Is Technology the Best Policy? Examining Artificial Intelligence in Farming and Agriculture




Monika Sziron (THUM Ph.D. Candidate): Artificial intelligence is playing a big role in farming and agriculture.

AI helps farmers with improving efficiency, labor reduction, and cost reduction in some instances. We’re using AI-enabled upgrades on combines.

My research is about how this technology is influencing not just farming practices but the humans behind farming. The ethics get complicated when we start looking at the policies in farming—data security issues, animal welfare, environmental ethics, bioethics.

I’ve always been interested in how technology changes the human experience. Technology and farming have this very complex history. 

Depending on what tools we were using changes how farming is done, and it also changes the culture. One of the examples that I always think of is the threshing machine. This machine and this tool would come to town and everyone would assign it as the symbol of community because the threshing machine required more than one person to maneuver.  

Agriculture has always been something that I’ve just had an interest for. I wanted to find my own niche within AI ethics. How can I connect that to the passion of agriculture?

I am in the technology and humanities Ph.D. program. I knew that if I came to Illinois Tech I would have the opportunity to connect with a huge network of computer scientists professionals, historians, and all these other scholars that are interested in AI ethics, and it’s this nice blending of working with the technology—the practical side of things—and the humanities—the philosophy, the social scientists—that was a big draw for me.  

I would love for my work to shed more light on how AI is shaping policy. I have a survey that farmers from the Midwest can fill out, so if a majority of farmers have this ethical concern, I’m just really trying to bring awareness to that.