The most extraordinary thing that’s happened in my adult intellectual lifespan is a demographic transition. The fact that human population fertility will reduce itself naturally in a non-coercive way if we get things right.
The interesting thing is not just figuring out what one plant needs, but doing it on the scale of a million plants. This is where imaging can help. Capturing the detail, but from a distance. Some farmers already used drones or other aircraft to do just that. But these are not tools available to all. I want to ask what if precision agriculture could be a service accessible to anyone on the planet?
In many countries, the very ability to eat a food like avocado is a direct benefit of international trade. We are eating on an interconnected planet. Food trade now shapes land use worldwide and is reshaping the food supplies of many nations.
When I learned to farm mushrooms, I discovered to grow mushrooms you use agricultural waste that is available to all the poor families in any any place we can say this is a struggling country. As long as they practice some form of agriculture, they will have this kind of waste material.
Much of class and isolation and pulling away is this sort of illusion that somehow we can be apart from the suffering that is in our midst. And that’s a myth. The social isolation that many people in the one percent experience is a wound.
Some of my artist friends think what I’m doing isn’t art, and I’ve given up on art. It’ll take care of itself. You know. I mean it’s always been there, it will always be there, and we always know that new art never looks like art at first, ever. So why should this be any different? We just have to trust the process. And I would say that must be true for every other discipline.
I’m going to be talking about how the arts engage ethically and politically with the technization of the food chain, the chain or flow of sustenance from field to dinner plate. This is an inter-disciplinary talk but don’t worry, I won’t be claiming quite that poems and paintings are computational machines for working out social policy, because that would be crazy. But if I’m not willfully misunderstanding Joscha’s excellent talk on the computational universe, it seems that a likely candidate for the substrate of consciousness is the numinal, the realm of ideas, and that’s precisely where art and literature lives. So it’s the ideal place for deep processing of ethical issues, the big issues like food and tech.