On the face of it, Plantoid looks like a series of plant-like metal sculptures. Each one of these is associated with a unique digital wallet that accepts cryptocurrency (Bitcoin or Ethereum for now), and viewers are encouraged to send digital money to any of the sculptures they find beautiful or evocative.

When a predetermined amount of money collects in one of these wallets, a piece of software triggers a process by which a new artist is commissioned to create another metal sculpture that will be part of Plantoid. Any artist who wants to be considered for such a commission needs a digital wallet that accepts Bitcoin or Ethereum, and a way to plug into Plantoid’s process for submitting proposals.

Once triggered, Plantoid does the rest: its software finds all the people who have sent in a proposal, chooses one of these people, and transfers funds in its wallet to that artist. It then generates a new wallet for this new instance of Plantoid, so it can collect funds of its own.

Potentially, the commissioning process can be triggered an endless amount of times, as a Plantoid wallet fills up and then empties again. And it’s the potential here that makes discussing the project with De Filippi a delightful foray into metaphorical language: according to her, Plantoid is the “plant equivalent of an android,” which “lives” on a blockchain, “feeds” on cryptocurrency and can “reproduce,” autonomously generating new Plantoid that themselves live, feed, and reproduce on the same blockchain.

The metaphors are a way of describing what is striking about the underlying software: it reproduces itself on its own—something we associate with biological processes like cell division. De Filippi is a Faculty Associate at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University who studies the legal implications of “smart” contracts—which is blockchain terminology for contracts written as software rather than as legal text. Read more from forbes.com…

thumbnail courtesy of forbes.com