Parallel Minds, 41–46


Intelligent Jelly


‘Polycephalous’ slime is by definition a many-headed creature, but perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it has no head at all. In other words, it does not have one or more central control systems capable of collecting information from the environment, ‘calculating’ an appropriate response, and then ‘transmitting’ to the rest of the body the impulses needed to produce a coordinated movement in the direction of food. In this sense, its intelligence is certainly very different from that of a mammal or a computer: its complex response to the environment is not processed through a single organ, but is the result of a set of numerous microscopic phenomena that occur on a molecular scale in all parts of its body. If we look closely enough at the movement of polycephalous slime, we can see that the membrane that divides it from the outside world is covered with receptors, tiny molecular sensors capable of binding to a specific chemical substance present in the environment. These receptors initiate a chain reaction that triggers a transformation in the protein structure of the organism, which then modifies the volume and viscosity of the cellular endoplasm, causing it to expand or contract.…