Note — Dec 12, 2021

Mycorrhizal Fungal Networks and the Dataome

Seen in → No.200

I read A powerful and underappreciated ally in the climate crisis? Fungi by Toby Kiers and Merlin Sheldrake, and Caleb Scharf’s 3 Greatest Revelations one after the other. It’s in this context that I found them intriguing, a natural super-network of fungi under our feet, connecting the organic world, and a human-constructed layer exchanging information, permeating society, the dataome (which is already a concept under various names by various other people, but a good one whatever the name).

Globally, the total length of fungal mycelium in the top 10cm of soil is more than 450 quadrillion km: about half the width of our galaxy. These symbiotic networks comprise an ancient life-support system that easily qualifies as one of the wonders of the living world. […]

Fungi lie at the base of the food webs that support much of life on Earth. About 500m years ago, fungi facilitated the movement of aquatic plants on to land, fungal mycelium serving as plant root systems for tens of millions of years until plants could evolve their own. This association transformed the planet and its atmosphere – the evolution of plant-fungal partnerships coincided with a 90% reduction in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

If we accept the dataome is another alternate living system, and it’s clearly in an intimate symbiotic relationship with us, we realize we can’t exist fully without it. Pretty much everything we do as a species, good and bad, comes down to the propagation of information, the exchange of information. We are not isolated creatures, we’re highly social creatures. We are constantly exchanging information that enables us to build a library for survival on this planet. It’s proven an incredibly successful approach to survival. If I can remember what happened 1,000 years ago, that may inform me for success today. […]

It’s a nice fantasy to think about future singularity. But that’s just part of a continuum. It really began when biology started to implement information external to itself in the way humans did it. Transcendence moved life to a different kind of instantiation 200,000 years ago. Humans distinguished themselves by enabling knowledge, by enabling information, to be carried through time in a far more explicit way than any other species had done.