illustrate a biological disadvantage as a mere blink will not restore visual acuity. Rather, an artificial lens must replace the clouded interior lens. Healing any feature of the human body is undoubtedly more complicated than repairing machinery, but man’s ability to design specialized tools that can alleviate both automated and biological complications “is one of the great triumphs of humanity” that illustrates the immense capacity of living systems (Stiefel, 2016).
Examining the repairability between biological and mechanical optical systems prompts the query as to which structure is more successful in completing its designed objective. Camera technology is already surpassing the efficiency of human vision with products like hyperspectral imaging that can “create […] images beyond what the eye can see” (Matchar, 2015). While technology may exceed biological limits, a human’s remarkable consciousness maintains inscrutable networks between physical and emotional states, such as fear or arousal stimulating pupillary contraction or dilation, that machinery is incapable of replicating. Replacing a clouded eye lens is much more invasive than repairing a camera lens, but at this expense comes the ability to experience the cognitive and emotional wonders that human sight triggers.
Matchar, Emily (2015). This Camera Sees What Your Eyes Can’t, Washington DC: The Smithsonian
Stiefel, Klaus (2016). The Camera and the Brain: What Visual Science Can Teach The
Photographer, Scotts Valley, CA: Createspace independent Publishing The Mayo Clinic (2018). Cataracts, Rochester, MN: The Mayo Clinic