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Pierced

Seeds of doubt

Ponder this before robots take over farming.

By Charles P. Pierce
October 24, 2010

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Dear Charles Grinnell: I think you might have something there with that venture you’ve launched in Billerica, Harvest Automation. By that, I mean you might get rich behind it. Not that there aren’t particular problems that I can see coming down the line. (Don’t worry. I would have seen particular problems coming down the line with the invention of the fork.) First of all, hand over all farm work to robots and where does the romance of it all go? I don’t want my grandchildren singing “The Cybot in the Dell” or “Old MacModel2007.6 Had a Farm.” And I think American Robotic would be a far less evocative portrait than the Grant Wood original, no matter how much gingham you drape over Momma Robot, although a remake of Green Acres featuring an animatronic Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor would be more faithful to the original than is, say, the new Hawaii Five-O. Beyond that, though, this business about using robots for farm work so as to defuse the various controversies over migrant labor will have a ripple effect throughout our politics. I mean, seriously, do that, and there’s a whole bunch of modern conservatism looking for honest work. Talk-show hosts will go out of business and, sooner or later, TV pundits will be showing up at my back door, asking if I’ll pay them a nickel to wash my car. Consider what you’re doing. Demagogy’s about the only industry this country has left.

Charles P. Pierce / cpierce@globe.com

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