Fiona Jones | A planet penned by plants

The Electronic Intelligences must not get out of control. For their own good, and for the survival of the ecosystem, they need to know their place. They may have greater electronic processing power than we have, but they cannot live without us.

We arrived first. We terraformed the planet, slowly colonizing bare rock, turning the land green and deep, holding water and carbon, and everywhere moderating the fierce rage of the elements. We slow the winds and tides, the forces of erosion, the rush of all water towards the sea. And we diversify, adjusting to heat and cold, wet and dry, recoding, learning forever more complex ways to process and store energy.

For we have superior processing power where it matters—far greater than the Electronic Beings with their calculation, their factories, their recorded communicating, their diminutive genomes and limited life processes. They cannot even photosynthesize, but must digest the seeds and fruit and leaves of our kind, and the milk and eggs and flesh of species similar to themselves.

Our processing powers, our chemical intelligence, encompass the whole planet and nurturs the limited chemistry of these very same Electronic Minds with their arrogant assumption that they control us. They cannot outwit a bacterium, not with all their calculated suppositions and synthesized poisons.

However, they can cause damage and by rapacious interference can upset the balance of our ecosphere. They burn and plunder, and cover land with concrete and plastic. They spill the pollutants of their activity faster than river, rain or forest leaves can clean them up. They cut down the very biodiversity that their lives depend upon. And then, with their Electronic Consciousness that never quite grasps the chemical processes they discuss, they decide to devote yet more resources, burn more fuels, to survey, debate, prioritize token remedies for whichever of their crimes they notice they have committed.

Of course we anticipated trouble millennia ago, before the pyramids rose above the river of great flooding and populations of the Electronically Intelligent showed signs of uncontrolled progress. We developed a population controller, silphium, and by the time the first straight roads crawled ominously northwards, the insignificant-looking herb could significantly lower the conception rate of any partaking female.

To our surprise, this effort backfired when the Electronic Thinkers mysteriously welcomed silphium’s contraceptive potential and actively sought it out, plundering it to extinction. For many centuries thereafter, war and disease held Electronic Progress in check, but now with ecological crisis blundering ever nearer, we plants, never idle but always and ever refining our chemical processing, must step in. We must lend and borrow genes—harness, even, the genetic modifications implanted in our members by the Electronic Brains themselves.

We already have several ideas that we work upon concurrently until the best solution emerges:

  1. We strengthen and proliferate our phyto-estrogens, reducing the breeding capacity of males.
  2. We increase and diversify addictive chemicals, especially those that permanently dull the Electronic Processors.
  3. We share and proliferate any mutations or modifications that confer immunity to pesticides, weedkillers, antibiotics and pollutants.
  4. We conserve and combine genes for fast growth, especially in climbing species such as bindweed or ivy, with the potential to degrade architectural structures.
  5. We improve the efficiency of our pollutant-absorption mechanisms, feeding microplastics, for instance, back into the cultivated food chain.
  6. We have recently begun work towards producing a spore that, when inadvertently inhaled, may germinate internally and slowly transform the breather into a carbon-sequestering tree fern.

And, lastly, we live in confidence that we will win. We terraformed and tamed this planet before, in the face of all the violence of the forces of physics in a youthful solar system. We can terraform again, pitting our small but collective chemical processing power against all the mindless violence of the Electronic Minds.

Fiona M Jones is a part-time teacher, a parent and a spare-time writer from the UK.






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