Invisible Networks 1: Slime Computation
A 14 day writing exercise that I’m late to: Invisible Networks, inventing a social network every day. Not sure I’ll manage to catch up with the current day eventually, but I couldn’t skip this gem.
Day 1: Slime Computation
Bio engineering had taken off rather explosively (figuratively, in almost all cases) when the first feasible kitchen tree was created. Programmable plants that bore edible fruits, of an ever-increasing variety, were just too weird to be ignored. Excited headlines were written about the instagram-optimised designer products – every generation needs their avocado toast hill to die on, after all.
But where there are designer products, there are also nerds, existing in their own little parallel universe: just them, their tree-growing slime, and their enthusiasm. The nerds who started the Slime Computation Network came from a Venn diagram overlap as unlikely as it was charming: Dads in their 50s who usually tinkered with tech both new and rusty started fixing up old or abandoned slimes. Quiet mothers, grandmothers and aunts who already had a staple of home-grown food (rarely in a garden, often in nooks and crannies and spaces of delicious civil disobedience) refined their slimes with pragmatic care: a kitchen tree was cheaper, after all, and more resilient to the odd seasons wrought by human destruction, and making one yourself made you even stronger, even more quietly, proudly, kindly independent. The technology wasn’t nearly far enough to draw in idle masses, but sad, lonely people of all ages and genders found something they could care for, and that would respond to their care, and that others cared for too, and that their landlords could not object to …
SCN’s traditions are as charming as the group itself. You don’t post about your opinions or your successes or your methods: that way lie arguments and ego, and oh, who of these people would even bother finding their opinion important enough to post them anywhere? Instead, when you meet another slime tinkerer, you talk (maybe you even gossip, just a bit) about your attempts and results and what you heard other people say. And you listen to each other, and later, maybe, you post about the other person’s opinions. You post with care and precision and kindness, and share the mutations they gave you, or the pictures they showed you, and what people can do to replicate the results. Meetings happen everywhere: in real life, on the phone, in video or VR chats and in abandoned hidden internet places. The network moves slowly by nature, but it never sleeps, and there is no power in the world that can stop two nerds who have heard about a new theory and just so happened to meet up for coffee and biscuits.
inspired by Ada Palmer’s kitchen trees, Ursula K. le Guin’s remarks on pickles, and my experiences with renegade kefir and sourdough networks run by quiet mothers and aunts