Ask people to say what springs to mind when you say ‘technology’ or ‘tech’ and I’ll bet that most will reply ‘computers’, ‘robots’ or, these days more than likely, ‘artificial intelligence’.
And they’d be correct of course, but this is a peculiarly modern way of thinking. For the ancient Greeks, tékhnē simply meant ‘knowing how to do things'.
Over the centuries, the word came to refer to the tools humans developed, so the first use of fire or stone tools or hand weaving all involved ‘technology’. And so did the subsequent introduction of mechanical looms in Britain in the early 1800s that led to riots by ‘Luddites’ – weavers who could see the machines destroying their livelihoods. Other Britons of the time welcomed the accessibility of cheap clothing.
Three centuries later, little has changed. For some, technology is largely responsible for the damage man has wrought on the planet and it will make us all redundant. For others, it will deliver the means for us to rectify the situation and offer a wide range of new opportunities for us to follow careers we cannot yet imagine.
Not black and white
In the wine industry, there are those who applaud the development of new and increasingly automated forms of viticulture and winemaking while, on the other side of the argument, there are the natural wine fans who want fermented grape juice that has been subject to as little intervention as possible.
If only everything were all as black and white as this suggests. Even if the bottle of cloudy white has been crushed by foot and fermented in a trough, the men and women who made it probably took account of the weather forecast when deciding when to harvest, and they more than likely rely on the internet and their handy iPhones when it comes to marketing and selling it.
Tech is driving much of the equipment in our vineyards and wineries and helping companies to use satellite imagery to map the thirst or health of individual vines and to bring unprecedented efficiency to warehouses and delivery schedules.
Today, whether we like it or not, tech of one kind or another, is as much part of our lives as the weather. Anyone who doubts that AI has radically changed the way we live can’t have paid much attention to the circuitous route Google maps proposed to them or their Uber driver in order to avoid the morning traffic. Or to the astonishing way that Amazon now efficiently delivers half a million packages to every hour to US customers whose purchases were more than likely prompted by an algorithm based on their previous behaviour. Or to the revelation that just four employees at the media giant News Corp now oversee an AI bot that is generating no fewer than 3,000 articles and reports every week.
AI is, of course, only the highest profile part of the digital tools that now represent the 21st century equivalent of the latest stone arrowhead or weaving machine. It is already driving much of the equipment in our vineyards and wineries and helping companies to use satellite imagery to map the thirst or health of individual vines and to bring unprecedented efficiency to warehouses and delivery schedules. Tech comes in a range of other forms, but almost all involve computers and ‘digitization’.
Great topics and speakers
These are just some of the topics that will be covered at this year’s Meininger’s Wine Goes Tech conference at which I have been invited to speak. Among the other speakers will be Professor Simone Loose of Geisenheim University, one of the world’s most respected academics, Felix Solís Ramos, arguably Spain’s most dynamic high-volume wine producer who will reveal how tech is helping his business. Fernando Romero Galvan will describe how NASA is helping grapegrowers. Konstantin Baum MW, the superstar wine YouTuber and influencer will discuss with ‘sommelier.bot’ Johannes Nielsen how far machines can replace humans when it comes to wine selection and recommendation and French producers Anthony Aubert and Jean-Charles Mathieu will describe how they used AI to make and even label a wine.
Information and knowledge are now what separate the winners and survivors from the rest of the herd.
I’m not saying that any of these or other members of our illustrious line up of speakers will tell you absolutely everything you need to know about the state of wine tech today, let alone tomorrow, but I guarantee that we will all leave the conference room a great deal better informed than we are today.
And today, just as it was in ancient times when the most successful human beings were the ones who had the best mastery of fire and the sharpest stone tools, information and knowledge are now what separate the winners and survivors from the rest of the herd.
Register NOW - bookings received by February 07, 2024 will be confirmed minus an early bird discount of 10% per participant.