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Reality check Q&A: Dr. Rosie Bosworth

Reality check Q&A: Dr. Rosie Bosworth

Agritech futurist Dr Rosie Bosworth wrote a major feature for Idealog this year on the new food revolution enabled by science and biotech. For some, that future looks rosy, but the implications for New Zealand’s agricultural sector could be less than palatable. Here are some of her views on tech. 

What’s your favourite…

Technology you can’t live without? 

Ahhh, too many to list. Asides from my phone (my default second limb), I think it would have to Spotify coupled with my Alexa-enabled Bluetooth speaker. Lets me play all my favourite tunes and playlists anywhere, wherever I am.

Underrated or old technology?

Spellcheck and the right click function on my mouse. Even if they have dumbed down my intelligence and cognitive functions in the process.  

New Zealand tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?  

Robotics Plus, a Tauranga robotics company headed by Kiwi entrepreneur Steve Saunders that's designing a raft of world-leading solutions for the horticultural and ag sector like fruit harvesting robotics, self-pollination machines, precision ag for fruits and berries and helping put NZ on the map for being the future for horticulture. 

Global tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things? 

Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based clean meat company producing animal cells and meat without the animal (beef, chicken duck). Its multi meat technology platform is producing clean healthy, ethical and environmentally friendly versions of our animal proteins without the trail of destruction caused by traditional animal agriculture. It's the future that will replace and decimate conventional animal and factory farming.

Tech project or product that isn’t yours, but you’re envious of?

The latest almost Tesla. I can’t wait until cars are fully self-driving and transport as a service (like Uber) is the norm so I never have to own a car again and all the time I spend wasting my life behind the wheel can be used for other more productive or fun things.

What first drew you to this industry?

I accidentally fell into the tech industry about 15 years ago when I graduated from University and started working for a retail technology company. Since then I’ve slowly carved a sweet spot intersecting my passion for the future of food and agriculture, business and technology 

What do you enjoy the most about working in technology?

Witnessing the sheer speed and ability of tech to transform literally every facet of our lives - often in really positively profound ways.   Like the emergence of self-driving cars, online retail, music streaming - and for me the future of food production without the traditional farm using plant-based proteins, clean meat (harvesting animals cells without the animal) and indoor controlled environment farming ( like vertical farming).  YUM. 

How would you describe New Zealand’s tech culture?

Eager and nimble. Now we just need more companies and individuals brave and ambitious enough to become global entrepreneurs keen to scale big, and hopefully lots more in the food space! 

Where does inspiration come from for you?

Yoga, meditation, my favourite authors and yoga teachers (Deepak Chopra, Rumi, Adele, Michelle Fit ) 

How has tech impacted on your work? How will it impact on it in the future?

I’m not a scientist or a coder. I work mainly in the services side of the technology industry - communications, strategy and research.  So technology has made my work so much more efficient, faster and massively more connected to the outside world. I’ve been able to build lasting connections with the world’s  leading entrepreneurs in food and ag sector in real time. I’d never have had the privilege to without even rudimentary technologies like the internet, social media and professional networking sites (Linkedin etc). And with this can help drive massive change from any connected room around the world. 

What’s been the most concerning change that technology has made to human behaviour, in your experience?

Our inability to disconnect, focus on a singular task, or properly socialise with one another without our phones.  You see it everywhere. We are out having a social time yet incessantly on our phones or connected. Even half an hour without it and you see one’s anxiety skyrocket.

Via The Atlantic

How would you describe your relationship with technology? Do you think you’re addicted to any form of it?

It's a little bit unhealthy to be honest, and I definitely have become too dependent on the need to constantly check my phone lately. So I definitely need to dial it back and tune back into nature more. I do try to power down while I sleep and am at yoga. But it seems to be the first thing I do when I wake and the last thing I do while I’m winding down.

Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?

Both! I have made and maintained so many valuable life connections, knowledge and friendships via social media and def don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. But it's also a disaster for lack of privacy and big technology and AI companies' ability to infiltrate every facet of my life, especially via their intrusive tailored advertising. I feel like I’m giving away so much personal valuable marketing data to these tech behemoths each time I tap a single word into these apps. 

Do you think technology needs more laws surrounding it, or a form of resource consent regulation?

As these technology giants steamroll in size and power, yes definitely. But the cat’s already out of the bag, so taming the beast will become increasingly harder. 

What needs to be done to tackle the diversity issue in technology?

I think it's easy to say that companies need to hire more women, but I think that more also needs to be done to promote and attract more women and minorities into the tech sector and to ensure that the gender pay gap is closed to signal to the job market that tech isn’t just a white males’ game.  

What worries you the most about technology?

Our ability to disconnect and enjoy the present moment of life and the world’s amazing surrounds without. And also the pace of machine learning and artificial intelligence is surpassing the skills of the average human. 

What’s your scariest prediction for the future? Will the robots kill us all?

God, I hope not! I don’t think so! And if they do then it must be Darwinian theory at its finest working on humanity! I think that so much of the world (at least in the metropolitan urban areas) will be entirely automated negating the role of “traditional" work for humans. So the challenge will be transitioning humanity towards a culture where “work", meaning of life and our contribution are defined in other ways, like arts, culture, entertainment, crafts, music, yoga, community work etc 

What will New Zealand look like as a country in 2037? Fewer farm animals, and instead a nation that exports technology and innovation to the world.  Milking cows will become a novel past time, and replacing this will be lots more high tech horticulture, plant-based nutraceuticals and native medicinal and high-value alternative proteins.  So along with rocket space and film, we'll become the future food tech capital of the world. At least, that’s my vision.

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