Keywords:critical gardening, computer vision, artificial intelligence, weeds, future natures
Teach a robot to pull a weed. What sounds like a straightforward task comprises an intricate set of actions and complicated ideas of nature. Translating a culturally-defined, ambiguous object (‘a weed’) into successful machine code directions requires human-machine negotiation and reveals emerging nature-technology relationships. The field guide provided here contains instructions for a Taurus dexterous robot, commonly employed in tele-surgery and roadside bomb diffusion. The soybean plant, also addressed in the code and images, is an intentional choice based on the combination of agro-environmental, technological and political issues involved in its cultivation globally. As an artistic experiment based on existing technologies, this visual and prose-based algorithmic narrative asks readers to think about how culture and politics are embedded in computer code, and how both algorithms and data structures may manifest themselves in future environmental and agricultural realities.