Technology

Can Artificial Intelligence solve cocoa’s sustainability problems?

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Can Artificial intelligence solve the cocoa industry - and is it a threat to our livelihoods? Pic: GettyImages
Can Artificial intelligence solve the cocoa industry - and is it a threat to our livelihoods? Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Sustainability Cocoa Artificial intelligence

As an experiment, I turned to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT* to obtain an outside eye on the current state of the cocoa industry. I was curious to know if a computer algorithm could come up with credible answers to the main issues that chocolate companies, governments, politicians, and NGOs have struggled with for decades.

I began by typing in this basic question:

What are the main issues facing the global cocoa trade?

ChatGPT replied with some quite detailed answers and informed this writer that ‘The global cocoa trade faces a number of significant issues’, including:

Poverty and low wages​: Many cocoa farmers and workers live in poverty and struggle to make a living due to low wages and high production costs.

Child labour​: Child labour is still a major issue in the cocoa industry, particularly in West Africa, where an estimated 1.56 million children work on cocoa farms.

Deforestation​: Cocoa farming is a major driver of deforestation in many countries, particularly in West Africa and Southeast Asia, which can lead to environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.

Climate change​: The cocoa industry is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including changes in rainfall patterns, increased temperatures, and the spread of pests and diseases.

Supply chain complexity​: The global cocoa supply chain is complex, with multiple intermediaries between the farmer and the end consumer, which can make it difficult to ensure transparency and traceability.

Market volatility​: The price of cocoa is subject to significant fluctuations, which can make it difficult for farmers to plan and invest in their crops.

Quality and productivity​: Many cocoa farmers struggle to maintain the quality and productivity of their crops, which can lead to lower yields and reduced profitability.

I must admit, the platform had done its research, and what’s more, it even provided a solution to the problem in its summary:

Addressing these issues will require collaboration and coordinated action from all stakeholders in the cocoa industry, including farmers, governments, NGOs, and companies involved in the supply chain.

For those of us who cover the cocoa sector in depth, we have to concur with ChatGPT and admire how concisely it reported the facts, at lightning speed, bringing a whole new meaning to investigative journalism.

AGI (Artificial general intelligence)

The news has been dominated recently by AGI (Artificial general intelligence) – but developing a machine that could think like a person remains a most divisive idea, not least because of the potential of disruption to human livelihoods, like journalism for example.

Finally, in a battle between man and machine, I turned the chatbot on itself and asked the question: *What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT answered with this explanation: ‘It is an advanced conversational AI model developed by OpenAI. ChatGPT is trained on a massive amount of text data from diverse sources, allowing it to generate human-like responses to a wide range of prompts and questions. It uses a deep learning technique called a transformer model, which enables it to understand and generate coherent and contextually relevant text.

‘The purpose of ChatGPT is to provide natural language conversation capabilities, allowing users to engage in interactive and dynamic conversations. It can understand and respond to questions, provide explanations, offer suggestions, and engage in various discussions on different topics. It is designed to assist users in finding information, solving problems, and providing helpful responses.

‘It's important to note that while ChatGPT can generate impressive responses, it is not a human and may occasionally produce incorrect or nonsensical answers. It's always a good idea to critically evaluate the information provided by AI models and verify it from reliable sources.’

But can it make coffee? Not yet, so I think my job is probably safe for now.

Related topics Sustainability

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