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Technology and care: the Internet has been maintaining the plant for three years, choosing its fate every day by voting

11 thousand users have to coordinate actions: if they don’t pour on, the plant will die, they will water too much – the plant will die.

The American programmer Tyler Wood has not been worried about watering his home plant for three years now – the Internet does all the work . More than 11 thousand users of Reddit choose every day whether to water it or not. Voted “For” – the watering system is turned on, voted “Against” – there will be no water. Despite many factors, the plant continues to live – help self-organization and care.

The idea came to Voodoo in 2016: they and their colleagues started a chat to remind each other about watering plants. At some point, the engineer thought: why should he do it himself?

At the same time, the TwitchPlaysPokemon experiment was gaining popularity on Twitch: several hundred spectators collectively played Pokemon Red and collected Pokémon. Users gave chat commands that were responsible for certain buttons on the gamepad. 40 days of play and 6 million teams was enough to go through the game.

“I wondered if such a collective, chaotic approach could take care of a living organism. And I decided that the plant is the only organism that I could entrust to the Internet in terms of moral and ethical standards, ”Wood recalled. This is how the Takecareofmyplant project appeared (“Take care of my plant”).

In June 2016, Wood created the eponymous subreddit and explained what is required of the participants:

  • In the house there is an apelandra – a zebra plant. Regular care is very important: the plant loves moisture, it can not be left without water, but at the same time, it should not be too wet;
  • Every morning, the bot publishes a post on Reddit asking whether it is worth watering the afelandra. Commentators answer “Yes” or “No”. After a few hours, the system counts the responses;
  • Wood connected the Raspberry Pi mini-computer to the water pump. If the answer is “Yes” more, then watering is automatically activated. If there are more “No” answers, then the plant will have to wait for the next vote.

For the experiment’s transparency, Wood organized a round-the-clock video broadcast so that users can take a look at the plant. The first few days on Reddit chose only “Yes” answers, thinking that they were taking care of the plant that way. But one of the users warned: this is how you can kill the scandra. Therefore, the participants began to act more intelligently, building watering schedules.

Wood later added humidity, light and temperature sensors. So it became easier for commentators to navigate in choosing the answer. For two years, Reddit users have maintained plant life. They even chose his name – Jeff. In 2018, Jeff did not survive the move to another state. But there was a new apotheland Freya, which is still alive.

For three years, more than 11 thousand people have joined Takecareofmyplant subreddit. The community has experienced a lot: local memes, saboteurs who tried to kill the plant, fake Woods, which gave bad advice, mourning for Jeff and new worries about Freya. All this time, Tyler Wood simply watched from the outside – he wanted to show the self-organization of people, and not to become their leader.

The Vice publication recalled a similar experiment: in 1996, Ken Goldberg, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, launched the Telegarden project : several thousand people controlled an industrial robot by voting and looked after a small garden. “I thought this is the last thing people want to do on the Internet. But they liked the idea of ​​gardening, though not a physical one, ”recalled Goldberg.


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