Some four decades downstream from the publication of A Thousand Plateaus, with some sectors of elite opinion still marinating in the Californian-ideological optimism of the Web’s breakout moments, networks still tend to be thought of as necessarily diversifying, decentralizing, distributing, and ramifying in their effects. But there’s something else that networks are very good at, and that is coordination and the maintenance of homeostasis. In a word: harmonization, whether that of fireflies, electrical impulses in the heart muscle, or the behavior of other formally independent entities.
Consider the mycorrhizal network: an uncanny, interspecies mesh of tree roots and fungal hyphae operating quietly beneath the forest floor, redistributing nutrients and other vital chemicals between individual trees. As our understanding of biological structure and function improves, the forest emerges as one giant symbiont superorganism; its seemingly discrete parts interwoven in ways we have difficulty perceiving.
The figure of the mycorrhizal network comes to mind when contemplating the intellectual genesis and evolution of social credit, with nation-states playing the trees and the global culture of late-capitalist information-technical “innovation” standing in for the fungal mesh that binds them. China’s concerted efforts at industrial espionage and its perennial status as an “advanced persistent threat” highly adept at cyberwarfare account for many of the more granular details of West-East information transfer, no doubt, but the broad conceptual strokes travel freely. Ideas, techniques, and fashions in thought flash back and forth between these superficially dissimilar worlds, across circuits developed by late capitalism to nourish the global innovation ecosystem that serves it.
The distribution of risk via the intricate systems of financialization can be thought of the same way too.