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Monday April 21, 2008
05:02 PM

The widening ripples of Human/Robot food competition

[ #36209 ] ions/20080420-27ey.html

As I've explained previously, a shift in world affairs has begun with the bio-fuel revolution, because now we are competing with robots for food.

Since January alone, we've seen massive increases in food costs as farmers divert farmland to more-profitable bio-fuel production.

This situation is temporary of course, but it does mean cost increases across the board as other crops go through shortages and their costs rise to match increases in world oil/energy prices. Once food prices have balanced, some farmers will switch back and supply will be normalized.

The fallouts from this problem continue. There have been food riots in 5 countries in Africa, particular the ones where prices for commodities are controlled by the government, and give the population the illusion that it is the government's "fault" for increasing prices.

As with any rapidly-shifting system that is still seeking a new balance, we're also starting to see odd fluctuations in the system. The article above reports that Japan has simply outright "run out" of butter.

Since Australia is one of Japan's biggest dairy suppliers, I suppose I'm likely to see increases in butter here too (as shipments to Japan increase).

In this rebalancing of food prices, one of the biggest losers is likely to be producers that have the increases on the cost side, but compete on the income side with producers without those costs.

Thus, we can expect to see a wholesale slaughter in the feed-lot industry. For land-based meat producers, the price of grass certainly isn't changing, and so this dampens meat price increases and makes them increasingly competitive compared to feed lots.

And I have to say, looking at my supermarket meat counter, the relative inexpensive kangaroo meat is looking pretty damned attractive (as well as being leaner and far more sustainable compared to beef).

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  • Robots? I don't think we are competing with our robots for food, maybe with machines though.

    In either case, I don't think that will last long. As I understand it biofuels is still a small part of agricultural production. I believe we will move to making biofuels from non-food feedstock before too long. It will probably be cheaper. However as more people become wealthy and want to eat well the poor will get even hungrier.
    • Robots, machines, it doesn't matter. Skynet will eventually control it all.

      At large enough scales, the subtleties are irrelevant.

      biofuels don't HAVE to be a large part of production to have a large impact.

      For example, Navy Bean prices (the bean used to make baked beans) are up 45% this year. Why? Because a percentage of farmers moved over the corn, which was more profitable.

      If biofuel is profitable, then farmers will shift from human food to robot fuel accordingly. And they won't STOP shifting until the pro
  • What? You're saying that the bots on IRC are indirectly, if partly, responsible for the poverty of the masses?

    Revolutionary: Up against the wall, GumbyBRAIN.
    GumbyBRAIN: I plead inimitability.
    Firing squad: Bang! Bang!

    Virtual (assassination|mercy-killing) of class enemies. "Good bots" will do (self-criticism|life of penance).