ISPA Account

15th ICPA Keynote

Monday, June 27th Keynote Speaker

Our Keynote Address will be presented by Dr. Robert Sparrow on Monday, June 27th, 2022
Dr. Robert Sparrow

Realising the potential of agricultural robotics and AI: The ethical challenges

Recent advances in AI and robotics may dramatically transform agriculture by greatly expanding the number of contexts in which the techniques of precision agriculture may be applied. Inevitably, this next agricultural revolution will generate profound ethical issues: opportunities as well as risks. Clever applications of AI and robotics may allow agriculture to be more sustainable by facilitating more precise applications of water, fertilisers, and herbicides. Robots may take some of the drudgery out of agriculture and open new economic opportunities for farmers by reducing labour costs. As well as these environmental and economic impacts, the applications of AI and robotics in agriculture will have political, social, cultural, and security implications that have received little attention in the larger literature on these technologies. In particular, they may dramatically alter the nature and number of jobs in the agricultural sector, shift patterns of migrant labour, challenge the “gendering” of agricultural labour, reconfigure the relationship between rural and urban populations, impact on the relationship between farmers and agribusiness, expose farmers to the risk of cyber-attack, reshape consumer expectations in relationship to food, and radically transform our relationship to the natural world. In order to realise the potential of AI and robotics in agriculture, it will be vital to identify and address social issues and ethical concerns early on.