mycelial technology

Mycelial Design Patterns

26 October, 2018

This is the second part of a two-part essay which first appeared on Scuttlebutt [1] as an exploration of growing the ecosystem. Part one: Growing Forests [2].

1. Think long-term. Dream the future that will support as much diversity and interdependence as possible and then anchor it through integration, practice and reflection. This is already going on in the Scuttleverse so I won’t expand further.

2. Be experimental. The saprotrophic (foraging / decomposing) fungi stream nuclei to their rapidly branching and elongating tips. These nuclei provide the compute resources to analyze external environmental conditions and respond accordingly. Fungi are capable of synthesizing some 200,000 unique compounds, many of which are acids and enzymes deployed to dissassmble metals, minerals, baceria etc. So, again, a diversity of approaches is best. Allocate some grants as small packages and let grantees scout the terrain of possibility. I think the $5k grants from Dfinity were a great practice of this kind of experimental embrace.

3. Store energy when it’s plentiful. Some species of fungi grow underground storage vessels known as sclerotia or truffles. These dense nuggets of mycelium provide sustenance in periods of prolonged adverse conditions (drought, lack of food etc.). I think efforts like the Open Collective etc. can play a role in facilitating this kind of saving. Times may come when we have no incoming funding and then the surplus of previous crops can keep us going. I think we should be wary of spending all available resources as they come in.

4. Foster collaboration and sharing across boundaries. As others have stated already, mycelia of many species interconnect the root-zones of plants and trees, thereby providing the infrastructure for distributing nutrients and messages in a way which supports the collective. The more we can forge relationships between SSB and other p2p, decent techno-communities the better. So perhaps some funds may be allocated to collaborative projects which strengthen both SSB and other regions of The Chorus (ie. dat, ipfs, cabal etc.). I also think this cross-boundary funding should ultimately reach out into geographically local projects and communities. By that I mean the funding of permaculture and earthworks, healing, teaching etc.

5. Foster collaboration and sharing inside the Scuttleverse. This is closely related to the above point but I think of it more in terms of ensuring our documentation is top-notch and accessible. Mycelium learns to digest novel compounds and then shares that knowledge with the rest of the network, meaning that those compounds are rapidly decomposed when encountered the second time around. This ability to learn through trial-and-error and then disseminate the information is key to the adaptability and resilience of the network. As such, it seem pertinent to continue funding the creation of documentation, not just of the software variety but that produces through reflection and retrospectives (facilitating and produced by ethnographers, organizational analysts, participatory process folx etc.). I already see encouraging examples of this here.

6. Live cheap. Fungi disassemble what they have available to them and build with the resulting molecules. This is what voice of the mushroom said to Terence McKenna: ‘when you’re a mushroom, you live cheap!’. We must strive to allow for running nodes with the lowest possible resource inputs. There are a bunch of cool projects which fall under this category, some of which are already underway (@cel [3] is working on minimal sbot, for example). Perhaps we should think about funding things like 32-bit support, the creation of RPi installation guides, more electronics shenanigans, guides on solar setups and recycling batteries etc. I reckon ssb-wiki would really help in arranging this knowledge.

7. Decompose by design. We need to get better at extracting valuable elements from waste and ensuring that our building materials do not cause detrimental effects to the wider eco-system when they decay. This one is still relatively unformed in my mind, but I’m thinking about things like using biomaterials in place of plastics, plastic digesters etc. The work of @Sam Smith [4] and @dangerousbeans [5] et al. comes to mind. I wonder how this concept relates to software and sociotechnical tribes.

I’m going to leave it at that for now. There might be some upcoming episodes of The Local Gossip which explore these topics in more details. I realize that most of what I’ve highlighted above is already manifested in Scuttlebutt in beautiful ways. I hope this mini-essay doesn’t come across as being ignorant of all the effort that’s going on. In many ways, I’m just fractal-gazing at double-exposures of the mycelium and Scuttlemesh and pointing out the symmetries I see. Apologies for the long post and thank you if you stuck with me to this point ;) Keep up the cross-pollination and keep making friends with non-humyns!


  1. Cypherlink to part 2: %+dhqokfiKrZMTANy53fSOliuW5gN+UbzMa4VeB6hTG4=.sha256
  2. Cypherlink to part 1: %RRp5H5obsNYHhjSa/2FAxcTiyGGVvhPKAUYYgZTj6hI=.sha256
  3. @cel (public key): @f/6sQ6d2CMxRUhLpspgGIulDxDCwYD7DzFzPNr7u5AU=.ed25519
  4. @Sam Smith (public key): @w87xXIicF6SVqG0VIBqbKfHJ/QuXdBOBhtMUweZxE4k=.ed25519
  5. @dangerousbeans (public key): @TXKFQehlyoSn8UJAIVP/k2BjFINC591MlBC2e2d24mA=.ed25519