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When Should the Goat Eat the Drone

The most recent editions of Discover magazine had two articles that drew my attention: one was on the growth of technology in farms and the other about wildfires in Ireland.

The first of the articles talked about how farmers can utilize water and fertilizer more efficiently if they employ drones to fly over crops and send robots through farrows measuring dampness and nutrients for each plant. The use of this technology is supposed to reduce waste and increase efficiencies.

In the second article, officials in Ireland are fighting wildfires (who knew wet Ireland had problems with wildfires) by using goats to graze in areas that are overgrown with gorse and other flammable grasses. As grazing ended in suburban areas, these grasses become thick enough to become fire hazards.

The juxtaposition of the articles was jarring. One is lauding cutting edge technology to improve the age old practice of farming. The other recommends going back to the old practice of goat herding. (Who knew that a person who cared for goats is a goatherd?)

As we have to determine how to integrate new technologies, including AI, into our lives and schools, I think these articles offer a powerful reminder.

Some tasks and assignments can be best accomplished by technology. Who wants to eliminate spreadsheets and word processing? And where would I find a picture of a goat eating a drone without it being generated by AI?

With others, it is often best to rely on tried and true practices. The old is better than the new.

I think video conferencing is a good example. Zoom has a role; however, it cannot replace being in the same place at the same time as another person. My wife and I are getting a new will drafted and the lawyer suggested we meet by Zoom for the intitial consultation. We rejected her offer and drove the ten minutes to her office to meet in person. Being with her in real time was much more relaxed and increased the efficacy of our communication. We learned more about each other being in a room together was more than worth the twenty minute round trip.

Technology and advancement is good and inevitable but before you leap too soon, ask if goats are a better solution in this case.


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