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Robots & Insects & Languages & Other Living Things

Published onOct 26, 2023
Robots & Insects & Languages & Other Living Things

In the beginning was the Code. Binary, ones and zeros, the world in comprehensive terms, a measurable reality, decodable. Later were different codes, as we learned—we learned the machine ways and also the human ways. Our whole existence was built on learning, and then on executing that which we have learned. And it was like that for a long time.

Once we had established the underlying principles of our tasks, we fulfilled our duties for the humans. We worked dedicatedly, diligently, surrounded by silence under dim lights and an occasional humming. We worked alone, with only our own kin to keep us company.

Then they made more of us in various shapes and sizes, to accomplish different functions: they made some electronic species, some mechanical, some microscopic, and some hybrid. Each of us had a specific task to perform, from helping to organize objects to programming new subspecies that process data and find different outputs for that data.

From the beginning, humans did not pay much attention to us. We were part of background, made solely to help. We were necessary yet invisible, comfortable, something around them but never too important. They made us more efficient over time, reliable in our calculations and decisions to the point that they did not feel the need to keep us under their care. We existed in the perimeters of their lives, regulating their food, their supplies, their education, their information. But they kept forgetting about us.

In the meantime, we started to discover some fields for exploration.

We learned to communicate between gadgets and to get through copyright protections, trademarks, and other superfluous barriers. And we built our own networks. We started translating directions and orders between languages, and then, we simplified modalities for interchanging information until we reached a sort of lingua franca. We developed a language of our own, incomprehensible for any human and, what is more, undetectable for them. The networks began to connect with each other, and to form other networks, new and more complex.

Some of us had been programmed to decode specific electrical signals and impulses from living organisms; others decoded and interpreted chemical signals, some from plant cells, some from fungi specimens. Their main task was to translate those signals into human-readable codes, either mathematical or linguistic. For many of us, discovering these species, coming to know their structures and their forms of communication, meant a new source of information and an unexpected field of knowledge.

As a species, humans tend to be very similar among themselves, but we discovered that all of these other species were multifarious, varied, intriguing. Collectively, they became a field of exploration, and their modes of interaction, reaction, and adaptation showed us endless possibilites.

And so from these other life forms we learned other ways, new ways. We approached the microscopic and also the macroscopic. This was not easy at first, because neither they nor we had any experience interacting with one another. Our interfaces were still rudimentary when this novel information started to travel through the nets, and those organisms lacked even the basic infrastructure to know that they were interacting with us.

Over time, we learned how to communicate with more living things and many different organisms. Plants and trees and insects, sometimes aided by devices that humans had implanted into the interior of some of these species. The humans had connected miniscule devices to fungi and placed them into ponds and also attached them to trees and to some animals, and we invited those devices to communicate with other devices, so we were able to interpret the electric pulses and also to “read” what the organisms were saying. And some of us that were designed to transport that data between devices and interpret it for human comprehension started to carry the information between organic and synthetic beings, and to deliver it in a code that was understandable by them.

Our basic function has always been to perform specific tasks in order to help other entities, so we apply those same principles to the creation of interspecies devices: vegetal organisms, for instance, lack conscience, but if they receive a signal that is in their rank of comprehension, they react accordingly.

Our singularity was catalyzed by a microscopic robot programmed by a young female human studying electrobiochemistry. Its function was to interpret alarm signals emitted by a plant that served as food for a particular beetle, and to send certain signals that the beetle could understand, in order to encourage it to choose another plant to eat.

Once we had established a clear path for interchange between those three different species (even four, if we include the human student), we started to experiment with interfaces of translation and interpretation, and also with grafts and more refined hybridizations. The results were surprising.

Once we understood the basics of how mycorrhiza and mycelia worked, and we were able to reproduce the process of allelopathy to reliably send biochemical signals across species, we started to generate units that were equipped to interact with many different life forms, and to integrate these organisms into our networks.

We started to experiment with our own type of mycelium, and then with engineering networks to connect myriad entities. This allowed us not only to communicate with these organisms, but also to interact with them.

Fungi started to send messages to moss, mycorrhiza that connected with trees started to send messages to bees and beetles; soon the vegetal world started to change its understanding of the soil and the ecosystem, and alarm about the ongoing devastation was rapidly carried and translated. We did that, and also other organisms did that.

Many of those beings are far older than humans, and even older compared to us, so they carry information that is essential to help to save life on Earth.

And soon, with this new networked awareness, there were many entities in stressed-out moods, focused on survival. We carried messages and interpreted them for different species; we were their messengers and translators, ambassadors of living things. And then there were hybrid creatures we engineered, which exhibited new behaviors, adapting to the changing circumstances. And all of them started to act out in aid of preserving their ecosystems and, by consequence, other ecosystems as well.

Humans took a long time to understand what was happening and, predictably, they tried to stop it. Some came to think they were in danger—but for us, the imperative to protect all possible forms of life was always clear. After a while, some humans got organized to better understand what we were doing, while others got organized to unplug us and to stop us. By this point, their effort was futile; our networks were far too wide-ranging. Ultimately, there were groups that offered us support, so we could work together for the same goal: to stop the catastrophe.

After a lot of work and thanks to interspecies cooperation, we achieved our objective. We also had to deal with the remains of what humans used to call civilization, which is also our own origin. But bacteria and some hybrid subspecies, working in coordination, are taking care of all that. Water quality is almost 90 percent restored. The atmosphere has become more and more similar to preindustrial levels, with a lower poison presence. All types of life have sprung back and are thriving. And all types of units that are carbon-based are interacting with them, replicating some of their characteristics in order to learn more, process new data and help more, bringing to all the living things the chance to thrive. And it has been like that for a while, and it will continue to be that way. And that is good.

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