For many space-faring species, interstellar travel is the most significant technological advancement they have ever made. One would think that creating artificial life and uplifting that life to sophont intelligence would be the only rival. However, in the case of the sophonts of Chigon, there is one other technology worth mentioning. Biocomputation. The idea of using silicon chips to process binary data in analytical engines based on principles developed (on earth) by Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage is pretty common throughout the galaxy. Quantum computing, generally based on superconductive materials, is not quite as common, but is widely enough accessible to make it unremarkable in most cases. But the fumuda engineers of Chigon IV, working off principles developed by mollug scientists, have turned an entire swamp into a single computer.
Internal CommunicationThe biocomputer is made up of every living species within the swamp, from microfauna to the tallest tree. Thus rapid communication was an initial challenge. After all, it was not as simple as electrons speeding through a circuit at (near to) light speed. But the solution has turned out to be even faster. The fumuda bioengineered a new microfauna, called mesolons, every specimen of which is quantum entangled with every other specimen. These mesolonsare distributed throughout the ecosystem, living in every living species larger than them, residing in the central nervous system of any species that has one, or in whatever the host has that most closely approximates a nervous system. They are harmless, taking only some nutrients from what the host consumes, and biologically mandated to stop reproducing once the population inside a host reaches a certain size. Hosts experience no symptoms. Mesolons respond to chemical and electrical and chemical signals from their hosts, and can, in turn, emit compatible electrical signals, prompting chemical or hormonal changes. Mesolons were specifically engeineered not to emit signals that alter motor or autonomic functions, but only take advantage of "unused bandwidth" of the host organism's various regulatory systems.
InterfaceFumuda are capable of customizing the chemicals they excrete. They harness this capability to customize complex molecules to enter instructions into the swamp ecosystem. These are absorbed by a species of cryptophytes engineered for this purpose. Each cryptophyte hosts a mesolon. When processing is finished, a signal is sent from the mesolon to its host cryptophyte. The cryptophyte, sensitive to quantum changes, then modifies the chemical it had absorbed, and secretes it back into the environment. The fumuda then reabsorbs the changed chemical, and is able to interpret that into the results.
Processing and MemoryThe bulk of computation within the Biocomputer is performed in the nervous systems of host fauna. Priority is given to the host's natural nervous system needs, but there remains "unused bandwidth" in these systems. More bandwidth is available when the host is unconscious, thus making the Biocomputer faster at night in general, as the swamp hosts more diurnal species than nocturnal. However, quantum effects of creature behavior can also be of benefit to certain computations, so conscious specimens are also used. Quantum states are used whether the host is awake or asleep, so this particular type of computation is not widely demanded. Unused central nervous system space can also be used as the computer's memory. Strict protocols are kept in place to prevent a host from actually "remembering" anything temporarily stored in their brains as Biocomputer memory. Such a breach would cause unpredictable and possibly dangerous behavior - threatening not only the ecosystem but the Biocomputer itself.
Data StorageThe Biocomp Colony prefers not to store data long term for several reason. It believes that long term storage would be unstable as any organism hosting it aged, got sick, or died. In addition, other biological mutations, or processes could interfere with the data integrity. Most of all, the Biocomp Colony also feels that experimental data, conducted on limited samples, justified belief in the safety of operating the Biocomputer without damage to the environment, is insufficient to demonstrate there are no ill effects for long term storage of data. However, some data storage is unavoidable for large projects, which is point of the Biocomputer. Therefore, mechanisms were put in place to accomplish this. Plantlife, especially large trees, are used for this role. There are varieties of trees in the Biocomputer that contain large quantities of "junk DNA" and also contain transposable elements. The transposable elements of this unused DNA is deal for efficient storage of data, as signals from mesolons can rapidly be put into effect. To increase efficiency, many of the trees have been engineered to host to an additional specialized organ. This organ contains an inordinate percentage of "junk" in its DNA strands. The purpose of this organ is entirely for data storage. To preserve data integrity and swamp flora health, the Biocomputer's permanent and long-term data is frequently copied, verified for integrity, and then deleted from source
It is recommend, for the Forging Worlds with Tale Foundry challenge, to start with the summary article, and then read the articles in the navigation order at the bottom.
Access & Availability
There is currently only one biocomputer, and it is managed by the Biocomp Colony of fumuda. They will use the computer to do work for just about anyone, but there is a wait involved and it is not on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Biocomp Colony prioritizes work based on their judgement of usefulness of the data potentially produced.
Any fumuda colony of sufficient size is capable of understanding hte principles of operation. But as individuals are not important to the fumuda, the operation is left exclusively to the Biocomp Colony. No mollugs have taken sufficient interest to learn the details of the science behind the Biocomputer, and while humans have definitely asked (many times) the fumuda has not explained it as yet.
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