Dr. Andrew Adamatzky and his team at the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK are researching how mushrooms communicate and how they might teach us to improve our information systems. PopSci explains that the lab was founded in 2001, driven by the belief that computers of the future "will be made of chemical or living systems, or wetware, that are going to work in harmony with hardware and software." PopSci further explains what we might learn from such assemblages:
Integrating these complex dynamics and system architectures into computing infrastructure could in theory allow information to be processed and analyzed in new ways. And it's definitely an idea that has gained ground recently, as seen through experimental biology-based algorithms and prototypes of microbe sensors and kombucha circuit boards. In other words, they're trying to see if mushrooms can carry out computing and sensing functions.
With fungal computers, mycelium—the branching, web-like root structure of the fungus—acts as conductors as well as the electronic components of a computer. (Remember, mushrooms are only the fruiting body of the fungus.) They can receive and send electric signals, as well as retain memory.
Scientists have already established that mushrooms communicate, and researchers at the Unconventional Computing Laboratory are building upon this knowledge to create information systems that might have distinct advantages over the ones we use currently. Again, PopSci explains:
By deciphering the language fungi use to send signals through this biological network, scientists might be able to not only get insights about the state of underground ecosystems, and also tap into them to improve our own information systems.
Mushroom computers could offer some benefits over conventional computers. Although they can't ever match the speeds of today's modern machines, they could be more fault tolerant (they can self-regenerate), reconfigurable (they naturally grow and evolve), and consume very little energy.
If you want to know more about this fascinating research, check out this conversation between Dr. Andrew Adamatzky of the Unconventional Computing Laboratory and Merlin Sheldrake, a biologist, and author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures.