After we genetically modified a tree to have a central nervous system, could we still call it a tree?
It cannot uproot itself.
It depends upon photosynthesis for energy conversion.
It still produces flowers and makes seeds.
But it can more easily move its limbs and leaves to capture sunlight and raindrops.
It can secrete chemical combinations that fight off insect attacks.
Strong winds can break it apart. So, too, lightning and floods.
It can tell me when a bird has built a nest into a hole where a limb broke off and the tree couldn’t heal itself fast enough.
It knows that it will die one day.
It can’t escape the blades of a chainsaw or the flames of a forest fire.
It knows that it came from the seed of another tree but doesn’t feel a familial allegiance to the bearer of that seed.
It has no gland-based emotional feedback system.
Pain is not a feeling or thought to the tree.
It knows its existence and what it can do with the limited means to enhance its survival.
It cannot speak but it can send signals to an interface that translates tree nervous system output into a language we can understand.
We can, in turn, send signals back to the tree that we see what the tree is thinking, making suggestions for places to extend its root system or tweak its protective chemical combinations.
The tree cannot bend its limbs fast enough to avoid approaching, predicted storm systems.
To the tree, our measure of time is irrelevant.
Its very nature is slow contemplation and meditation.
But a tree’s wisdom is truly only good for another tree.
However, with a central nervous system, the tree can store our memories — our effects on its life.
We had hoped to use trees as nodes in our planetary network of memory storage and retrieval, perhaps even a little arithmetic calculation, but the energy required was less efficient than letting the trees serve us as trees have served us for years, staying focused on being the best trees a thinking tree can be.
Genetic modification in moderation, that’s our motto.