The Biosphere Code Manifesto

Algorithms are transforming the world around us. They come in many shapes and forms, and soon they will permeate all spheres of technology, ranging from the technical infrastructure of financial markets to wearable and embedded technologies. One often overlooked point, however, is that algorithms are also shaping the biosphere – the thin complex layer of life on our planet on which human survival and development depend. Algorithms underpin the global technological infrastructure that extracts and develops natural resources such as minerals, food, fossil fuels and living marine resources. They facilitate global trade flows with commodities and they form the basis of environmental monitoring technologies. Last but not least, algorithms embedded in devices and services affect our behavior – what we buy and consume and how we travel, with indirect but potentially strong effects on the biosphere. As a result, algorithms deserve more scrutiny.

It is therefore high time that we explore and critically discuss the ways by which the algorithmic revolution – driven by applications such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, logistics, remote sensing, and risk modelling – is transforming the biosphere, and in the long term, the Earth’s capacity to support human survival and development.

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