A chance meeting between Bruce Damer and Todd Goldenbaum at the 1995 Palo Alto California Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology set the seed for this project. Bruce was demonstrating a neural network engine (later to be called Nerves) for use in simulating molecular flows in nanometer scale channels. Todd was demonstrating an early VRML rendition of nano-machinery. Todd and Bruce formed a friendship and a working group which would seek to bring neural networks, genetic algorithms and other sophisticated behaviors into VRML and other virtual world standards. This working was later formalized as Biota, a special interest group of the Contact Consortium dedicated to bringing the experience of living processes to visitors to virtual worlds.
The Nerve Garden itself was inspired by the USC Telegarden shown at SIGGRAPH 1995. Telegarden allowed people to use the Web to control a robot arm to plant seeds, water them and observe growth in a 'real dirt' garden. The Biota Special Interest Group chose to take on the task of implementing the Telegarden within an all digital terra firma.