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Monday, January 12, 2015

Nourishing Nothingness: Futurists Are Getting Virtually Serious About Food Politics

I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian now, but obviously in The Future will be a digi-nano vegetarian...
Salon has alerted me to the existence of a new SillyCon Valley startup, Project Nourished, which hopes to use synesthetic cues from a virtual reality helmet, vibrating spork, and whiffs from a perfume atomizer to fool America's obese malnourished gluttons that they are feasting on two-pound steaks and baskets of onion rings and death by chocolate sundaes when in fact they are eating gelatinous cubes of zero-calorie vitamin-fortified goo.

According to the breathless website, this proposal will "solve" the following problems: "anorexia, bulimia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, allergies and co2 omissions."

The real problem solved by the project is that it definitively answers a question I have long pondered: Is futurology so utterly idiotic and smarmy that it is actually impossible to distinguish its most earnest expressions from even the most ridiculous parodies of them?

I mean, to literally name your project "nourish" while actually avowing you seek to peddle a product that nourishes no one is pretty breathtaking. It's like the scam of peddling sugary cereals as part of "this complete nutritious breakfast," when all the nourishment derives from the juice and eggs and toast accompanying the bowl in the glossy photo but almost never in the event of an actual breakfast involving the cereal in question. Except now, even the cereal isn't really there, but a bowl of packing cardboard over which is superimposed an image of Fruit Loops with a spritz of grapefruit air-freshener shot in your nostril every time you take a bite.

Why ponder structural factors like the stress of neoliberal precarity or the siting of toxic industries near residences or the lack of grocery stores selling whole foods within walking distances or the punitive mass mediated racist/sexist body norms that yield unhealthy practices, eating disorders, the proliferation of allergies and respiratory diseases and so on? Why concern yourself with public investment in medical research, heathcare access, vegetarian awareness, zoning for walkability, sustainable energy and transportation infrastructure and so on?

The Very Serious futurologists have a much better technofix for all that -- it's kinda sorta like the food pills futurologists have been promising since Gernsback, but now you would eat large empty candy colored polyhedra (you know, like the multisided dice nerds used to use to play D&D in the early 80s) while sticking your head in a virtual reality helmet (you know, like the virching rigs techbros have been masturbating over since the late 80s). Also, too, the stuff would be 3D-printed, because if you are a futurologist you've gotta get 3D-printing in there somewhere. As I said, Very Serious!

Returning to the website, we are told, "the project was inspired by the film Hook, where Peter Pan learns to use his imagination to see food on a table that seemed completely empty at first." Setting aside the aptness of drawing inspiration from a crappy movie rather than the actual book on which it is based -- only Luddites think books have a future, shuh! -- I propose that Project Nourish has a different filmic inspiration:


jimf said...

> According to the breathless website, this proposal will
> "solve" the following problems: "anorexia, bulimia, cancer,
> diabetes, heart disease, obesity, allergies and co2 omissions."

Also, no doubt, biliousness, foul breath, and costiveness[*].

[*] a polite term for constipation, I gather.

Chad Lott said...

Well, I just got back from the Fancy Food Show and it doesn't look like imaginary food is trending in 2015.

Sriracha is in everything, though.

Dale Carrico said...

I predict in twenty years...