2 min readCows, milk and AI

Reading about AI for months, I thought I’ve explored all possible applications of the technology. How wrong I was. In this recent article published by the Washington Post, Drew Harwell explores the various reactions of cattle raisers regarding Cow Fitbits, a software that controls the AI that monitors the health and activity of cows.

Features of the AI

  • It records how much food the cow is eating.
  • It tells the cattle raiser which cow is ready for insemination.
  • It predicts potential diseases and early death.
  • It informs the cattle raiser of the possibility of healthy milking.
  • It determines where each cow is located.

Why It Matters

Reading this article, one can see immediately how Ida could transform cattle raising for all countries. Whereas in the US, cows have low mobility, hence prompting cattle raisers to use antibiotics to boost milk production, in Richard Watson’s farm, his AI enables him to let his cattle to roam free and eat the most natural food they can find – grass. Despite being all over the farm, Watson is able to keep an eye on his cows, hence preventing early death or diseases that could affect his production. Aside from the obvious effect on Watson’s income, the AI enables his cows to produce healthier milk for human consumption.

Another reason why this article is important is that it shows us how wide AI applications can be. It is no longer about providing us with modern conveniences, but also, about providing traditional workers with new options to make their craft better. It can help support struggling industries so that small business owners can find new resources by which they can up-scale their businesses.

However, as AI becomes even more mainstream, we should not only be thinking of the new capacities it can give us, but also the capacities it will take away as we continue to use it. Mark Rodgers said:

“I can spot a cow across the room that don’t feel great just by looking in her eyes…There’s no substitute for watching your animals. It’s an art and a science.”

Watching your animals in order to determine if they are sick or not, requires a different capacity for observation. It requires intimacy, and the recognition of the gifts every animal brings to its owner, and those that will be nourished by its milk, or its meat. 

What can happen when this human-cow interaction is gone? What other kinds of interaction will humans have to give up when they begin to use AI in all areas of their lives?

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