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Ethical Machines episode 4: David J. Klein

One of the most impor­tant insights that I’ve got­ten in work­ing with biol­o­gists and ecol­o­gists is that today it’s actu­al­ly not real­ly known on a sci­en­tif­ic basis how well dif­fer­ent con­ser­va­tion inter­ven­tions will work. And it’s because we just don’t have a lot of data.

Applying Algorithms to Minimize Risk

The United States plants more than 170 mil­lion acres of corn and soy­beans a year, more than any coun­try in the world. And the pri­ma­ry mech­a­nism in the US that we use to sub­si­dize agri­cul­ture is actu­al­ly called the Federal Crop Insurance Program. So, the crop insur­ance pro­gram in the US is also the largest such pro­gram glob­al­ly, with over $100 bil­lion in lia­bil­i­ties annu­al­ly. So it’s a very big program.

Imaging the Health of Our Planet

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?

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