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Tracking the AI Revolution

Dominique Saint Malo | June 6, 2023

Impact | The Originate Initiative

AI systems have been part of our lives for over 20 years — but the landscape is radically changing.

Pitfalls of AI

AI is already poised to massively transform the food industry, but these systems aren’t magic wands, nor are they without their share of risks or costs. Generative AI systems can’t distinguish between true and false information. They also have the unfortunate habit of sometimes just making up data and information. Needless to say, for important decisions, generative AI can’t be fully relied on.

These technologies have other challenges. As we embrace the benefits, it’s equally important to navigate the challenges — such as increased energy use or job disruption — to create a balanced, sustainable and inclusive food ecosystem for the future.

The datasets used to train AI are colossal and require massive amounts of energy to run. By one estimate, training one large deep-learning model produces 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. A single data center can consume the amount of electricity equivalent to power 50,000 homes. Increasing transparency regarding the environmental cost of these models will be crucial in setting the AI field on a more environmentally sustainable path.

Potential disruption to the economy and the job market is another concern. According to one study, potentially two-thirds of all jobs will be impacted by generative AI and up to a quarter of all work tasks being performed today might be automated using the technology. Worldwide, generative AI may replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs.

Forward thinking food companies will have to weigh the costs and benefits and participate in the cultural conversation as we collectively explore this new landscape. University research centers, such as the AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems, will help develop the best policies and practices. The institute, which is dedicated to accelerating the use of AI to optimally produce, process and distribute safe and nutritious food, will be helpful to understand the evolving impact of this nascent technology.