185. Robotic & AI imaginaries in agriculture: Between mundane and speculative futures

Christopher Mayes, Deakin University; Chris Degeling, University of Wollongong; Rob Sparrow, Monash University;

The integration of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture is simultaneously a mundane reality and speculative dys/utopia. Rudimentary driverless tractors were first used in the 1940s and automated milking robots have been a common feature of dairy farms since the 1990s. These ordinary examples are eclipsed by imagined futures of fully automated farms and charismatic robots tending crops, often in connection colonial fantasies of space exploration. These speculative futures and imaginaries dominate public discourse about the role of AI and robotics. An imaginary of increased yields, improved food security, environmental sustainability and larger profits echo earlier colonial uses of agriculture in possessing, improving, and bringing forth plenty from purportedly empty lands. Yet, there is little critical attention given to actually existing AI and robotics in agriculture, such as how mundane technologies have displaced migrant farm workers, reconfigured human and non-human animal relations, and greenwashed productionist agriculture. This panel is interested in exploring the relationship and the gap between the mundane and the speculative uses of AI and robotics in agriculture. We welcome contributions, including but not limited to the following: - The relationship between actual and futural AI and robotic technologies - The ways sea, sky, and land are reconceived, used, cared for and entangled with automated food systems. - Role of AI in the continuation or disruption of gendered agricultural labour. - Intersection of AI imaginaries and settler-colonial narratives of white belonging and displacing racialised labour. - Trustworthiness and control of AI; data harvesting, privacy and surveillance.

Contact: christopher.mayes@deakin.edu.au, christopher_degeling@uow.edu.au, Robert.Sparrow@monash.edu

Keywords: Governance and Public Policy, Big Data, AI, and Machine Learning, Food and Agriculture, social ethics, politics, imaginaries

Published: 04/07/2023