John Kerry’s Blind Faith in AI

Andrew Kimbrell and Lisa Rayburn tackle John Kerry’s promotion of artificial intelligence to address agriculture and climate. 

John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (UNclimatechange, Flickr)

By Andrew Kimbrell and Lisa Rayburn 
Common Dreams

John Kerry, the former senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate, has been saying some odd and disturbing things about the climate crisis — and how to go about addressing it.

When questioned in a recent BBC interview about his country’s slow pace away from fossil fuels, Kerry said not to worry because, “I’m told by scientists that 50 percent of the reductions we have to make (to get to near zero emissions) by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies we don’t yet have.” 

One might think that suggesting the planet would be saved by technologies yet to be discovered would be ridiculous enough. But Kerry doubled down.

Although he admitted that industrial agriculture, and especially factory farms, are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, he pushed back on the idea of reducing meat consumption as a step in the right direction.

He assured the public that future technology might allow us all to keep on eating all the meat we want because, “[t]here is a lot of research being done now that will change the way meat is produced …. And we don’t know some of the answers to these.”

Kerry is also a long-term supporter of genetically engineered (GE) crops and claims, with no evidence provided, that growing GE crops will help address the climate crisis. In reality, these commodity crops, which take up almost half the cropland in the U.S., are not designed to address climate, but rather to tolerate massive amounts of herbicides.

Good for Chemical Companies

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressing a gathering in Washington in February.  (USDA/ Tom Witham)

This major increase in herbicide use is only great for the bottom line of Bayer/Monsanto and other chemical companies. The massive monocultures of GE crops significantly deplete the soil, and the manufacture and use of these herbicides increases emissions of greenhouse gases and these herbicides while also killing soil microbes thereby further degrading the soil’s ability to sequester carbon.

But again, Kerry seems to be more interested in science fiction than science.

Such irresponsible, blind faith in technology statements are not just from any politician — Kerry is President Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate.

And unfortunately, Kerry is at it again, this time advocating spending millions of dollars promoting Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a climate solution.

In doing so, he has teamed up with current U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whom Kerry seriously considered as a running mate when he ran for president in 2004.

A little background on Secretary Vilsack is key to this story. Starting with his governorship of Iowa and extending to now, his third term as U.S. secretary of agriculture, Vilsack has been a tireless supporter of industrial agriculture, factory farms and highly invasive agritech including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, robotics and AI.

[Related: DIANA JOHNSTONE: The Great Pretext … for Dystopia]

To push this agenda, Vilsack is spearheading an international effort dubbed Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM). Though not yet two years old, AIM has raised $13 billion and counting, and includes corporate agritech partners such as BASF, Bayer/Monsanto and Syngenta, along with a couple hundred other industrial ag companies and organizations.

Buy Out Research 

The idea is to use these billions to “buy out” the agricultural research at universities and countries around the globe to move them away from local and sustainable priorities and push towards these high-tech priorities which will profit AIM’s corporate partners.

Vilsack and Kerry stood side-by-side early this May to mark the end of AIM’s three day “summit” on food and climate issues. There they announced the winner of the organization’s competition entitled, “AIM for Climate Grand Challenge: Leveraging the Power of AI and Machine-Learning.” The winner received a multimillion-dollar grant to push this agenda.

Using AI to address ag and climate is not only a sci-fi fantasy, it is incredibly dangerous and damaging.

For starters, between 70-80 percent of the world’s food is provided by small family farms who know their farms and communities’ needs far better than AIM-promoted computers or robots.

Moreover, imagine the dystopian scenario were AIM to succeed in having countries replace these hundreds of millions of local farmers who have farmed their land for many generations with AI and sensor operators.

These farmers would lose their livelihoods, communities would be decimated, and irreplaceable Indigenous knowledge of soil, seeds and food would be lost.

USDA-hosted panel in 2016 on career opportunities in science and technology fields associated with agriculture in which one of the three speakers was Monsanto executive Sherri Brown. (USDA/Flickr, Public domain)

As AIM spends billions on research of costly and dangerous experimental technologies, we need to promote solutions already proven to work — ecological farming practices rooted in agroecological principles.

Hundreds of organizations and farm groups, particularly in the Global South, are doing just that and opposing the AIM agenda in the international arena.

Last year, The International Alliance on Climate and Agriculture (IACA) was formed to help in this critical climate effort. IACA is bringing together civil society leaders, activists, farmers, Indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders to collectively promote ecological food systems as a major mitigation and adaptation solution to the climate crisis.

This broad grassroots coalition developed the BROAD system, which incorporates ecological farming including organic, agroecological, biodynamic and other sustainable practices that work with nature rather than destroying it.

BROAD is an acronym for systems that are: 1) Biodiverse, 2) Regenerative, 3) Organic, 4) Appropriate Scale, and 5) Democratic.

[Related: Bill Gates’ Magical Thinking on Agriculture]

Our current industrial agriculture system is responsible for at least 25-to-30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, yet there is little discussion about this critical connection between food systems and climate change.

Clearly, if we do not transition swiftly to ecological food systems, any hope of climate stability or world food security will be unattainable.

In addition to reducing GHGs and ensuring food and water security, ecological food systems generate vital benefits such as protecting biodiversity, soil, water, wildlife, livelihoods and jobs, socioeconomic equity and more. This, rather than speculative, experimental AI, is what we need to save food, farming, and our planet.

Andrew Kimbrell is the executive director of the Center for Food Safety.

Lisa Rayburn is program director of The International Alliance on Climate and Agriculture.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


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14 comments for “John Kerry’s Blind Faith in AI

  1. shmutzoid
    June 5, 2023 at 00:02

    The technocrats have ALL the solutions, dontchya’ know? ……..Of course we can keep expanding consumerism to infinity. We’re Americans!….. nothing and no one can mess with our ‘way of life’. We can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, in or out of season——- we can travel without limits forever——–plastics? – essential to modern life. it stays!. …….. Crap like Kerry is spouting is meant to demobilize any environmental activism. …… Why worry about climate change when, apparently, someone will be able to press a button to make it all go away, huh? …….. Economic expansion, unlimited profits ——> That’s the raison d’etre for our political class, fronting for a tiny oligarchic cabal.

    In the 1950s the advertising tag line for GE was “better living through science”. Fundamentally, nothing has changed.

  2. stephen sivonda
    June 4, 2023 at 15:25

    AI and Farming…..a wet dream if there ever was one. As usual, “it’s all about the money”

  3. WillD
    June 3, 2023 at 23:46

    Blind is the operative word here. Kerry, and most government officials have no idea, and even less ability to comprehend the actual risks of AI.

  4. Vicente Miguel Molinero
    June 3, 2023 at 13:38

    The ruling elites and their lackeys in government and corporate media take a cavalier attitude toward everything that really matters, such as the biological and ecological conditions that sustain life on Earth. John Kerry is a clown.

  5. Kipper Jones
    June 3, 2023 at 12:14

    John Kerry gets to join Donald Trump on the World Biggest Liars list. Not so much on a specific whopper, but on a Lifetime Achievement Award basis.

    He made his political career by pretending to oppose war and being on the left. Now he is a solid servant of the Merchants of Death. Anything that John Kerry says he believes, you can pretty much count on him coming back later and saying and especially doing the opposite. Do not trust this man. And that is if the (D) after the name did not already clue you in to this fact. And if you missed that he is a happy servant of one of the most far-right administrations in American history. He’s doing everything he once said he opposed. (D) is for Deceit.

    Besides, AI is the big money maker on Wall Street right now. You expect a key figure in the Party of Wall Street to oppose AI? C’mon. I’m sure the Biden Family Hedge Fund is heavily invested and counting on profits, so Kerry is more interested in getting his millions invested as well. Do not trust this man.

  6. Rudy Haugeneder
    June 3, 2023 at 11:50

    Too many people, too little time. 2050 will show us just how desperate life has become. After that, good night Irene, as the old saying goes.

    • Valerie
      June 4, 2023 at 23:52

      Remember what Jacques Cousteau said about the state of the oceans; that the earth had 50, 100, 150 years maximum to go before the end. And he died 26 years ago.

  7. mgr
    June 3, 2023 at 11:19

    A bait & switch throughout. Kerry is just a front-man. This is the person chosen to lead the world to climate solutions? What a sick joke. His job is not to seriously address the crisis of global warming but to maintain the status quo and run out the clock. Wealth concentration, war and conflict, and environmental destruction are the hallmarks of the US led “rules based order.” The status quo championed by the US and its coalition is suicide for our species on this planet. Kerry’s job is to keep up pretenses while the opportunity for solutions slips away. All the while, the gist of the response of the fossil fuel and related environment destroying industries, including the military, is to “party like its 1999…”

  8. Joseph Tracy
    June 3, 2023 at 11:17

    Thanks to CN and the writers of this article for this powerful look at the cross section of food production, ecological sustainability, climate change and the corporate captivity of government.
    This really distills the bizarre counterfactual belief system that relies on unproven, future technologies of centralized control to promote the continuation of a model that destroys soil, depletes aquifers, poisons water systems and pollinators , and is utterly dependent on fossil fuels, and mining. All of this will be sold with a promise that we can continue our lifestyles of car and jet transportation with , food and goods delivered from across the world in giant cargo ships and semi trucks that will not be run by batteries.
    I do not think I am alone in doubting that AI will ever understand the complexities of living systems, because what is happening in nature is not binary logic. The core life systems , like dna, rna, cell structures, photosynthesis, digestion, breathing, regulation of systems via internal living organs, decomposition, are multifactorial processes and while some messaging in life forms can be simulated or symbolized in binary code and synaptic gates , the actual layered depth of the total system has not come anywhere near being fully comprehended by human created mathematical models .
    Choices and decisions made by a logic machine can therefor never be based on complete understanding and will always reflect the values and will of those who design the algorithms. Many serious problems have plagued human agriculture for thousands of years. Large scale deforestation , combined with ploughing the earth and overexposing the soil microbes and fungi to drying and light has led to vast areas of desertification . And in most of industrial agriculture continued productivity requires fossil fuel and mined phosphate inputs. There are other serious problems involving the buildup of toxic materials through irrigation and fertilizer and pesticide use. All over the planet people are fleeing once productive land destroyed by climate change and dubious agricultural practices. This is due to the faulty logic of land use that defies the regenerative cycles of nature. Turning this lousy set of presumptions and techno solutions and toxic materials over to AI shaped by agroindustry is a violent assault on both the earth and human intelligence. This shallow crap that Kerry and the majority of the political war machine(what he promotes is agriculture as a war on living systems) must be resisted by those who wish to avoid the ever growing carnage of billionaire totalitarianism.

  9. Valerie
    June 3, 2023 at 11:07

    From the article:

    “And unfortunately, Kerry is at it again, this time advocating spending millions of dollars promoting Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a climate solution.”

    What utter, bloody stupidity and detachment from reality.

  10. Randal Marlin
    June 3, 2023 at 11:01

    Artificial Intelligence has a lot to contribute, but it is wrong to treat it as some panacea. A Google search gives us amazing results in a flash. We are impressed. It is very good at sweeping through masses of data and finding what we want. Amazing! Astounding! But when we ask generative AI to answer questions pertaining to climate change solutions and the like, we have to remember that AI computes, but does not think. It gives the illusion of thinking, by computing with incredible speed, all that the algorithms ask it to compute. But what are these algorithms, and what biases do they reflect? What are the sources behind any given generative AI? As with opinion polls, the vital question is who financed them? We need to evaluate the wisdom and biases of the sources. AI gives us a finished product, without allowing us to evaluate the sources. Yes, it can do routine jobs for us, and this can help with food supply as with anything else, but it’s not going to tell us about the evils of monoculture unless it is programmed to do so. Do we believe that AI financed by the petroleum industry is going to find the right answer to impending climate disaster if the right answer happens to go against its interests?

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    June 3, 2023 at 10:32

    More lies with someone/something new to blame…When??? will the US grow backbone and be adult enough to admit errors?

  12. Robert Emmett
    June 3, 2023 at 10:26

    Recycled Suits begin to look like former dealership partners forced to hustle the used car lot. Eeeny, meeny, funny money, I see a brighter future for you as game show, talk show, telethon host?! Cheer up, smile, nertz.

  13. Bill Todd
    June 3, 2023 at 02:44

    Kerry and Vilsack are wholly-owned corporate shills (like most of our government, of course). Taking advice from them on how to combat climate change is equivalent to having taken advice from tobacco producers about how to smoke safely.

Comments are closed.