Printed: 2020-09-29

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies





IEET Link: https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/rinesi20200905

Short story: The Green Gears

Marcelo Rinesi


Adversarial Metanoia


https://adversarialmetanoia.substack.com/p/the-green-gears

September 05, 2020

Sometimes she pictured small computer screens inside each leaf, code scrolling through them like a bad movie’s idea of what hacking looks like.

She knew it was plain chemistry—changes in molecules, rearrangements of the same universal atoms—but it was also software that continuously adjusted plant physiology to internal and external conditions, even “downloading upgrades” from artificial viruses raining each night from drones like an invisible kabbalah - a highly structured prayer against hunger and war.

Thus was fed a world of dying soils, crumbling weather, and worse. With computers you could eat that were also plants that ran software.

Yet anything that thought could think anything; that had been Turing’s insight, a century before and at the root of everything. What else might the world’s farmed fields, its carbon-capture forests, the post-collapse artificial ecosystems, could be thinking about during the scorching days and the noisome nights? What other software was running on them, written by whom, and for what purpose? Only a minimal percentage of most computer’s processing power was dedicated to its user’s goals - the rest is overhead, copyright control systems, spyware, worms, and other crimes, legal and illegal, too new to have been named. What hidden code was running, even now, on the wheat fields and the Hail Mary pass of the kudzu forests?

But I exaggerate. For her it was but the ghost of an idea, perhaps a seed. Nothing as detailed or as passionate as what you just read, merely a passing fancy that often came to her as she fell asleep, and already forgotten when she woke up in the morning, the memory having been unweaved, as always, by the code running on her neurons.


Marcelo Rinesi is the IEET's Chief Technology Officer, and former Assistant Director. He is also a freelance Data Intelligence Analyst.

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