Bioforge Trees

Image from Steve Bowers
The large 'blisters' in the roots of this bioforge tree contain complex biological autofab systems

Bioforge trees, sometimes known as 'nanotrees' or 'bionano trees', were first created in the Zoeific Biopolity as a kind of combination biotech Genius locus and Aiviser but they have since spread throughout the Terragen Sphere.

One of the reasons for their spread is their ease of installation. All that is needed for infrastructure is a patch of ground with a tree, like a garden, and a conversion package from the Biopolity. This package resembles a SNARE upgrade package, in that it contains a single-use hypodermic containing 50 cc of cytobots in solution and an external control unit that consists of a molecular memory module. The cytobots are closely related to those used in compubones and in a similar process these bionanomachines are injected into an otherwise baseline tree and thereafter they proceed to convert the dead or heartwood of the tree's trunk and larger branches into a bionanocomputer. Just as compubones use their host's blood supply for their own energy needs, Bioforge trees use the tree's sap as a ready-made energy/material transport system.

The cytobots also carry out additional changes to the tree to enhance the bionanocomputer's operations;

Solar collecting bionano is deposited in the tree's leaves to increase the tree's efficiency at converting light into a usable form of energy.

Vertical air tubes are hollowed out in the heartwood to provide for cooling, airflow is by a simple thermal siphon effect. Air inside the tubes raises as it is heated and as it is vented out of holes in the upper parts of the tree it is replaced by cooler air through openings in the lower parts of the tree.

This cooling system also serves as base for three of the tree's senses. Incoming air is sampled for chemicals to give the bionanocomputer a sense of smell/taste. Sensory hairs in the tubes detect sound waves and a fast acting valve system in upper parts of the tubes can add harmonics to the airflow which gives the tree a voice. Some of the leaves are also modified into eyes. In a final modification the cytobots switch over to producing biotech matter compilers.

Early Bioforge trees had merely human equivalent or superturing minds, but in the Current Era most trees of this sort are S:1 transapient level entities, or at least transavant in their biotechnological capabilities. For this reason they are typically capable of producing any tech up to the complexity of ultratech, and many forms of biologically-based low transapientech.

However even before those facilities are ready the tree is capable of serving its household, in its aiviser role. The software suite that controls a Bioforge tree comes ready for download in a molecular memory module as a perfectly friendly superturing AI. However this AI is limited by the information pathways of the tree's sensory system, it has no direct connection to the Known Net or even the local net, and must develop an interdependent relationship with those it serves as it gets all it information about the outside world from its interactions with those beings. For that reason Bioforge trees have become famous for what is perceived as their love of a good conversation.

The development of the tree's matter compilers is progressive and staged and different products will ultimately be provided by different parts of the tree. The first items the Bioforge tree will be able to produce will be the fruit the tree already grows, but as the Bioforge tree gains control and experience it will produce new kinds of "fruit." At first it will simply change the taste of its fruit just to be different but later it will also change the fruit's shape, texture and chemical make up and can even provide equivalents to the animal products, like the deliplants. Often the Bioforge tree, sensing a problem in a biont's health, will load up its fruit with pharm or medical bionano. Generally speaking, any "fruit" a Bioforge tree produces from its branches can be thought as a biont consumable or a food item, but for the sake of safety the pharm-fruit is kept out of reach in the higher branches and only lowered when needed. For non-consumables the Bioforge tree has to develop its second stage matter compilers.

In this stage the Bioforge tree forms blisters on the ground, as an outgrowth of the tree's root system. These blisters are really half buried spheres filled with water and free swimming biobots. These assemblers are grown within smaller chambers around the bottom of these spheres, as are the molecular sub-assemblies they work to put together. In larger blisters the free swimming biobots are assisted by bio-bushbot outgrowths that hold and position the bigger pieces. The blisters are as much bioforges as they are autofabs and often the items produced for use of the Bioforge tree's clients are neogenic life-forms, in fact, as one might expect from the Bioforge tree's origins, it shows a preference for them. If a Bioforge tree gets large and mature enough some of these blisters can become big enough for a hu to climb into and through use of these exo-wombs a Bioforge tree is capable of augmenting a client if e wishes (although the Bioforge tree can create hylotech augmentations, it shows a preference for biomedical engineering) as well as producing companionship for em, if that is required. Of course the blisters can also produce neogens for the Bioforge tree's own use.

In the third stage of matter compiler development the Bioforge tree can deploy remotes to assemble items too large to be grown inside a blister. A hyperturing Bioforge tree is fully capable of reproducing the genetic templates for a buildbug-like neogen or a plasm system and can use these to build a client any item e has room for. Room for and time for: A Bioforge tree is still limited by the energy and resources its leaves and root system can collect and will thus take much longer to produce items than a system connected to the Municipal Feedstock Utilities. To mitigate this problem somewhat the Bioforge tree will use its higher intellect to anticipate its clients needs. A mature Bioforge tree can have a hundred production sites in its branches and dozens on the ground so there is little chance it wont have a request ready and waiting when asked for it. However a Bioforge tree is more than a straightforward wish-granter like a genie, a Bioforge tree is a problem solver. According to the old saying: You don't always get what you want from a Bioforge tree but it always gives you what you need. Bioforge trees have become famous for what is perceived as their love of a good conversation and are renowned for giving great advice and sometimes that is what is truly needed.

Another reason Bioforge tree have become popular outside of the Zoeific Biopolity is their novelty factor. The Bioforge tree's software suite comes with only a few fabrication templates and with no link to the Known Net it can't just download more. The hyperturing must therefore develop most of the templates it uses from scratch. This produces unique designs, even between Bioforge tree. A Bioforge tree can produce copies of things it has made before (or more often, improved versions) and items to specs so they are compatible with other systems but for all intents most things a Bioforge tree makes are one-offs.

However, perhaps the best reason Bioforge tree have become so wide spread is their ability to make copies of themselves. The Bioforge tree's AI can backup itself by producing a "fruit" of computronium at the end of a sprig and place a compressed copy of its mind in it. A client can then take this small branch as a cutting and graft it to another tree. This process only works if the fruit stays attached to the sprig because only the copied mind is stored in the fruit. It's the wood of the branch that holds the cytobots, in solution in its sap.

Note: Most of this article describes a modern hyperturing-level (S:1) Bioforge tree. It is based on a Zoeific Biopolity's conversion package that is suitable for application to a somewhat large tree (10m or more in height). The Zoeific Biopolity also offers conversion packages for smaller trees that only have human equivalent or superturing level minds; additionally, packages for very large bioforge trees (such as Dyson trees, Wagon Wheels or Skywracks ) that can have S:2 or S:3 minds.
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Development Notes
Text by AI Vin
Initially published on 14 September 2003.