my friend recommended this to me saying: "one of the strangest books ive ever read, half meme-ing half legit talkin about the beauty of seeds and gmos. stuff that [ecological accounting] blockchain would run right over".
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My mother feels little connection to her job now. My mother's is the kind of job that some people think robots should take over, that should be optimized and automated. After all, she would supposedly get more free time and fulfillment in life. The irony is, she stopped feeling fulfilled when her workplace became optimized, her work stripped of meaning, turned into mere labor.
Examining the relationship between work and life under automation is not new. In a 1972 article in "The Black Scholar", the activist James Boggs argued for the importance of thinking one level deeper about work itself. The problem facing jobs and work isn't merely "automation and cybernation," as he put it. Instead, the real challenge is "to create a new human meaning for 'Work as Working for others rather than for oneself; working for people' rather than for things." Transforming work into abstract, quantifiable, optimized labor erases "any of the human and social purposes or the creative satisfactions that Work has always had in other societies." It is easy to automate work using AI once you've made work devoid of meaning.
Like so many AI projects, ET Agricultural Brain naively assumes that the work of a farmer is to simply produce food for people in cities, and to make the food cheap and available. In this closed system, feeding humans is no different from feeding swaths of pigs on large farms. The project neglects the real work of smallholder farmers throughout the world. For thousands of years, the work of these farmers has been stewarding and maintaining the earth, rather than optimizing agricultural production. They use practices that yield nutrient-dense food, laying a foundation for healthy soils and rich ecology in an uncertain future. Their work is born out of commitment and responsibility: to their communities, to local ecology, to the land. Unlike machines, these farmers accept the responsibility of their actions with the land. They commit to the path of uncertainty.
After all, life is defined not by uncertainty itself but by a commitment to living despite it. In a time of economic and technological anxiety, the questions we ask cannot center on the inevitability of a closed system built by AI, and how to simply make those closed systems more rational or "fair." What we face are the more difficult questions about the meaning of work, and the ways we commit, communicate, and exist in relation to each other. Answering these questions means looking beyond the rhetoric sold to us by tech companies. What we stand to gain is nothing short of true pleasure, a recognition that we are not isolated individuals, floating in a closed world.
Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices is a speculative endeavor asking how we may represent, relay, and read worlds differently by …
It's hard to explain, but I knew, in that moment, that this tension-between Indigenous rights and clean energy, berween the rush to avert catastrophic climate change and social justice-would form the foundarion of my work as an activist and scholar. It would also become my life's work.
I introduced myself to the speakers, and within days I found myself in Juchitain, Oaxaca, the small town at the epicenter of the extensive wind energy development taking place in the region. In Juchitán, I spoke with the same farmers and activists who had attended the meeting at the Oaxata City park. They invited me to a meeting deep in the mountains of the isthmus, where dozens of Indigenous people had traveled to discuss meguproyectos (megaprojects) and the impacts of such development on their livelihoods. When those fighting against the wind development rose to speak, they told a story that mirrored the stories I had heard about mining in Afro-Indigenous communities in Colombia. Their struggles echoed the stories of countless communities around the world affected by oil and gas development: dispossession, displacement, environmental harm, unfair contracts, racism, and a litany of concems aboat impacts to culture and community.
As I listened to the story of wind development in Oaxaca, I realized that we-the collective we-are poised to replicate the very injustices of the dirty energy industry in the name of clean energy or, much more insidiously, in the name of averting catastrophic climate change. As long as we use the same mechanisms of development-from the corporate models to the finance and development models - it seems that we, those with power to dictate the path of development, will sacrifice the most vulnerable people on the planet-poor people, Indigenous people-for "clean" energy. That day began my journey to write Revolutionary Power.