E. Todd - December 2018
Roughly 10,500 years ago humans domesticated wild cattle. The genotype of cattle has been modified more than any other species of domestic livestock. These modifications have enabled us to keep them in a wide variety of conditions and environments, most conducive to the mass production of meat and related byproducts. The modern cattle industry produces about 25 billion pounds of meat each year and is valued at 200 billion dollars. Some of the byproducts include leather, china, glue, film, soap, pharmaceuticals, insulin and gelatin.
The quantities of beef and the related byproducts have been achieved through the selective breeding of behaviours found to be most beneficial for our needs. Throughout the domestication process, humans have provided the basic requirements such as food, water, veterinary care and suitable environment but have taken away the freedoms that cattle would have in the wild, such as choice of mate, feed and freedom of movement.
Domestication has reduced their longevity and contributed to various abnormalities relating to health and well-being previously absent in their free roaming ancestors. We have created a pliant animal reliant on our care, forever altered by the environmental experiences, genetic changes and goal-oriented breeding programs thrust on them.
Now you may be wondering how does the domestication of cows relate to data collection, privacy and artificial intelligence. Historian and best selling author Yuval Harari in his latest book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century aptly summons up the unlikely connection. Harari states,
Humans are similar to other domesticated animals. We have bred docile cows that produce enormous amounts of milk, but are otherwise far inferior to their wild ancestors. They are less curious and less resourceful. We are now creating tame humans that produce enormous amounts of data and function as very efficient chips in a huge data-processing mechanism, but these data-cows hardly maximize the human potential.