Are plants representative of decentralized intelligence?

In the podcast Mysterious Universe I heard something that seemed a parallel to what this new internet protocol created by Maidsafe is bringing into existence that is a form of intelligence that is similar to plant intelligence. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. if you are short on time check out this Ted Talks.


I would say that Yes, the Safe Network is almost perfectly analogous to the de-centralised “intelligence” of plants. I watched some of the TED video and found the following related article from the New Yorker very interesting and inspiring indeed:

It all depends on your definition of intelligence of course…from the article:

Most definitions of intelligence fall into one of two categories. The first is worded so that intelligence requires a brain; the definition refers to intrinsic mental qualities such as reason, judgment, and abstract thought. The second category, less brain-bound and metaphysical, stresses behavior, defining intelligence as the ability to respond in optimal ways to the challenges presented by one’s environment and circumstances. Not surprisingly, the plant neurobiologists jump into this second camp.

“I define it very simply,” Mancuso said. “Intelligence is the ability to solve problems.” In place of a brain, “what I am looking for is a distributed sort of intelligence, as we see in the swarming of birds.” In a flock, each bird has only to follow a few simple rules, such as maintaining a prescribed distance from its neighbor, yet the collective effect of a great many birds executing a simple algorithm is a complex and supremely well-coördinated behavior. Mancuso’s hypothesis is that something similar is at work in plants, with their thousands of root tips playing the role of the individual birds—gathering and assessing data from the environment and responding in local but coördinated ways that benefit the entire organism.

I’d have to say I’m in the second camp with the (awkwardly named) " Plant Neuro- biologists"too. I think it is more the case that we wrongly ascribe “special” status/qualities/mechanisms to human intelligence, when it is really basically just the same basic inputs/outputs - it’s not that plants are “clever” like us, rather that we’re not clever… the article touches on this:

That sense we get when we think about what might govern a plant—that there is no there there, no wizard behind the curtain pulling the levers—may apply equally well to our brains.

I asked Mancuso if he thought that a plant decides in the same way we might choose at a deli between a Reuben or lox and bagels.
*“Yes, in the same way,” Mancuso wrote back, though he indicated that he had no idea what a Reuben was. “Just put ammonium nitrate in the place of Reuben sandwich (whatever it is) and phosphate instead of salmon, and the roots will make a decision.” But isn’t the root responding simply to the net flow of certain chemicals? “I’m afraid our brain makes decisions in the same exact way.

I find all this stuff fascinating, especially as it leads on to interesting questions about consciousness and free will (we don’t have it I’d say)…anyway, I digress…as usual :smiley:


You mean ANTS! Not plants. Tut tut. :wink:


If we are going to create a massive, Safe, de-centralised, artificially intelligent computer brain, then I say give it the mind of a cabbage!.. :smiley:

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Good idea, all we need now is a suitable donor [looks around] :smile:

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Like… plANTS!


The book that goes over this research is titled ‘Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence’. I hope they ask Dr. Stephanie Murphy to do an audio version for slow readers like myself.

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