Chapter 8: The human impact of data bias and the digital agricultural revolution
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Now is the time for radical reimagining about the future of our food system. Therefore, we interrogate the market logic which drives research and development—both public and private—in agriculture, focusing on a relatively understudied technology: big datasets and the ‘intelligent’ machines which use them in decision support systems for farmers. We use a combined social and computer science method to analyze the coding and models used in commercial decision support tools as well as a public agricultural dataset. Our analysis reveals that scientific decisions about which data to collect and how to use them are privileging already powerful food system actors—farmers managing large commodity crop operations and the large agribusinesses supplying them. By economic logic, this bias makes sense as these farms have the money to pay for expensive commercial technologies, but the bias presents significant social and environmental problems which are crucial to understanding the human impact of agriculture.

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