Will blockchain technology some day closely mimic the complexities of the natural world?
The Plantoid, a “blockchain-based life form,” marks an attempt to demonstrate the potential for technology to emulate the natural world. Plantoid uses art to illustrate the creation of autonomous, blockchain-based entities that manage their own activities and even reproduce.
“As a ‘blockchain-based life form,’ the Plantoid brings the concept of autonomy to a whole new level,” said Primavera De Filippi, who manages the project, according to an article in SingularityHub, a site affiliated with Singularity University that chronicles technological progress. De Filippi is the founder of Okhaos, the art collective behind Plantoid, and a faculty associate at the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard.
The Plantoid is the natural world equivalent of an android, according to the Okhaos website. For the purpose of an illustration, the Plantoid is an autopoietic sculpture, an artist that owns and supports itself and eventually reproduces.
The Plantoid is part of an ecosystem of relationships driven by aesthetic beauty and automated governance, the Okhaos site explains. It is a hybrid entity that exists in both the virtual and physical realms and can interact with other entities on the blockchain.
In its physical form, the Plantoid is a mechanical structure in a public space exhibiting beauty and seeking donations to its bitcoin wallet based on its attractiveness.
The Plantoid deploys its own distributed autonomous organization (DAO) that allows it to interact with the real world by offering contractual incentives for other entities to support its reproduction by sending funds to the bitcoin wallet or giving time in the Plantoid’s governing entity.
Plantoid demonstrates how far human-made systems can mimic the natural world’s mechanisms, the SingularityHub article noted. While scientists quarrel over what defines a life form, consensus holds that life forms are capable of taking energy from the environment and transferring it into growth and reproduction.
A Plantoid similarly takes energy in the form of a bitcoin and uses the funds to reproduce. It exists as a sculpture (a plant version of an android) and as a blockchain smart contract.
The sculpture version accumulates bitcoin from humans. Once it has earned enough bitcoin, its code can independently hire artists who produce a new version of itself.
Once the Plantoid has been created, it can expand and seek out its ecological place in the world. Like a plant, it depends on interactions with other parts of the natural world to survive. As a flower might attract a bee to pollinate it with its colors and shape, a Plantoid depends on a particular aesthetic beauty to attract humans to donate bitcoin.
The Plantoid eventually has to earn enough bitcoins to hire an artist who can make its offspring. When this is done, the bitcoin donors contribute a vote on which artist or artists can build the next version. Once a Plantoid identifies the artists, it automatically commissions them to design and create a new version of itself and can manage their payment transactions via its encoded smart contract.
As more Plantoids are created, Darwinian natural selection emerges. Plantoids compete for bitcoin. To incentivize the artists creating the Plantoid designs, the project’s creators have designed a system where each donation paid to a Plantoid acts as a royalty fee to each of its ancestors and the artists who created them.
The system mimics nature’s reproductive drive. The Plantoid passes along the best “genes” in the form of the most aesthetically appealing art.
As blockchain technologies expand, the line between the technology and the natural world could blur. Samuel Arbesman, a complexity scientist, said people will describe things like financial irregularities and computer glitches in the same imperfect way they describe the weather.
Blockchain technology provides the infrastructure that will allow autonomous entities to function. They could also become as dynamic and complex as the biological world.
Images from Okhaos.
Last modified: March 4, 2021 4:53 PM