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Efren Turner

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since Mar 24, 2018
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earthworks forest garden greening the desert
Mendocino County, California, 9a
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Recent posts by Efren Turner

Travis Johnson wrote:This reminds me of my vet when he came and tried to talk us into doing ultrasounds on our sheep to determine if they had single, twins or triplets. His idea was, if you know what each ewe is going to have for lambs, for the 5 months she is with lamb, you can feed her appropriately. So I asked him how much he thought it would cost, and he said a few thousand dollars.

So I asked him, "Why don't I feed every ewe for having twins then, and what little bit of money I spend more for the ewes having singles, and the few mortality losses I would have for the triplets, would be a lot less than having every sheep ultrasounded."

We live in the information age, but just because it is information, does not mean it is useful, or more importantly...will save us money.

Sorry to hear that your vet sounds at least out-of-touch with your farm or perhaps greedy.  I agree that lots of permaculturists will not experience more effectiveness by applying currently available AI based apps to their work.  I'm equally confident that many full-time designers and many managers of large projects - on the other hand - will experience more effectiveness by using some AI based apps.

Even free AI apps do require time to learn, computer hardware, possible reduction in privacy, data collection on the design site, time to run the software and a real use for the app's findings.

By the way, thank you for sharing that experience Travis.
1 month ago

Sebastian Köln wrote:So far AI needs training data. Millions to billions of entries. I don't see that much data being available or collectable in a permaculture context. (It needs data for every possible case…)
AI can work for games because those can be simulated. I have not seen a correct simulation of nature yet.

Thank you Sebastian,
You're mostly correct.  I must not have presented myself clearly because I think you missed my point.  You're correct that larger and larger data sets are required to solve more and more complex (non-linear) problems, such as "how should I optimally design this whole agroecosystem a-to-z?".  Thus no software tool that complex exists for agroecology yet.  Yet, there are useful apps available currently. They're not a-to-z agroecology design and planning super AI. They are tools for full-time designers to help these folks do their job more effectively, and definitely not replacements for permaculture designers.  

The apps available today can certainly answer questions of the complexity magnitude of "what's the last 20 year's tree health trend on this 200 acre site my client wants me to do a full permaculture design on?"  I think current apps can even start to answer questions on the order of magnitude of complexity of "whats the forecasted tree health trend here - factoring in climate change, and XYZ forest modifications we might do? Also how confident is the model in this forecast?"

I see tools such as these as being helpful for managers of large agroecology or conservation or restoration or forestry projects, and/or professional permaculture/agroecology designers. This is because there will be a learning curve to getting useful results from these apps which will probably be effective for full time designers. I don't see these as being effective uses of, for example, hobby gardeners time.  Conventional ag is already using AI based tools extensively.

The tools I presented already function, right now, for each of their narrow, narrow uses.  A user only needs to add the data about their particular site and figure out the apps user interface to start get some function from these.  These apps were able to be made because there are already petabytes upon petabytes of useful, free/cheap, updated data available from satellite/aerial photos, LiDAR, near infra-red, UV Vis, hydrology, multspectral, topograp, ground cover etc.

You're totally correct that nature is very non-linear and so requires lots for data for training of new apps and lots of computational resources to train those apps quickly.  [For users to use pre-trained models it requires hardly any both data and not much GPU processing power.]  There are already some ecology simulators* and there will be more over time.  So larger parts of agroecology designs will be able to be done over time as apps improve and data increases.

*:  [For example Ecosim is an academic project which models ecosystems in order to understand evolution, predator-prey dynamics, population dynamics, specietion etc.]
1 month ago
There are now multiple available artificial intelligence based apps which have relevance to agroecology and permaculture; Many are free.   Full time permaculture designers and large agroecology projects and will probably tend to have higher effectiveness when using appropriate AI tools.

AI Intro
Typical contemporary machine learning software is consistently accurate at solving one specific, narrow thing.  Machine learning developers write a program for a task, then find lots of data, then using graphics processing unit based computers - they train and evaluate the program, then they might make it user ready.  An example of a modern AI tool is the Deepmind AlphaGo which beat the best Go player in the world and go is among the hardest games in the world to be the best at. This level of AI is typically a Recursive Neural Net, programmed in the Python programming language using TensorFlow library with a Keras wrapper.

AI Safety

AI tech is not a huge risk yet, but most experts I've read have voiced a need to improve AI's safety.  There are risks of AI being misused by folks as well as the risk of general AI being developed and then it becoming both powerful and bad.  Regulators still have not even formally explored enacting safety measures around AI*.  Therefore its currently up to users and developers to insure their AI tools are as safe as possible. If you get into AI, please stay up to date with AI safety and follow best practices when they start to come out. Its possible that using AI for good projects, in a safe and democratic ways - will increase the probability both that more people will do more good things with AI and that the likely development eventually of domain-general AI (super AI) will be a great thing for everyone and the planet.

AI Safety Resources

    MIRI, Machine Intelligence Research Institute    
         Their "About" page is useful and readable.  Their papers are typically technical.

    Future of Life Institute
         "Mission: To catalyze and support research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges."

User-Ready Acroecology Related AI Tools

AI For Earth
AI for Earth a set of tools run by diff earth sciences organizations; They're backed by and partially funded by Microsoft Research as part of their AI For Good project.  The seem to have by far the widest selection of user ready eco ai stuff. I assume this help them sell operating systems in the long term.  It has the following tools:

         "Applying AI to satellite imagery can improve forest management."

         "Accelerating wildlife population research using computer vision."

         "Enabling precision conservation and more sustainable agricultural practices by applying AI to soil, yield, and tillage data."

    Conservation Metrics
         "Applying machine learning to increase the scale and efficiency of wildlife surveys."

         "AI for Earth is working with conservationists at the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society to enable citizen scientists across the globe."

    Technical Resources
         AI for Earth also has a wide set of earth sciences data and technical resoources available. So far it all looks free.

Granular is the farming ERP which Nori has its farmers use. It seems focused on adding value via data analytics functions.  [Nori is a carbon market; They pay farmers to increase soil carbon] [ERP = enterprise resource planning] There are other farm ERP's out there.

Pacific Agroecology LLC
They're a acroecology consulting firm seeming to use a fair amount of  AI.

*: [Our forum moderators will probably limit our discussion here if we make this political so lets avoid that.]
1 month ago
Hi neighbors,
Disasters and domestic violence are real shitty.  We've still got some trailers and cabins on our land for folks to call home when their former home isn't safe.  The land's near Ukiah, CA, USA.

Anyhow, to stay there the rules are:
Only do significant things to folks who've freely given you consent to do that right then.
Don't behave abusively.
Behave safely.
Behave honestly.
Seek help as needed.

Note: if the first or second rule make you question tons of stuff you've done to people: Good.  Please continue questioning those things and growing as a person elsewhere, not here.

Be well my neighbors,
1 month ago

How, where and with whom may I benefit ecology, human wellness, and climate - most significantly, scalably, kindly, and enjoyably?

Imagine you're benefiting an ecology in a very effective, significant way.

Imagine how the ecosystem you're in used to look, sound and feel.

Imagine how the ecosystem looks and feels now that you helped it.

Imagine where in the world this is.  

Imagine your crew.

Imagine your methodology.

Imagine failures you learned from, and the downsides.

Imagine people in similar ecosystems repeating the best parts of your way.

Which categories of current ecosystems and watersheds would you work on?

Which methodology would you choose?

Who or which professions would work with you?

How effective is your approach?

How scalable is your approach?

What are the downsides?

How enjoyable is your approach?

I'll answer below. Thanks neighbor.
1 month ago
I just got off the phone with Justin Solomon, a commercial sales rep for SunPower.  I called them because they seem to have strong as well as the most efficient panels and solar cells.   He thinks they could sell their ~18% efficient flexable panels for prototyping.  Their ~22% efficient rigid glass panels they reserve for standard projects and he wasn't allowed to talk about the solar cells inside them, so those ones wouldn't be available for prototyping.  Rigids would be available if bought in bulk for an installation. Justin was confident that both their glass and flex panels could handle mounting on digging equipment.  I'm less confident than he is, but I'm more confident in their durability than Micheal.

I'm emailing their flex panel staff now.
1 month ago
Great detail Michael. Thank you

Michael Cox wrote:The electronics associated with solar are delicate. Building them sufficiently robustly to withstand the aggressive shock loads of heavy digging machinery is going to be prohibitively difficult. As in, either so heavy the digger can't move, or using technology that doesn't exist yet. And then you have an horrifically expensive piece of machinery that can't be used on cloudy days, in the shadow of trees or  in winter when light levels fall.  

Glass covers on rigid panels could break... but I think you're pointing out that the jarring motion of hitting rocks and bumps could cause micro-fractures in the panel's cells.  Flexible solar cells which can be bent about 30 degrees and can probable handle a lot, but they cost about 2x as much as rigid and maybe even they could breakdown if direct mounted to digger.  Maybe the microwiring between cells in a panel could also fracture.  The digging turbulence of the equipment could be decoupled from the solar trailer-cap by connecting the digger to its power via a slack power wire and by mounting drive motors in the solar trailer to follow the digger.  There would still be some jarring from the solar trailer hitting bumps.  Sites may need to be relatively smooth.  

The solar direct version of this hypothetical system might need to be designed specifically the lowest hanging ecological-potential-fruit... that being flash flood prone, sparse, non-rugged, deserts with simple slopes and good sun like the Mojave Desert, the Sahel etc.

Mojave Desert has plenty of mellow, barren slopes to improve.

Excellent. I'll respond more to you and Chris Kott this evening.  I appreciate the group analysis.
1 month ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:This is my husband's idea:  Autonomous solar robots could be deployed in degraded deserts to imprint the soil and drop native seeds.

Great idea.  The imprinting article also references a technical paper by Robert Dixon that I'm reading

Autonomous restoration equipment may be more effective per cost than person-driven equip in rich countries, assuming the landscape is well mapped and is very simple and if the scale of the project is fairly large.  I think in less rich countries and in complex, rugged, or small sites its more realistic to have people drive the equipment.  I expect this balance to quickly move in favor of autonomous equipment throughout the next decade.

I agree with dropping native seeds.
1 month ago

 Big swales are not necessarily better.

The ideal farm has the right sized swales...often smaller sized swales, in the right location. A big swale in the wrong location is just a waste of effort.

Excellent point Travis.  My original post was overly focused on large swales.  I've posted a requested edit to reflect the nuances of optimal design and I removed most of the "large" and "megafuana" language and replaced some with "scalable".  

I do continue to consider those deserts which typically experience drought, drought, drought, flash-flood as being stronger candidates for larger earthworks. [Refference- Neal Spackman's article "Greening the Desert", Permaculture Magazine, Issue #99 Spring 2019]
1 month ago