Can Mushrooms Speak?

Humans spend hours observing the natural world to find inspiration.  We look to the other kingdoms out there in order to make our human world a better place.  As I read more and more about network surveillance, such as you see in PRISM and with the NSA, it surprises me that some super-genius hasn’t studied the effective communication of mushrooms.

Yes, that’s right, mushrooms.

Mushrooms have a complex communication system.  Let’s say that you have a mycelium in your yard, working its magic on a compost pile.  Now, let’s say that same type of mushroom is working on someone’s else compost pile.  With amazing speed and precision, these mushrooms send chains of information to each other.  As they do this, warnings, ideas and, for lack of a better word, suggestions are exchanged in an energetic manner.

Scientists have learned that plants will harness this “information superhighway” to protect themselves.  If one plant is taken over with aphids, it sends out a distress signal.  This call is picked up and transferred to the other plants via fungi.  It is a deep relationship between organisms that ensures survival of both species.

Mystics and madmen (and women) have tried to understand the complex structures of nature through poetry, religion and art.  They’ve worked on trying to translate what they see and hear to a medium that makes sense to the outside world.  What we are learning from science and technology is that we have only barely scratched the surface of our understanding our natural surroundings. What I’m describing is called biomimicry, where sci-tech meets nature, and more articles are showing up in my geeks news about the topic.  Some recent examples are: 7 examples of biomimicry and how biomimicry might be able to defeat hackers.

“I see the mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet, a consciousness with which we might be able to communicate. Through cross-species interfacing, we may one day exchange information with these sentient cellular networks. Because these externalized neurological nets sense any impression upon them, from footsteps to falling tree branches, they could relay enormous amounts of data regarding the movements of all organisms through the landscape.”

― Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

Stamets is an American mycologist who studies the technology of mushrooms.  According to some of his research, mushrooms can be used for remediation of toxic sites and oil spills. During his research he found a particular mushroom that helped him remove ants from his home.

Fueled by the laughter of children, too much coffee, and the silly antics of chickens, my mind wanders into places where technology and nature meet.  If plants communicate with a series of underground languages, wouldn’t humans be able to have the same ability? Imagine how interesting it would be if we could activate that “…fearfully and wonderfully made…” part of ourselves.

Until that time we must learn to understand and navigate the modern technological systems created by humanity.

- Kim Upton, Rogue Geek Tech Editor

About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out in April 2015


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