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When algorithms rule the world

When will homo sapiens be usurped at the top of the food chain? Or has it already happened?

The transition from big data to algorithm-driven AI is happening frightening quickly. In fields from medicine to movies to mass surveillance, smart machines have already proven to be quicker and more reliable than their human peers. It won’t be long before they know us better than we know ourselves…

The need to align data management with our collective and individual interests is urgent. Left to their own devices, government and private capital are ill-equipped to balance the common good with individual agency. We need to take ownership. Co-operative governance and ownership of the technologies that underpin the algorithm economy are key…



The pros & cons of ratings

We’ve been studying the various ways accreditation can assist farmers in the migration to smart machines and edge computing.

One of the barriers to the adoption of data sharing across the agricultural supply chain is the relative immaturity of the technology that is used on-farm. While there is currently an explosion of new devices being developed and offered to farmers, the inchoate mess is difficult for farmers to navigate – it’s simply hard to know where to start. On the other hand, existing systems are ageing and are not generally fit for API integrations while the reliability of sensors can be patchy leading to questions about data accuracy. In short, data lacks the reliability, accessibility and inter-operability to be really useful.

Accreditation offers one way we can create a bridge between the current environment and the next, where smart farming is commonplace. The idea is that better farming practices will be a key driver towards the adoption of smart machines – whether it is to promote precision farming or to support growing consumer awareness around the foods they consume. And accreditation around those farming practices may provide a way to solve the data quality issue. In effect, we can look to leverage the business processes of the various certification agents to filter data quality.

Accreditation has the potential to be quite diverse. It can include certification around organics. It can include verification of farming practices, application of fertilisers or chemicals in water runoff. It could look at measures of biodiversity on the farm, regeneration practices, and covenants on land preservation. By attaching independent third party accreditation to farm produce, this data becomes valuable in a way that can’t be achieved in the absence of deep integrations between systems.

Of course, the risk is that accreditation agencies can be compromised if their interests are not aligned correctly. We’ve seen this time and again in financial markets. If the gamekeeper is getting paid by the poachers, then they are only too willing to see things from the poacher’s perspective. Either the measures need to be so blatantly objective that they cannot be compromised or we need to ensure that the accreditation providers are not financially beholden to those that could benefit from misplaced confidence.

So while we stumble headlong towards a hyper-connected farm to table, we can perhaps begin to capture the benefits of data through accreditation…



The power of co-operatives


“The leader is driven by a desire for power, while the organiser is driven by a desire to create.”

Coops attract organisers as the structure naturally diffuses the power of any single person. Of course the risk is entropy where coordinated action dissolves into a cacophony of voices. The aim of a coop is then to cultivate an active membership which focuses energy towards a common goal – following the adage that ‘power is focussed energy – that enables the ability to do a thing’…