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Editorial comment

There can be no doubt that the rapid growth of technology is a driving force influencing the way we live and is constantly altering the world around us. The speed in which new tech develops is in equal parts awe-inspiring, fascinating, and often fear-provoking, with many of our imaginations running wild deliberating whether AI could take over the world. Is the Alexa on our kitchen counter plotting the destruction of the human race? Or perhaps Siri is hatching a plan for world domination?

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OpenAI’s language-processing model or ‘chatbot,’ ChatGPT, recently went viral for its ability to craft coherent and accurate responses to short, written prompts from users. What sets the model apart from any other chatbot is its ability to learn from large amounts of data, and understand the structure and patterns of language. What results from this is incredibly human-like dialogue. Users can request short stories set in alternate universes, or in-depth essays on complex topics that many of us would struggle to comprehend. ChatGPT can even pen television shows and comedy sketches given the appropriate prompts. All undeniably impressive, and perhaps, slightly unnerving.

However, when asked by the BBC whether the bot thought AI would take the jobs of human writers, ChatGPT itself said that it exists merely to “help writers by providing suggestions and ideas,” and that “ultimately it is up to the human writer to create the final product.”1 Perhaps therefore, we should take a step back, abandon our fears, and recognise the power of AI and technological growth as a supplement to human intelligence, with a purpose of helping us reach our individual and collective goals.

The fertilizer industry for one is taking steps to reap the rewards of innovative new technologies in its operations. The more conservative agricultural sector in India has recently taken to trialling drones in its fields to spray and monitor crops,2 whilst elsewhere in the world, online tools that calculate fertilizer efficiency, from both an economic and environmental perspective, are under development. With emissions from the industry under increasing scrutiny, and climate goals at the top of the world’s agenda, we are certainly seeing an uptick in fertilizer producers harnessing technology to improve their processes, and create more sustainable products. In fact, studies suggest we won’t reach climate goals without the help of technology. A report by the independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) found that in England, many of the government’s 23 environmental targets were at significant risk of not being achieved.3 A further report has noted the urgency of ramping up technologies to remove greenhouse gases from the environment.4

Such themes are loudly echoed in this issue of World Fertilizer; thyssenkrupp considers how the industry could harness the potential of green ammonia and avoid CO2 emissions, while Prayon sketches out the path to a more sustainable phosphate industry. Phospholutions also discusses a new range of phosphate fertilizers embedded with the technology to reduce phosphate use by up to 50%, and increase fertilizer efficiency. The role of technology in helping to refine the industry, and fuel a more sustainable and efficient future, clearly cannot be underestimated.


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