In this digital age, technology does not cease to amaze humankind, aside from humankind, and leave humankind with questions and concerns. For the past 12,000 years, agriculture has relied on manual labor to harvest crops across the globe. With the rise in technology, agricultural robots, also known as agribots, are in development with the intention of replacing human manual labor. Agribots have applicable use during the harvesting stage of the agricultural cycle. According Eduardo González, Jr., State Diversity Specialist, Cornell University Cooperative Extension Farm workers in United States, 1 to 3 million of migrant workers work on harvesting. Agribots not only promise the farmers of America a profit gain, but agribots also compete with millions of farmworkers for the same position. The development of crop appropriate agricultural robots that work with nearly perfect accuracy will bring long term economic and social advantages to society. Though the jobs of millions of people are in jeopardy, the benefits and advantages available to society from transitioning a human workforce to an agribot workforce are justifiable.
My stance is cognizant that there is a human component to this transition where it will mean that a father or mother will no longer have an income to feed his children. J.P. Gownder, an analyst with the Boston-based tech research firm Forrester, says that it is a job transformation, not a job replacement. This father will still have an opportunity to gain a position working a blue collared position, or with proper training, work along side the robot, not in lieu of it (Metz, 2016). Priority employment at robot manufacturing facilities will be given to previous farm workers in effort to mitigate the impact of this transition. When the time comes for a full migration from human to robots, I believe that the most ethical thing for a company to do is option two: keep a fraction of human workers on the fields for the amount of time they see appropriate.
This option seems like a conservative and flexible decision to make. Since the demographics vary from farm to farm, each farm would have the flexibility of making a ratio appropriate human to agribot count. This decision is sound especially for a farm that has not yet been an early adopter of agribots. They can always be introduced with a small fraction of agribots to test the water while human workers that were replaced would have the opportunity to work at the manufacturing facility, the remainder of human workers would also have an opportunity to secure a job elsewhere. Farmers that have been through early adoptions stages can still follow this route and utilize their current human workforce for purposes of partial agribotic maintenance, while workers still have work in the meantime. Having a hybrid workforce allows room for an interaction between human and robot. If a program was put in place to train existing works how to maintain these agribots, this would be the ideal case and could also be extended up until the replaced workforce would retire. The children of the farmers would ideally be placed in a program that taught them tech skills. This would allow for their potential to be realized as an individual and provide an alternative to physical labor that will not be available.