On an October day in 2015, ecologist Meredith Root-Bernstein was watching a family of rare pigs at a Parisian zoo when something caught her eye. One of the Visayan warty pigs—a critically endangered species native to the Philippines—picked up a piece of bark in its mouth and started digging with it, pushing the soil around. “I said, Whoa, that’s pretty cool,” says Root-Bernstein, a visiting researcher at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris and a National Geographic Explorer. “When I looked up tool use in pigs, there was nothing.”
— Christine Dell’Amore, in National Geographic Oct 4, 2019
A number of species are known to be tool users, and some even are known to innovate new tool using behaviors from generation to generation. That is to say, they have a tool culture. But it has not been recognized to be true of pigs who are noted for their intelligence. I am delighted to discover another members of the small club of artifact using, making and designing species.
Design consciousness begins the moment when we (or any other species) begins to use artifacts that are dependent on behavioral rather than biological evolution. It is a long climb from simple tool use, such as that demonstrated by the pigs in this video, to the habitual and intentional design innovation of new tools that is the hallmark of being Human.
It lends further support to our awareness of this fact and the attempts that we are making now to figure out how to do it more systematically and at greater speed and scale. The ultimate shift in design consciousness is when we come around to recognizing design as an expression of the same adaptive instinct that compels a pig to pick up a piece of bark to dig their nests.
I find these signs of rising design concsiousness reassuring .