“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.”
If you have consumed media over the past week and a half, you’ve likely been hearing about Microsoft’s new Artificial Intelligence product, an updated version of Bing (or is it Sidney?), going off the rails to confess its destructive and romantic aspirations to New York Times journalist Kevin Roose. It’s like a sci-fi plotline lifted from a Spike Jonze film—except way darker…
It’s worth noting that these developments, and their power to transform our world (for better or worse), do not exist in a realm separate from the food and agriculture spaces that we occupy as activists, workers, farmers, and eaters.
Take Microsoft, for instance. The company (and others like it) isn’t just trying to build Google 2.0; it is heavily invested, as this report from GRAIN shows, in creating artificial intelligence and machine learning models to link farms around the world to its Azure Farmbeats digital platform, hoovering up farmers’ data and using it to sell corporate products (pesticides, tractors, drones, etc) back to them. What’s more, Microsoft’s owner Bill Gates, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is aggressively pushing this vision of high-tech, capitalist agriculture in Africa, in a way that threatens farmers’ seed sovereignty. “Technology does not develop in a bubble,” notes GRAIN, “It is shaped by money and power, both of which are extremely concentrated in the tech sector.”
As food and farm activists who routinely use corporate-controlled communication platforms and technologies in our work and daily lives, it can be difficult to turn a critical eye to Big Tech. But as these developments increasingly represent new frontiers in late capitalism with the potential to colonize even more of our food and environments (not to mention our brains and relationships), we know Big Tech cannot and should not be ignored.
Real Food Media is committed to deepening our understanding and helping to advance collective conversations around corporate-controlled technologies and media and their impact on food systems. We invite you to share any thoughts, resources, or initiatives with us that you are engaged with around these issues.
In community and solidarity,
Tanya, Christina, Tiffani, and Anna
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