I think our idea of living is too human-centric. Something is only perceived as living when it presents human life qualities. Our idea of sentient is too conservative, too limiting for us to connect with other beings in our surroundings, when our network with our environment is what has been keeping us alive as human species.
(While I agree that the slime mold is intelligent, I think the researches that show how intelligent the slime mold is by comparing it to human intelligence could be a dangerous practice).
Just because something doesn’t have a brain like organ or a visible network system it does not mean that they are not intelligence or alive. I believe that everything is alive on its own terms. Every objects, material or dematerial, in the physical or in the virtual, have agency that change our behavior around them. We have little to no understanding of how these objects experience life outside of our connection to them because we are fundamentally different species and kinds of beings, but I think it’s important to hold on to this connection, to the belief that these objects are affecting us as just as we are affecting them.
Maybe suggesting that my cup of coffee as a living being sounds too radical of a statement, but as a person and a network, I have a relationship with my cup of coffee as a concept and object, and I think what I’m trying to say that this network is a living quality.
With this line of thinking, perhaps I should really read Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory and Graham Harman’s Object Oriented Ontology. I just haven’t had to time to read their work yet.