Smartphones And Slime Molds

Early on in Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive, Carl Zimmer has a few observations to make about slime molds.

Slime molds manage this escape by using a brainless kind of memory. They continually send out probing tentacles, and the ones that don’t detect increasing signals of food retract. As they pull back, the tentacles leaves behind a slimy coat. Physarum can sense its own trails and will steer its new tentacles away from them. This external memory lets a slime mold override its attraction to sugar. Rather than banging its multiheaded head against the acetate wall, it can move out of the cul-de-sac and explore new paths toward food. We need a brain to remember things, but Physarum has no such organ. Instead, it stores a record of its experiences in the outside world.

In my last post, I talked about how my baseline functioning can be more or less fully described as the various and sundry things necessary for independent living, but it’s worth nothing that my capacity to successfully live independently has greatly increased with the advent of the smartphone.

Prior to the era of the smartphone, my ability to stick to a budget was questionable at best. In the era of the smartphone, I don’t miss appointments; I “remember” to take my meds, and feed my cats.

Had I been diagnosed as autistic fifteen years ago, anyone determining my abilities in the so-called Instrumental Activities of Daily Life would have had some excuse for skepticism. Like slime molds, I need to outsource my brain to some external help.