Monthly Archives: April 2014

Peas in a Pod

I was actually as struck by the similarities between Kurzweil and Fukuoka as the differences.

In particular, many of the algorithmic techniques that Kurzweil seemed most optimistic about were emergent in some way – algorithms that learned based on many iterations of “experience”.

In some sense, isn’t the ideal farmer also an example of such a learning mechanism? That can appreciate the delicate and subtle interactions of many insects, weeds and natural species?

Or, is there something missing? Humility perhaps?

Im also reading Jane Jacobs at the moment, and I was struck by some of the overlaps between her thinking and that of Fukuoka – of respecting “natural” diversity, of “optimal” “solutions” arising out many individual micro-interactions, and of the best heuristics as those being learned over many iterations of trial and error.

Is that really so different from what Kurzweil is proposing? Or, does the very idea of databases, computation and the abstraction that it entails reduce and simplify in a way that loses the essence?

“Ideal” science plants

I was talking with a friend about the readings for this week, and he was defensive about scientific farming, saying that plants evolve in nature to survive their environment, not to be ideal for their environment – something that science is just now making possible. If that’s true, does it change the conversation at all?

I wonder if this issue is less about the health of the plants and more about scale. When I imagine even the family farmers I know reading this work I think they would find it impractical not because of their plants’ and soil’s well being but because they wouldn’t be able to produce as much without their equipment and chemicals. Do you think we would have more of a reason to be hopeful if it were the other way around?

I think the affinity for nature is common in these alternative visions. What is the place of technology if our goal is living closer to nature?