Note — Sep 05, 2021

The Fungal Mind: on the Evidence for Mushroom Intelligence

Seen in → No.186

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There are three things particularly interesting about fungi. First, simply their existence and what they do. Without fail, some astonishment is in store when reading about them. Two, the discoveries themselves, how researchers are expanding our knowledge of the various forms and talents of fungi. Three, and perhaps most intriguing in this piece, is that there seems to be almost as much thinking to be done around the semantics of what is discovered as there is to be unearthed. Consciousness, intelligence, communication, collaboration. Our vocabulary, in itself or in our day-to-day use, is so anthropocentric that it makes it that much harder to name what we find.

Mushrooms are the reproductive organs produced by fungi that spend most of their lives below ground in the form of microscopic filaments called hyphae. These hyphae, in turn, branch to form colonies called mycelia. Mycelia spread out in three dimensions within soil and leaf litter, absorbing water and feeding on roots, wood, and the bodies of dead insects and other animals. […]

As crucial players in the ecology of the planet, these fascinating organisms deserve our full attention as genuine partners in sustaining a functional biosphere. […]

Fungal expressions of consciousness are certainly very simple. But they do align with an emerging consensus that, while the human mind might be particular in its refinements, it’s typical in its cellular mechanisms.