Environmental Minds; intelligent ecosystems (either provolved or naturally evolved)

Image from Bernd Helfert

In the late 7000s A.T. a group of Pan-Sophontists in the Zoeific Biopolity began work on a new project. Something beyond the provolution of individuals of a species, or shoals or flocks into group minds. Instead, they began attempting to provolve an entire ecosystem into a single sophont entity. This caused a split with the mainstream of the Pan-Sophontists, who generally felt that provolution should be limited to individuals or groups of a single species, rather than effectively closing vast swathes of an environment to other entities by making it all a single sophont. They were also concerned that a sophont ecosystem would become a monoculture, removing diversity rather than enhancing it. The ecosystem-provolution group noted these concerns, but continued.

Ecosystem provolution proved to be a far more complex and involved task than simply provolving members of the same species into sophoncy, even in the form of a group mind. In particular, creating and modifying the communications between all of the different species and types of living thing involved in an ecosystem to the point of allowing sophoncy was a major issue, as was defining the boundary between the sophont ecosystem and whatever surrounded it, as it was considered very unlikely that this boundary could be 'sealed'.

As the project progressed, even before it succeeded its aim, a name was given to the entities it was trying to create - the Envome - short for 'Environmental Mind'.

As the Envome project developed the proto-Envome were given genetic and chemical markers to distinguish members of 'their' ecosystem from everything around them. They were also given a number of different types of intra-ecosystem signaling, including direct neural linkages (some permanent, between, for example, plants in the ecosystem, some temporary between animals or animals and plants), chemical signaling, the use of 'info-pollen' to carry high densities of information across the entire ecosystem, and optical and auditory signaling (including the ability to speak in what a baseline human might call a normal fashion). Each part of the ecosystem had its neural structure modified or created new neural structures to form part of the whole Envome mind.

And slowly sophoncy grew in the original array of varied - but all life and diversity-dense - Envome ecosystems, as each one was enhanced and 'debugged' more and more, until full sophoncy was achieved in the mid 92nd century A.T. for the Envome known as 'Fiddlers Green', in the Zoeific Biopolity habitat of Tiphareph VI.

As each Envome is basically immortal, they tend to be patient, and slow, thinking in the long term and seeking stability and balance above all else. They garden themselves and their surroundings at both an unconscious level (similar to cellular maintenance in a human) and a conscious one (more like the styling of a human's hair).

Without the use of technology, as they grow in size they become slower. Thus unmodified Envomes have an upper limiting size beyond which their mental processes become too slow and fragmented for them to cope; they tend to limit their own size to somewhere below this limit. Of course, many Envomes will enhance themselves with technology to avoid this problem, so that the largest members of the clade are hundreds or thousands of square kilometres in size.

Envomes tend not to reproduce a great deal, as they are rooted to a fixed spot. The only exception to this is when they are rooted in a vehicle of some kind. Even so, establishing a stable Envome ecosystem is an involved and quite slow process, although it can be done by automated systems. Because of this reliance on outside agencies to reproduce they are effectively an unusual form of symbiont.

As a clade, Envomes are found in an array of different ecosystems, on land and water, not usually as the whole of a given ecosystem, but as a virtually indistinguishable part of it. The only thing that links them all is the fact that they are all provolved from diverse, life-dense ecosystems and environments. These ecosystems are spread over a wide variety of worlds and habitats throughout the Zoeific Biopolity and beyond.

Envomes seem to ascend to higher toposophic levels rather less often than the average. Most transcensions seem to occur in large, technologically-enhanced Envomes, where their mental network can expand essentially without limit.


Since the first provolved envome was developed a number of naturally occuring xenobiota envomes have been discovered, including Whisper, and Kammerer.

Clive's Brain and the Deathjungle of Kalii may be regarded as presentient envomes which may or may not evolve to full sentience at some time in the future.

Related Articles
Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 01 February 2004.