Author Topic: Artificial Pollinators - Automated Hybridizing (Black Mirror)  (Read 288 times)

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Offline SnarlPatrick

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There is a Black Mirror episode, where part of the premise, no major spoilers, involves the death of bees, and their replacement by artificial bee substitutes that are autonomous and procedurally programmed to pollinate. This presumes a very efficient on-board power source, but let's imagine that's possible and expand the idea.

Perhaps we could also program an AI or at least a procedure so that the bees select only from, or preferentially choose, the healthiest plants, or even analyze plants for new mutations of potential value... while sick, deformed or stunted plants would be tagged for non-reproduction... If you could get such a system automated, there's no telling how quickly one could modify crops "naturally" and essentially speed our artificial selection process. We could even have them create their own control and experiment groups in different fields.

A potential objection of course... what if there is a negative trait that is correlated with the positive one, that is invisible to the sensors we have in place. So of course, we would have to monitor closely the progress of the crop, and keep DNA samples every X period of time so we can undo an error if indeed one slips past us.

Another objection... in the future, perhaps we will just be able to modify food easily and directly on a genetic level making such a process-driven method unnecessary... but if for no other reason... perhaps it will satisfy the "organic" market.

If you think about how much food has already been changed, it would seem that the sky, or rather thermodynamics are the limit.  Thoughts?



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Offline albator

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Re: Artificial Pollinators - Automated Hybridizing (Black Mirror)
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2018, 12:41:28 PM »
I'm not sure how useful that would be. I don't know how much this is true but my view of industrial agriculture is that crop pretty much don't evolve in field anymore.
"Food farmer" don't save seeds  but buy new ones every year. "Seed farmer" try to have seeds with the same constant genetic information in their seed every year. And only people who try to establsih new seeds would care.

Offline SnarlPatrick

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Re: Artificial Pollinators - Automated Hybridizing (Black Mirror)
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2018, 06:41:35 PM »
That’s a decent point, maybe the market would initially be small... maybe an unnecessary extravagance useful only for seed development as you said, by which time genetic alterations might be far more relevant.

Here’s a notion... what if instead of cultivated land, we set them to work en masse... reseeding forests... choosing the best qualities for idj... carbon dioxide storage? Pest resistance. Take the poison out of poison ivy? Selectively pollinating desirable plants and neglecting or even destroying others, if we added capabilities,  any that are harmful to the ecosystem. For eradicating invasive species, perhaps we’d want to have our bees rather than less discriminating ones..

Imagine if we could make grasses more calorie dense and cheapen meat? Imagine if we could automaticall have the best appropriate flora pop up without iactive ntervention around ecological disaster zones like oil spills, or where the balance is out of whac optimally spacing seeds to balance light density, succeptibioiry to fire... we could cut out our fire breaks for emergencies just by eliminating saplings along the programmed path...

Perhaps plants that we don’t even consider as worthy of eating... their decedents if culled properly could put new foods on shelves. If we just set the parameters we wanted to encourage for each species of family, we might not know what innovations heightening the selector pressure can give us until it manifests? Pollinators would be always on the lookout for mutations with potential. Just exploring the idea.

But I’m inclined to agree that it’s ublikely that this will fit into pragmatism as technology improves, it will probably become redundant as directly predictable genetic interventions become easy and cheap.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2018, 06:46:58 PM by SnarlPatrick »
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Offline 2397

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Re: Artificial Pollinators - Automated Hybridizing (Black Mirror)
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2018, 07:48:54 AM »
Aside of genetic change, after we've exeterminated all the biological pollinators, I'd be concerned with who owns them, for how long do they own them, and can they prevent others from having their own versions?

If there is competition, will the bots take each other's resources, or will they be regulated and licensed to stay in different zones? Maybe each group will be restricted to their selection of tower farms, or a single building.

If it works well enough, maybe we can change and control how pollen spreads otherwise, for the benefit of people with allergies.

Offline DevoutCatalyst

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Re: Artificial Pollinators - Automated Hybridizing (Black Mirror)
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2018, 09:43:04 AM »
Absent all insect pollinators humans could wield paint brushes to accomplish that task in plants needing such services if the bots don't pan out or want the day off. Plants can be and have been bred to have no need for pollinators, a useful trait until plants are dispensed with altogether and fruit and vegetables and herbs and spices are grown in laboratory vats tended by machines who seem to love their jobs.

 

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