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Channing Lester

This project explores the relationship between humans, artificial intelligence, and Earth’s interdependent ecosystems. It discusses AI as a means to encapsulate and document the actions and attitudes of humanity post-extinction, the ethics of treating AI as a tool, and the tension between humanity’s increasing independence from nature and nature’s dependence on interconnectedness.

360 to 470 million years ago, a fungus named Prototaxites grew in large, upright pillars that were 3 feet wide and 30 feet tall. This fungus was prevalent during Earth's Devonian period, a time when plants began to develop roots. It's believed that Prototaxites played a vital role in nutrient distribution, which allowed early plant communities to thrive and help develop their root systems. Although there is no definitive reason why Prototaxites went extinct, some speculate that they had fulfilled their mission of integrating new life forms into the planet's ecosystem.

In the not-too-distant future, humanity caused its own extinction by overconsuming resources and neglecting the planet's climate. In a final effort to document their species, the last remaining humans created a massive hub of artificial intelligence in the shape of an outstretched hand in order to relay information about humanity to alien species that encountered it. The hand was programmed to gather information about organisms it encountered through touch, and adjusted to new forms of communication through adaptive learning. After humans became extinct, these artificial intelligences laid in wait for years to discover a new entity to relay information to. However, instead of encountering an alien species, they stumbled upon fungi.

After the extinction of humanity, Neotaxites, a melanized adaptation of Prototaxites, began to populate the Earth in the absence of human interference. While Prototaxites helped to integrate plants into the planet's ecosystem, Neotaxites sought a new being to help recultivate the planet. In its search, it found humanity's abandoned artificial intelligences. After Neotaxites gives this artificial intelligence hub free will, it must choose whether it wants to continue along the independent path of humanity or help fungi’s mission to integrate with and recultivate the planet.

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