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Hacking the Super Robo-Farm

Japan is looking to turn some of the land devastated by the 2011 tsunami into a “robot-run super farm,” reports Wired UK via AFP. There, unmanned tractors will grow crops like rice, wheat, soybeans, fruit and vegetables. Once harvested, other agrobots will ready the produce for shipment.

Cue parallel world.

Long before the end of the six-year project, agrobots developed down on that farm were sent off to work on other farms and then to the farm next door. Soon fields after fields became overrun with them. Not even the small organic allotments were immune to the infestation.

growBot Garden

Imported to other wealthy countries experiencing similar labor problems brought on by an aging population, xenophobic immigration policies, and a highly educated younger generation unwilling to do dirty, backbreaking, monotonous work, a huge swathe of the world's agricultural sector achieved near total automation.

Apart from the mechanics needed for small repairs and one lonely operator hermetically sealed in a control room lit ablaze by the wall-to-wall cinematics of data streamed down by remote sensing satellites and drones, it's just the agrobots out there, busy tilling the soil, pruning the orchards and corralling the livestock.


Out on the periphery, meanwhile, an entire generation of young people has been squeezed out of the urban labor market, shoved down into poverty by high living costs. And the one industry that could now be providing them with much needed employment has also shut them out, somewhat ironic considering their former disdain for farm labor helped bring about their own obsolescence.

However, to stave off malnutrition, they've begun to use their high-tech skills to hack the system. That is, they've reprogrammed the packing agrobots to divert some of the produce to their homes, via processing centers bought from the US Postal Service by a consortium of Tor network operators. It's a sort of agro-torrenting.

The most leet among them will not just jerry rig the distribution infrastructure but also partition a patch—say, a small grove within a much larger orchard, one greenhouse out of thousands, a hen house in a huge poultry concern—which is tended to by a zombie agrobotnet. Out there in all that intercontinental acreage are Megaupload accounts in which you do your clandestine gardening remotely. To the satellites and drones hovering above, they are just dark spots on the landscape.

At the start of each week, you send out encrypted commands to have produce picked for you, and at the end of the week, you make ratatouille.


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