This article explains how Researchers Warn of Significant Risks of Using AI to Grow Our Food.
AI is set to change farming and help feed a growing world population in a more sustainable way. But experts say that using new AI technology at a large scale can be very dangerous.
Imagine a field of wheat that goes all the way to the horizon. The wheat will be used to make flour that will be used to make bread for cities to eat. Imagining a field where all the decisions about what to do with the land are made by algorithms that control drip irrigation, self-driving tractors, and combine harvesters. Imagine a hacker causing trouble.
A new risk study in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence says that the use of artificial intelligence in agriculture in the future could cause a lot of problems for farms, farmers, and food security.
An “intelligent farm management system” is not a story from the future.
To make sure that new technologies are safe and secure from unintended failures, unexpected consequences, and cyber-attacks, the authors say that new technologies must be properly tested in an experimental setting.
The authors have done a lot of research and come up with a list of things that could go wrong when making AI for farming. They say that cyber-attackers could harm AI-powered commercial farms by tampering with data or shutting down sprayers, drones, and robotic harvesters, among other things. Because they don’t want this to happen, they say that organizations should hire “white hat hackers” to help them find security flaws early in the development process.
The authors say that if an AI system was designed to get the most crops in the shortest amount of time, it would not think about the long-term effects. This would lead to overuse of fertilizers and soil damage. Some pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer can harm the soil and waterways if they are used too much, so be careful. The authors suggest that applied ecologists be used in technology design to avoid these problems.
Autonomous devices could help farmers by cutting down on physical work. But without inclusive technology design, existing socioeconomic inequalities in global agriculture, such as gender, class, and ethnic prejudice, would stay in place.
Tzachor said that AI systems that are good at farming might not notice or even support the exploitation of people who aren’t rich.
Drones and sensors are now used by farmers to get information about crops so that they can make better decisions, like figuring out if crops are sick or not getting enough water. Autonomous combine harvesters can bring in a crop without having a person behind them. They save money on labor costs, increase productivity, and keep waste and loss to a minimum. Because of this, farmers make more money and use more agricultural AI.
However, small-scale farmers who grow most crops and feed a lot of people in the Global South aren’t likely to benefit from AI. Small-scale farmers may not be able to use new technology because they don’t have internet access or because of the digital divide. This could widen the commercial-subsistence divide.
Due to climate change and a growing world population, artificial intelligence and precision farming technologies could have a big impact on food and nutrition security.
AI is thought to be the future of farming.
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