Bitcoin is a Decentralized Organism (Mycelium) — Part 1 / 4

Original Artwork by Emmaline Bailey


First, I need to give credit to Dan Held for publishing his 4-part series comparing bitcoin’s origin to planting a tree. While I loved his series, I believe a more robust analogy is comparing bitcoin to fungi. If you’re new to this topic, strap in — it is my honor to initiate you into the fascinating world of fungi.


Bitcoin appears superficially simple upon first glance, however truly understanding the system is a daunting task.

Image credit: John Upton

Introduction to Fungi

My favorite TED Talk: 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the Word (Paul Stamets)

Fungi are Decentralized Intelligence Networks

Fungal networks don’t have a centralized “brain.” Instead, they are a one-cell walled “root system” called Mycelium. This underground stomach and distributed intelligence network is capable of sending information bi-directionally over long distances and even across species lines. These fungal networks constantly evolve based on feedback from their environment.

Decentralized Networks are Older Than Humanity

Decentralized networks have existed long before humans were around. In fact, fungi have been successfully implementing such systems for 1.3 billion years making them the most successful kingdom on our planet.

During a Billion Years of Evolution, Fungi Have Become Masters of Survival.

Fungi are uniquely adaptive and continue surviving mass extinction events.

Japanese Government vs the Humble Slime Mold

Whether it’s central banks trying to steer the economy or hierarchical corporations trying to maximize value in the information age… Central planning has many flaws.

Slime Mold designing Tokyo Subway System

Life Without a Centralized Point of Failure

Mycelium has no “central point of control.” Any individual part can be removed but the system as a whole survives.

Dealing with Competition

Fungal networks steal competitive advantages from their neighbors in the form of genetic information just like bitcoin absorbs competitive advantages displayed by altcoins.

Arbitrage, Incentives, and Finding Their Place in Ecology

Fungi perform two ecological roles on this planet: they recycle all matter into base elements & act as our planet’s immune system.

Bitcoin, Through its PoW Mechanism, Unlocks Stranded Resources in the Form of Energy.

Before we tackle bitcoin, let’s explore a fascinating historical example: How aluminum was used to “export stranded renewable energy” from a country like Iceland.

Fungi (and Bitcoin) Are Ecological Immune Systems

Fungi are the immune systems for both the ecosystems in which they live and the planet at large.

Bitcoin performs a similar ecological role

Recent tweet from Pomp
  • China cracks down on exchanges, flourishes.
  • As Venezuela, Turkey, and Argentina hyper-inflate their currency, bitcoin steps in as a non-sovereign SoV.
  • Blockstream launches Satellites able to broadcast bitcoin transactions to mitigate catastrophic events.


Did you enjoy this? Check out Part 2 where I examine bitcoin as a social phenomenon.


  • Thanks to Dan Held, Nic Carter, Murad Mahmudov, Vijay Boypati, Pierre Rochard, Hasu, and many more for challenging my understanding of bitcoin.
  • Thanks to Paul Stamets for pushing the boundaries of Mycology and inspiring me along the way.
  • Thanks to my friends who convinced me I wasn’t crazy to compare mycelium and bitcoin in the first place. And for the edits: Rob Fox, Dan Liebeskind, Justin Evidon, Anne Rapp, and many more.
  • Special thanks again to Dan Held whose Planting Bitcoin series motivated me to finally get these ideas written down and for providing notes on earlier versions of this essay.

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